Around 50 runners from Hyderabad recently participated in the BMW Berlin Marathon, which is ranked one of the six major world marathons.
“The Berlin Marathon is one of the six major world marathons — the other five being Boston, New York, Chicago, London and Tokyo. It’s very hard to get entry to run this race. About one lakh people apply every year in November and a lottery is drawn at the end of the month,” says Ramana Suryadevara, one of the marathoners. Interestingly, this year, there were a total of 62,444 participants from 150 nations out of which 44,065 runners finished the race (30,775 men, 13,290 women).
Given that its 26.2 miles loop runs through the historic landmarks of the city, the Berlin Marathon also acts like a sightseeing tour for the runners! The race begins at the iconic 18th-century Brandenburg Gate to pass through Charlottenburg, around Tiergarten and then towards Friedrichshain. It then winds between Kreuzberg and Neukölln, through Schöneberg, over to Friedenau and Zehlendorf, before finally turning back towards the finishing point.
“The enthusiasm in the streets of Berlin builds up two days before the actual race day with several events like kids run and the breakfast run which finishes at the 1936 Olympic stadium — the place where legend Dyan Chand impressed Hitler with his wizardry,” adds Ramana. IT employee Sunder Nagesh says, “Over 25 people from Hyderabad ran at the event. Some of us had our friends and families join us from all around the world.
The Berlin Marathon happened just a month after our own Airtel Hyderabad Marathon (AHM), so the preparation was pretty much for about 24-26 weeks beginning from the base training phase.”
He continues, “The training programme was a holistic one and most of us followed the Hyderabad Runners’ marathon training programme. The operations manager, Shiv coordinated the training schedules. We made sure to train on all aspects of running — core strengthening, speed workouts, long runs, cross training activities, yoga etc. along with taking care of diet and nutrition in the weeks leading up to the marathon.”
Talking about the challenges, Ramana says, “This year, it rained throughout the entire duration of the race which may be why Kenenisa Bekele, an Ethiopian runner missed the world record by two seconds. Runners from Hyderabad finished strong, with many of them achieving their personal best.”
The race started at 9:15 am local time (which is 3.5 hours behind Indian IST). “We ran during our Indian lunch time until evening and practiced a few runs in the end by running after our breakfast so as to acclimatise our bodies to the race day experience. This was an extremely important factor that Rajesh, founder of the Hyderabad Runners highlighted as we entered the tapering phase for the Berlin Marathon,” says Sunder and adds, “Another factor that we had to consider was the wind-chill.”
One big challenge for the participants was the sheer number of people who’d come to participate in the event. “Around 50,000 runners in the event meant that we’d have to weave our way through scores of runners and that we’d have to run more than the actual marathon distance (42.197 kilometres)! By the end of my run, I’d covered 42.7 kilometers, a good 500 meters more than the actual distance,” says Sunder.
Meanwhile, entrepreneur Praveen Patibandla recalls, “While I have been running for close to seven-eight years now, the specific preparation for the BMW Berlin Marathon started in June with a gradual increase in weekly mileage for 16 weeks. I trained with the Hyderabad Runners group for all my long runs. This was my first international marathon and the fact that it is a world major was even more exciting. I reached Berlin only on September 27 and had one and half days to prepare for the local weather conditions. It was wet and cold on the race day, so I went prepared with all the required gear — arm sleeves, hooded jacket, gloves etc.”
“The experience, the feeling at the start and the finish was just out of the world. The Berlin Marathon was my first full marathon, though I did an ultra marathon of 50 km at Malnad last year. Almost 90 percent of the run was in the rain, which made it really unique,” says Srikanth, Deputy Commissioner, Income Tax Department.
Yet another marathoner, Kruti Kadakia adds, “The BMW Berlin Marathon was one amazing marathon! I was trained by my coach Suresh who worked out an amazing plan for us although I encountered plenty of hurdles before reaching Berlin — my visa came just a day before my departure, I was the last one to collect my bib, I missed my bag from London to Berlin and my watch stopped working!”
She adds, “Luckily, I had my running clothes with me and despite all the fatigue, I still had friendly people around who offered me electrolytes.”
Kruti recalls that the rain and cold was no deterrent. “It was an electrifying atmosphere. We all ran in the rain and cold. I felt the forces were aiding me and managed to finish unexpectedly in 4:40 minutes!” she says.