Warning: Watching This Marathon May Result In Signing Up For Races

Are you on the fence with your running? Feeling a bit meh about it all: not sure you feel like getting up early in the dark to get the miles in; tired of coming up short in the PR department; wondering what on earth it’s all good for, anyway? I know I’ve been there, and you know what, it’s fine! Run, don’t run, I’m not here to judge or tell you that your lack of gung-ho is wrong.

But! If you’re at that point where you’re now tired of your meh-ness and miss that fired-up feeling but aren’t sure where to find it? I have the solution.

Go watch a marathon.

Or a half marathon.

Actually, in a pinch, any big race with a lot of spectators will do, but marathons are the best (or worst?) for getting you super excited about running another race RIGHT NOW.

Or is it just me? Because I was in this situation after a summer of untraining, running whatever I felt like, whenever I felt like it. The break was necessary after two years of consistently training for races, but I was starting to miss the whole routine of doing workouts and signing up for races in different parts of Berlin.

Then came Berlin Marathon day. We live right near the marathon route, and it’s a yearly tradition that the whole neighborhood turns out to cheer. People start gathering half an hour or more before the start. We cheer for the handbikers and wheelchair racers, and then for the various cyclists and electric BMWs that come by well before the runners appear, making sure the coast is clear for a new world record. The same amazing band plays rock covers every year. You can bring your own coffee or buy some at the cafe down the street, and chat with any of the 20 people you know who are out there waiting, too.

Eliud Kipchoge en route to the world record at the 2018 Berlin Marathon.

All of this is already pretty fun in comparison to the usual Sunday morning routine. Then the runners appear. First you see the pace car as a tiny dot half a kilometer down the road. People start to cheer, and it builds to a roar as some of the fastest runners on the planet appear. The first hour or so is sparsely populated: first come the lead packs of men and women, then the rest of the sub-2:30, sub-2:45, sub-3 crowd. At a finish time of three hours plus, the route starts getting crowded. By the time the first of about five 3:30 pace groups shows up, the route is packed. The band is playing, the odd runner will stop and rock out with air guitar to an AC/DC classic, there are runners dressed as bananas and superheroes and characters from Frozen

…and I’m simultaneously cheering, high-fiving runners, and googling “how to sign up for Berlin Marathon 2020” on my phone. This is amazing. I must be here next year, running. I can hardly wait for the three-hour training runs in summer heat, the endless summer, and the constant fatigue of marathon training. These are my people!

It’s no secret that watching a marathon can trigger a million positive vibes and sudden love of extremely long runs, I guess. It’s inspiring to see all those amazing performances, from a world record on down to the regular-people PRs, but most of all it’s the sense of community. Almost everyone seems so incredibly stoked to finally be out there on the course, running, and the spectators are equally as happy to be cheering them on. It may be a clichรฉ, but in a world where any sort of positivity seems increasingly hard to come by, watching the Berlin Marathon lets you tank up on good feelings about humanity for at least the next few months.

It’s a cycle with me: train hard, get sick of training hard, watch a marathon, immediately want to train hard again. That’s how I ended up, five minutes after the race ended, sitting in front of my laptop, signing up for the 2020 Berlin Marathon lottery. We’ll know by the end of November if I get in; if not, I’ll try for Munich or Frankfurt.

I’m not alone in this cycle; other Salties report that even watching a World Marathon Major on TV can result in similar spontaneous race signups.

Have you been here, too? Let us know in the comments.

I'm a 43-year-old living in Berlin, Germany and currently training for the 2020 Berlin Marathon.

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1 comment

  1. Thank you for putting this into words! This is such a thing. Even watching online makes me remember all the good parts of marathoning. When I watched NYC 2018, the wheels started to turn, I started googling “best fall races”…. and here I am, 2.5 weeks out from Philly.