Race Review: Abbott World Majors BMW Berlin Marathon

18 May, 2019 • by Admin

Quite simply awesome! I loved this event. Well organised well supported and lovely wide boulevards to run on

The BMW Berlin Marathon is one of 6 World Marathon Majors. It first started in 1974 and takes place in September, covering 42.2km of the German capital, starting and finishing near the iconic Brandenburg Gate. It is known for being a flat course with mild temperatures and a good supportive crowd, explaining why the most marathon world records have been set there. There are 40,000 registration spots, including wheelchair and hand cyclists, though no seperate power-walker event. The full marathon package costs 98 Euros and it is possible to run the course as a team of up to 3 runners.


The Berlin Marathon (branded BMW Berlin Marathon for sponsorship reasons) is a major running and sporting event held annually in Berlin, Germany. The official marathon distance of 42.195 kilometers (26 miles 385 yards) is set up as a citywide road race where professional athletes and amateur runners jointly participate. Initiated in 1974, the event traditionally takes place on the last weekend in September, with the exceptions of 2000, because of a conflict with the Olympic Marathon date, and 2018, held two weeks earlier due to Day of German Unity preparations.

There have been several title sponsors in the race's history. From 1974 until 1989 it was just the Berlin Marathon. In 1990 it was the Yanase Berlin Marathon. In 1991 and 1992 it was the Canon Berlin Marathon. It reverted to simply the Berlin Marathon from 1993 until 1997. It then became the Alberto Berlin Marathon in 1998 and 1999. A new title sponsor changed the name to real,- Berlin Marathon from 2000-2010. Finally this has been the BMW Berlin Marathon since 2011.

The Berlin marathon and related events are split over two days. Thousands of additional inline skaters compete at the marathon course the Saturday before the running event. Power walkers, hand-bikers, wheelchair riders, and a children's marathon (4.2195 km) are also part of the marathon weekend, which is organised by SCC EVENTS.

Along with five other city races, the World Championships and Olympic Games it forms the Abbott World Marathon Majors, a series offering a $1 million prize purse to be split equally between the top male and female marathoners and lesser amounts for the second and third male/female finishers plus awards for the top wheelchair competitors.

  • When: September
  • Website:
  • Largest field: 44,389
  • Inaugural running: 1974
  • Estimated spectators: 1M
  • Prize purse: $416,629
  • Time & record bonus: $206,830

Event Schedule and Starting Times (2019)

Saturday, September 28, 2019

  • 11:00 a.m.: 500 m and1.000 m Bambinilauf (registration at the MARATHON EXPO)
  • 15:10 p.m.: mini-MARATHON
  • 15:30 p.m.: Inlineskating Marathon (Please note seperate registration!)

Sunday, September 29, 2019

  • 08:50 a.m.: Handbiker (Elite)
  • 08:56 a.m.: Wheelchair competitors
  • 08:59 a..m.: Handbiker
  • from 09:15 a.m.: Runners (in four waves)


  • Time limit: 6:15 hours (after crossing the time mat)
  • The schedule and running course are subject to alternations!


  • Men: 2:01:39 (Eliud Kipchoge, KEN, 2018)
  • Women: 2:18:11 (Gladys Cherono, KEN, 2018)
  • Men's Wheelchair: 1:21:39 (Heinz Frei, SUI, 1997)
  • Women's Wheelchair: 1:36:53 (Manuela Schar, SUI, 2018)


After leaving Brandenburg Gate, the course passes Charlottenburg, around Tiergarten, along Moabit and Mitte, and then south to Friedrichshain. After that, it winds west between Kreuzberg and Neukölln, through Schöneberg, over to Friedenau and Zehlendorf, before turning north back toward the city's center. Looping above Schöneberg, the course comes full circle as it finishes through the Gate.


This race is known for its flat course, good weather, this year the world record was broken. Replenishment wise, the route was filled with the water stations as indicated on the route map. They are all well stocked with water, energy drinks and the various replenishments at some stations. Some points have banana and apples and along the way some volunteers will just set up their own booth to cheer you on.

Choke points are experienced for a sub four to four thirty runner, at the water and replenishment points because this is the speed that the majority of the runners are running at. It can get a bit rowdy and messy. I do not know why the organiser chose to have plastic cups instead of paper cups which are much more environmental friendly. The plastic cups makes a lot of sounds and causes the ground to be slippery.


I wasn't a huge fan of the expo compared to the other majors (London is the best). I thought parts of it were pretty poorly organized and others were wonderful. I liked the wristband concept and getting your bib was a very smooth and simple process. However, the extras were such long waits - getting race poster (they individually rolled each poster) and picking up pre-ordered gear.

You have to purchase a race shirt which may seem annoying but the race cost is cheaper than the US majors so overall you're not paying as much and if you don't want one you don't have to spend the money and guarantees you get the size you ordered (the 2nd time I did NYC they ran out of W XS by Saturday and I was not happy about it. The airport hanger where it was held was cool but it was annoying that the expo was so long and you had to walk alllll the way to the end to get your bib


The Germans are very organized and it shows. It’s easy to figure out where to get what you need. Communication was great and lots of information was available online and at package pickup (they handed out information booklets and transit maps). All my questions were answered quickly just by looking online or reading the booklet. The race started promptly and there were lots of signs and volunteers showing you where to go. They also gave advice on which station to get off at since there are road closures all over the place.

Race Start

Location is great and accessible by nearby hotels or train so that was great. In the morning though, the gear check locations were not properly labeled so it led to a lot of wandering. There was also unnecessary crowding because porta-pottie lines were flowing into the sidewalk. The start felt chaotic to me...and then the corrals were 100% full....literally people on all sides with zero room to move at all. I have never experienced crowding like that in a corral before so it was a bit claustrophobic

Finishing Line

The finishing is actually quite spectacular and the moment you receive the medal is really very fulfilling. The ending point is another massive area with runners constantly coming in, you just have to keep moving till you are back in the race village. Here you can take your bag drop items, or if you ordered a poncho, you can collect it here to keep you warm.

There are, of course, beer counters to quench your thirst, unfortunately the beer is all alcohol-free. But it is definitely refreshing. Besides the medal, runners also get a special bag of food replenishment which include a bread, some pretzels, energy bar and banana. They come packed in a plastic bag.


The course as advertised is flat, flat, flat. Great crowds. The music was really outstanding. Lots of diverse, high quality acts there. Really enjoyed them.

One of the best parts about doing the Abbot Major series is the opportunity to go these cities we might not normally go. We loved Berlin, and will definitely go back to check out more of the city.


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