• Germany edition
 
Runners ready for Berlin Wall ultra-marathon
A runner in the 2011 inaugural Berlin ultra-marathon. Photo: DPA

Runners ready for Berlin Wall ultra-marathon

Published: 13 Aug 2013 10:40 GMT+02:00
Updated: 13 Aug 2013 10:40 GMT+02:00

It is the equivalent of running four marathons in succession. Although the winner is expected to finish in around 16 hours, most entrants will run through the night. If they have not finished by 12pm on Sunday, 30 hours after the start, they just have to stop.

Berlin's ultra-marathon is held on the weekend nearest August 13th, the date in 1961 when the Berlin Wall was raised by the former East German government eager to stop their citizens fleeing to the west.

Until restrictions on border crossings were lifted by the communist regime on November 9th, 1989, it was a symbol of oppression for the city's citizens on either side and the race is closely linked to the wall's history.

Finishers of the inaugural race in 2011 were given a medal engraved with the face of Chris Gueffroy, the last person shot dead by East German border guards trying to cross the wall on February 5th, 1989. His mother Karin was a guest of honour at the race.

This year, the medals will honour the first victim: Günter Litfin, who was shot trying to swim across Berlin's Spree river over to west Berlin on August 24th, 1961.

"We wanted to organise a 100-mile race partly to commemorate those who lost their lives on the wall and every year we remember a specific victim who was killed trying to cross," organiser Dr Ronald Musil told AFP.

For the first race two years ago, 93 runners started and 78 finished with winner Michael Vanicek from north Berlin covering the 160.90 kms in 16 hours 22.17, while the last finisher came in just seconds before the 30 hours cut-off point.

Compared to your typical Sunday jogger, Vanicek's average speed of 6:06 minutes for each kilometre is as impressive as the idea of running four marathons back-to-back.

This year there are 245 competitors, the youngest being 25 while the oldest is 72 and entrants will either tackle the entire distance solo or as part of a relay.

However, most have either some experience of long-distance running or at least a realistic idea of what to expect.

"It's not unusual for people to underestimate a marathon, but that's not something we tend to find," said Dr Musil.

"People tend to know what they are letting themselves in for in an ultra-marathon.

"The only thing we ask is that participants have a medical check with a doctor, carry a mobile phone plus water and wear a reflective vest when running at night, with a head-torch to see the way."

This year's field includes past winners of both the Spartathlon, the 246-kilometre Greek race held annually between Athens and Sparta, and the notorious Badwater Ultra-marathon, the self-styled "world's toughest foot race" over 217 kilometres through California's Death Valley in the USA.

The logistics of the Berlin race include 300 volunteer helpers staffing 27 first-aid stations along the route, each kitted out with 470kgs of food and drink to restore weary legs.

"It's a logistical challenge to supply each station, many of which stay open through the night," said Dr Musil.

"It is actually harder in the city centre than in the remote areas, as there is more traffic to contend with and more regulations."

On race day, breakfast is offered at the start from 4am and the route is marked by fluorescent blue arrows to help runners, especially through the night.

Runners are registered from all over the world including Australia, New Zealand and the USA.

At €189 euros, entry is not cheap, but the event is run by a group of dedicated volunteers as a non-profit making venture.

Entry for the 2014 race has already opened and the limit has been raised from 250 to 500.

AFP/hc

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
North braces for storms and floods
Cars waiting to be loaded onto the ferry at Bremerhaven, Lower Saxony, were caught in flooding on Wendnesday. Photo: DPA

North braces for storms and floods

UPDATE: The remnants of hurricane Gonzalo have drifted across the Atlantic and are now threatening North German cities with flooding, forecasters warned on Wednesday. The news followed a night of accidents caused by heavy winds in southern Germany. READ  

Kerry's challenge to Russia at Berlin Wall
US Secretary of State John Kerry at the Berlin Wall. Photo: DPA

Kerry's challenge to Russia at Berlin Wall

US Secretary of State John Kerry visited remnants of the Berlin Wall on Wednesday and warned that East-West tensions again threaten freedom in Europe, 25 years after its collapse. READ  

Satirist lives the dream on EU gravy train
Sonneborn in the EU Parliament. Photo: DPA

Satirist lives the dream on EU gravy train

Martin Sonneborn can’t believe his luck. The German comedian, leader of the political party “Die Partei”, managed to get elected to the European Parliament in May, and has found himself overwhelmed with fresh material. READ  

The Local List
Which high school cliche is your city?
Photo: DPA/Shutterstock

Which high school cliche is your city?

This week's Local List takes a leap of imagination and finds German cities fit perfectly into high school cliche categories. Who's the class clown? Who's the nerd? READ  

Indian schools drop German teaching
Indian pupils enrolled in German classes prepare for Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier's visit to their school. Photo: DPA

Indian schools drop German teaching

Thousands of children in India will no longer be taught German after the country's education ministry allowed a contract to lapse. READ  

Syria-bound US teens stopped in Frankfurt
A passenger plane landing at Frankfurt airport. Photo: DPA

Syria-bound US teens stopped in Frankfurt

Three teenage girls from Colorado were arrested by German police at Frankfurt airport after running away from home, reportedly on their way to join Isis in Syria. READ  

Tourists stranded on cable car over Rhine
Tuesday night's rescue operation Photo: DPA

Tourists stranded on cable car over Rhine

Six people, including a family and two American tourists, were left dangling 40 metres in the air over the Rhine for hours late on Tuesday after Cologne's cable car came to a halt. READ  

7:1! Bayern celebrate record in Rome
Arjen Robben celebrates the first goal against AS Roma. Photo: DPA

7:1! Bayern celebrate record in Rome

Bayern Munich were elated on Tuesday night after securing a 7-1 victory against Roma in their group stage Champions League clash. READ  

Nazi U-boat wreck found off US coast
A preserved World War II U-Boat on the beach near Kiel, Germany. Photo: DPA

Nazi U-boat wreck found off US coast

A World War II German U-boat and an American merchant vessel it sank in battle have been found deep in the ocean off the coast of North Carolina, officials said on Tuesday. READ  

Fourth time lucky for free Berlin WiFi?
Coming soon? Photo: DPA

Fourth time lucky for free Berlin WiFi?

Berlin's bid to set up a free city-wide wireless network has so far come to nothing. But city bosses are now trying for a fourth time - and hope to have the project running next year. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Sponsored Article
An international school unlike any other : School on the Rhine
Photo: Fitzpatrick family
Society
'We still don't know what happened to Matthew'
Photo: Mariana Schroeder
Munich
Special Report: Hope and chaos at Munich's refugee shelters
Photo: DPA
Berlin
Robbers blow up Berlin bank
Photo: DPA
Culture
Can you top our history quiz leaderboard?
Photo: Facebook
Society
German motorcycle gang joins Isis fight
Photo: DPA
Politics
UKIP ‘seeks EU pact’ with German satirical party
Photo: DPA
Gallery
PHOTOS: World's biggest erotic fair opens in Berlin
Photo: DPA/Shutterstock
Gallery
11 things Germans are afraid of...
Photo: DPA
Gallery
The ten richest people in Germany
Photo: DPA
Business & Money
JobTalk: All you need to know about working in Germany
National
Share news tips with The Local Germany
Sponsored Article
Bilingual education from nursery to graduation at Phorms
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se

3,491
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd