In late September I joined forty-four thousand fellow visitors for a rainy tour of central Berlin.
As participants in the Berlin Marathon, we circled the inner city clockwise and, over the course of a few hours, passed several historical landmarks spanning centuries.
The race starts in Tiergarten, a central park much like New York City’s. After World War II, residents of Berlin planted potatoes in the park in an effort to stave off starvation.
Their dire situation was caused by both the devastation of war and the Soviet blockade of West Berlin. The hunger was somewhat abated by the Berlin Airlift in 1948-49.
In response to the Soviet siege, the Allies launched a rescue mission, completing hundreds of thousands of flights into the city to deliver food, medicine and fuel.
At the operation’s peak, planes were taking off and landing every ninety seconds. Some of the pilots dropped chocolates to Berlin’s children.
The airlift was based at Tempelhof Airport. Now out of service, the airport was put to use as the venue for the marathon expo. To pick up my race bib, I walked through the deserted terminal, past ghostly check-in desks, empty baggage carousels and blank departure boards.
Next to the expo, a Douglas C-47 transport plane was parked on the tarmac, a reminder of the airlift.
Berlin Airlift plane at Tempelhof
A couple of days later, I lined up for the start with runners from 150 countries. The sky was overcast and threatened rain, but the participants were anxious to begin.
Berlin’s course is flat and record-eligible. In 2018 Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge ran the fastest ratified marathon ever run in a time of 2:01:39.
I just wanted to finish. Continue reading