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Never Too Fast at the Berlin Marathon

With 12 world records broken, whether you are chasing a PR or a World Record, Berlin is the fastest marathon in the world.
Berlin Marathon Start Line
Berlin Marathon Start Line

September means a new beginning. The real start of the year. The summer heat is gone and you are ready to chase your new PR. The marathon season is back and Berlin is the place to chase your new PR.

Since its first edition in 1974, the Berlin Marathon saw 12 world records broken on its course gaining the glamorous epithet of the World’s Fastest Marathon. Cool conditions, flat well-maintained roads, and carefully selected elite fields are the Berlin formula but not enough. Top-tier Pacers and dedicated and well-trained volunteers committed to making you run at your best. In recent years, one of these volunteers became a superstar in the running world known as Bottle Claus, responsible for Eliud’s Kipchoge personal hydration. His dedication goes beyond race day when he is entirely part of Kipchoge’s team and its success.

1974 berlin marathon
The 1974 start line. Image: Berlin Marathon

Horst Milde was a Berlin baker coming from a tradition of more than 300 years in the business who had a passion for running. In 1974, the country was still divided between East and West with the former not being allowed to participate in the race - the first eastern participants joined illegally a few years after. On 13 October 1974, 286 athletes took off from a minor road next to the stadium of the organizers‘ club SC Charlottenburg Berlin. At that time, the course developed mainly outside of the city along the Grunewald forest in West Berlin. West Germany dominated the first 7 editions of the race, before it became an actual global event, securing both male and female first positions and setting the first female world record in 1977 with Christa Vahlensieck in 2:34:48.

In 1981, the organizers persuaded the police to move the race into the city and for the first time, the course started in front of the Reichstag and finished at Kurfürstendamm, developing inside the city center. 5 years later, another milestone for the race arrived when more than 10,000 participants were present at the start. Fast forward to the present day, the Berlin Marathon features more than 45,000 runners split 70/30 between male and female, a percentage that doubled in the last 20 years in females’ favor.

Berlin Marathon 2023 Course
Berlin Marathon 2023 Course

1998 marked the second world record broken at the Berlin Marathon thanks to the Brazilian Ronaldo da Costa who stopped the clock at 2:06:05 generating a lot of buzz around his performance in which he shaved a few minutes from his previous PR. To date, he is the only South American who held the marathon world record.

The years between 1999 and 2005 were dominated by two nations: Kenya's male runners and Japanese females. In 2001, Naoko Takahashi from Japan produced the first ever sub 2:20 marathon for a female runner setting the fourth world record on the Berlin Marathon course (2:19:46). She was fresh from the Sidney Olympics gold medal that let her become the first female national hero in her home country. Two years later, Paul Tergat became the first runner to run sub 2:05 (2:04:55) setting the fifth world record in Berlin.

Naoko Takahashi 2001 Berlin Marathon
Naoko Takahashi crossing the finish line in 2001. Image: Berlin Marathon

Ethiopian Haile Gebrselassie, one of the greatest of the sport, took over the Berlin Marathon between 2006 and 2009 winning 4 titles back to back and setting two world records in 2007 and 2008. He is the only runner to have won the race 4 times in a row - Kipchoge won the race 4 times but not in a row. Another Ethiopian, Gete Wami, set a new precedent in 2007 when she won the race in 2:23:17 with a new world record and became the first female winner of the WMM series which secured her 500,000 dollars.

Eliud Kipchoge Berlin Marathon 2022
Eliud Kipchoge 2022 finish. Image: Olympics

Kenyan male runners won 17 of the last 24 editions of the Berlin Marathon setting 5 world records of which the most remarkable - still unbeaten - is Eliud Kipchoge’s 2:01:09 in 2022, improving his 2018 performance by 30 seconds. Kipchoge will be back at this year's edition facing his upcoming rival Kelvin Kiptum who won the London Marathon this year in 2:01:25.


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