Not being able to run an official marathon race since February 2021 in Seville, Spain, I was overjoyed to find the 8th Berliner Vollmond-Marathon scheduled for July 24th this year. As a plus, I learned that it started at 18:00 which meant less heat, always a plus for me.
There were only 100 starting positions available so I signed up immediately, only afterwards reading the fine print that because of bridge construction along the original route, the new route would be 46K instead of 42K. So it turned out that I would not be running a marathon, but an official ultra marathon, and with that, the longest race of my life.
To train for this mega race, I started two months earlier running a long training run each weekend, each time increasing the length by two kilometers: 31K, 33K, 35K, 37K, 39K and 41K. The last two runs I started in Hennigsdorf which is the half-way point of this race. For the 39K run, I ran backward along the route through Spandau, and for the 41K I ran forward along the route via Konradshöhe around Tegeler See, convincing myself that this race would indeed be as it is advertised: "Berlin's most beautiful marathon."
We started out on the Siemensstadt Sports Center track field right at 18:00, all 89 of us or so, running half way around the track, then along Saatwinkler Damm and quickly after that along the Hohenzollernkanal until we were running south again down along the Havel to the island Eiswerder to cross over to Spandau. At 6K there was a water station where I saw a web developer student from my online class, Fatih, leaning against a railing while filming me with his smart phone, totally cool. We had only seen each other in our Zoom video for the last five months and so had never met in person. I got some water, we exchanged a few words, then I took off north again.
It was decidedly hot out, which sapped me quite a bit. I was glad I had my 2-liter water pack on my back. Around 10K, I was glad to feel the sun sink lower in the sky and stay behind the trees a bit more, which cooled down the air. And here is a tip for any future runners of this race! At 10.5 kilometers right after turning right onto Goltzstrasse, across the street there is a series of water fountains shooting up in the air from the ground which kids play in, etc. I saw a runner cross the street to go partake in them as I did as well, running through all of them cooling off my hot body and soaking my head rag in the water and putting it back on my head, which sent a wave of refreshment over me that lasted at least two kilometers, wonderful!
So after about 12K, the race turned into a cooler run, but one promising many more kilometers until the end, so I just set in on a constant pace and enjoyed the wonderful nature scenery up the Havel River. There was a nice food stand with watermelon and oranges at the 15K Bürgerablage, after that you run into former East Germany through a pine forest then through the town of Nieder Neuendorf where it gets more industrial until you make it to the 22K Verflegungspunkt in Hennigdorf.
I admittedly had to lean on the Verflegungstisch a bit to rest and get support, realizing at that point that I wasn't as fit at 22K as I had been during my last official marathon in Seville, Spain back in 2019. But as always, you decide to start a race, you decide to finish it, so I took off onto the bridge across the Havel on my way back to Berlin.
At 23K I noticed that the passing cars already had their lights on, a sign of the coming darkness. My watch at the 23K half-point reported 02:50:00 which meant I was technically still in time to finish under six hours before midnight, but I could feel my energy level dropping fast. Regardless, I continued on down the familiar streets I had run the week before on my 41K training run from Hennigsdorf down through Heiligensee.
At about 26K somewhere in Heiligensee, I saw a woman watering her flowers and asked if she would kindly soak my headrag in the water coming out of her hose sprinker, which she did with a big smile. I thanked her and took off again putting the head rag back on my head, very refreshed. At the water station after that, I filled up my now empty two-liter water bag, so I was good with water the whole race. Soon after this around 27K it was evident that darkness was not far away so I strapped on my head lamp, soon thereafter the trail took a right into the trees which was so dark, I had to turn my lamp to the second of three power levels to see where I was going.
Although it was dark, the trail at this point was quite well visited, pairs of walkers walking past in the dark, and the constant boat party going on out on the water.
By the time I got down to 30K at the inlet to Tegeler See, the dark, night-time world had condensed down to what I could see in front of me with my head lamp, the late-evening walkers had disappeared and the only noises were distant teenagers out on boats or on the shore engaging in their night-time revelries.
Then to my right between the trees, I suddenly saw the huge, blood-red full moon across the lake above the trees on the horizon. I stopped, turned off my head lamp and enjoyed the rare moment of natural beauty. It was a wonderful, warm summer evening and the moon was astoundingly orange and huge. Looking out across the lake now at 32K now, I saw the expanse of the Tegeler See around which I still needed to run in the complete darkness. I was struck by the fact that, as tired as I was, there was simply no other way now but forward through the darkness, so I turned my lamp back on and took off again down the dark trail, every now and then seeing an arrow on the ground or on a tree which reminded you that you were indeed on the right path to the distant finish.
At the 36K food station, there was another runner standing at the table talking to the people running the stand. I joined them and chatted a bit, consuming a few orange wedges. When I mentioned it was about time for me to take off again, the runner said he would come with me, which was a great idea, as we ended up running more or less together from that point on, all the way to the finish line. Although we talked quite a bit in the spaces where we could run parallel, I never got his name, but certainly enjoyed his company and the mutual encouragement we signaled to each other to keep moving through the darkness as a unit for the last 10 kilometers of the race.
After we crossed the Saatwinkler Steg bridge and coming down the bridge steps on the other side, I was overjoyed to see on the ground in the light of my head lamp two huge, orange words that read "ZUM ZIEL" with a big arrow pointing in the direction of the finish line. It was a wonderful feeling to realize that this overdrawn, night-time, running adventure that had already extended over six hours well past midnight, was going to finally come to an end.
After 15 minutes of straight-on running, we arrived at the track field, ran through the gate into the bright lights and finished together down the track stretch to the cheers of 5-6 people still there on the track.
One person hung a medal around my neck, another handed me a freshly printed Urkunde, I put my number into the box, saw my running partner one more time now with a beer in his hand joining a table of runners celebrating the race, then got my bag from my locker, and since it was now past 1:00 in the morning and I was quite exhausted, took off down to Rohrdamm to get a car sharing car for the drive home.