Berlin Marathon

Volunteering at the Berlin Marathon

 

 

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I’ll admit, parts of this post will only be interesting to a runner, and parts of this will sound like any newbie marathon volunteering experience without being specific to Berlin. If you’re not interested in running, and even less in the Berlin Marathon, then you’ll appreciate a comment by a guy I met on my way home today. He was irritated by the hub-hub and the closed streets everywhere: es sind Leute, die laufen nur so rum! (it’s just a bunch of people running around!).  But this is a recap of my experience on a new side of a marathon- and there are a lot of photos. Hope  you enjoy!

This morning, I was up before dawn (which, admittedly, is getting later and later) to have my cup of coffee and my  breakfast and some Sunday morning routine before having to leave. I suppose I can get up early for running or running related things. Other occasions, I’d rather at least wait until the sun (not looking forward to Daylight savings).

Anyway, I was on my way to the marathon course before I think most runners were, and checked in at the skeleton of an aid station, receiving my jacket and then-nothing. I sat around listening to other volunteers chat and smiling and being nice, but quiet (my family thinks I always have to be the center of attention, it’s not true! With strangers, I’m more reserved!). I was itching for something to do, though.

That came soon enough as I found my way to the fruit group. I could have ended up with the water people, gels, tea, or sponges. Instead, I found myself among others preparing the bananas and apples. Then, the group sort of picked apples or bananas and I found myself with knife in hand and a box of apples.

So. Many. Apples. I cut and cored two boxes of apple on my own, and maybe a few more. It was slow going at first, but volunteers would chat and I’d join in occasionally and soon enough the first hand-crank bikers were coming by, followed closely by the wheel-chair racers. That was exciting and I’d interrupt my cutting to clap and cheer them on.

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Then came the first runners – Kipsang closely followed by Lagat. That was awesome. Though, surprisingly, I never saw Bekele, who went on to win the marathon in 6 seconds within WR time! WHAT?! Though, I would have won the bet that the record would not be reset today, I was a bit bummed not to have seen Bekele or that he was so close- and still didn’t get it. But he ran an impressive race, I’ve heard. And he has the new Ethiopian record, which is top class anyway. Does anyone want to talk about how Kipasang only lost by 10 seconds? That means he was 16 seconds within the WR as well.

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Of course, the first thirty or fifty runners ignored us, most of them had their fueling behind them. One runner, Tesfamariam Solomon still had his bottle in hand and threw it at. my. feet. I felt like a guest at a wedding. Oh? I’m to be the next elite then? Thanks!!

 

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Kebede- even elites look at their watches while running

I was excited to also see the first woman runner, Aberu Kebede, kicking butt. There was no competition from her second at kilometer 30, and I was just in awe- for the few seconds I had to watch her run by. They were all so fast.

But I had apples to cut, and soon the first people were grabbing fruit. Most of the sub-3 hour runners were grabbing bananas…but then someone took my first apple!! And then another! I enjoyed this part, holding out the apples and catching names to call out. I alternated between encouragement in English and German- I just smiled and looked for the smile in return when they’d heard the encouragement.

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I’ve heard the Minion version of “banana” a few times today.

Seriously, I was feeling buzzed and enjoying myself. Running is my drug! And there’s such thing as second-hand running high, I’ve discovered.

But then, the bucket of water-caressed apples was nearly empty, and I realized I’d have to cut more. We were barely at the four hour runners. So I was stuck cutting apples further back in the volunteer zone, away from the runners and missing being part of it, until I’d filled my bucket again and could hand out, smile, cheer and enjoy myself.

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After that second bucket, I just cut at the table, putting out the apples for the runners to grab their own. I could barely keep up, but I was also first in line, so when a runner missed me, three volunteers down the line were also offering apples. It started slowing down with the five hour runners, people reaching km 30 at about 4:15:00 gun time. I was still there forty minutes later or so, when the last runner passed.

Then it was a super quick cleanup. I had a moment to reflect on the mass amounts of supplies used/used up for a marathon. We produce a lot of waste at these things. I’d support greener races.

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And then I was on my way home.

I honestly can’t believe that I’ve watched an entire marathon. I’ve never seen the pick-up busses before, the first and last runners, it’s crazy. Even as a runner, or maybe because I’m usually a healthy runner (and low on running buddies the moment), I’ve never specated a marathon. Usually, Im running in the the races happening in my area myself. Online and on tv, I’m not actually watching it without distraction. Usually, I’m just listening to the reporting. This time I saw the runners, so many runners. And honestly, I was kind of glad I didn’t have to run. Of course, if I’d been preparing for it for months, I definitely would have. And it was a glorious day to run- perfect weather. Still, without running, I can come home via bike after volunteering at a marathon and get some work done. I could not do that if I’d run it (I mean, I could, but it’s usually harder). I’m usually in a funk after a marathon. All I want to do is sit around, eat, and talk about what I’ve accomplished. Then sleep. Of course, this way I don’t get a celebratory meal, but I’ve got enough apples to last me for… a week? I like apples.

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Apples or bananas? New water bottle! That beer is not part of my haul, I picked it up on my way home for Tatort tonight. It’s a dark hefeweizen, for those interested.

I will say, it was cool to see all these runners, Berliners, Germans, and internationals. I saw a few first time marathoners (that I know of for sure, because they told me or had it as part of their kit). I saw a few USA reps who got a special call-out. I saw the whole Israeli hand-bike team well-represented and zooming by. I saw people grab for apples and miss. I heard so many thanks yous (though admittedly more from the later runners- sub 3:30s, work on that!).

In short, I had a great time at the Berlin 2016 Marathon.

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Congrats to all the runners, race organization, police,  medics, and all involved for a great event (I’m feeling a bit self-congratulatory).

Hope you all enjoy your Sunday! Racers (I’m looking at you, Paula and James), best of luck!

Closing note about my new water bottle: was it kosher to take it home? Who knows. I’m pretty sure it would have been thrown away, anyway. I cleaned it and took off the sticker, but the green band remains. I’d like to share about Tesfamariam Solomon- he was an Eritrian refugee who is a member of the TVL Bern running team. Just making it to Switzerland alive was a challenge most of us can’t even imagine, and here he was, running sub 2:15. Herzlichen Glückwunsch, Mr. Solomon!

Live Update from Berlin: home of the Berlin Marathon 

(That title seems a bit unnecessary… obviously the Berlin marathon is run in Berlin… I’m not very good at titling today).

This is the first time I’ve lived in a marathon majors city. It’s obvious that this is bigger than most other marathons and a bigger deal for the citizens of the city it’s happening in. Literally all of center Berlin is shut down. People that have to get places are complaining, obviously, but it’s so cool to see the whole course being prepared for the runners.

 It’s also probably the first time I’ve been somewhere and everyone wants to talk about a marathon, runners and non-runners alike. I’m a bit in-between this year, seeing as I am not running, but totally get the ethnusiasm and have a purpose on the race course. I get to give out bananas at Km 30! 

What I haven’t quite figured out is my relationship to the racers coming from all over the world. The streets are crowded with tomorrow’s runners, who are struggling to resist the lure of a city to explore the night before a 26.2 mile run. I want them to like Berlin! I want them to see how cool this city is! At the same time, I feel a kinship with every runner I see… I think about how they must be nervous about tomorrow, anticipating the race and its challenges. I also am jealous that they get to run and I don’t, but I’m grateful for the opportunity to be a part of it in another way. I’m also worried that they won’t get the city and what it has to offer, since they’ll be so engrossed in the race, preparation and recovery. I’ll admit, it’s not perfect. There’s construction, borderline no-go zones, and the Berliners are a bit gritty and snarky. There are moments where an unhappy runner and the city may clash. But I hope not, and there will be a friendly Berliner wanting to help a runner out! 

People from around the  world, Berlin is excited for you, welcomes you, and can’t wait to see you run tomorrow! But don’t forget to be gracious guests and try to collect memories of a city full of history and general awesomeness outside of this race.  

Berlin in August

I haven’t even been in Berlin that long, but I’m already losing track of my experiences. It’s time to collect them and share them.

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What a coincidence I rode by this yesterday!

First of all, excuse me if this post seems a bit rushed. Knowing my writing style, that may actually be a good thing (and you may not actually notice). However, I had written a post and wanted to post it, and in the process of posting it with no internet, lost it somehow. Since it took me so long to finally write to begin with, I’m not having as much fun during round 2.0. But I hope it’s still enjoyable/informative!

August- After weeks of fall-like weather, cool and wet, Berlin was gifted with a midwife’s summer. Still, it wasn’t -fancy-hat-Sunday-picnic weather, more like oh-my-bottles-in-the-freezer-and-bikini-clad-jump-in-the-nearest-Brandenburg-lake weather. I won’t begrudge the Berliners their fun in the sun, but I prefer it cold.

On the other hand, when bicycling around the city to avoid public transporting costs, not having to worry about rain and poor visibility is nice.

These past weeks, I did several things I had never had to do before: sign up at a job agency, sign-up for internet service, volunteered at a race, and arranged for my water heater to be replaced. Some of these experiences I wouldn’t have minded avoiding, but they’re all part of living here.

On the day I decided to register for assistance in finding a job, I discovered that there are multiple agencies in the city that are meant to service certain regions. There’s also a difference between an agency and a center. The Job Center, apparently, is where one goes if one wants to register for Arbeitslosengeld (joblessness money). I think the rate right now is about 480 Euro a month, which wouldn’t be bad, but I actually didn’t intend to sign up for that. I want to see if I can find work first. Because of this approach, I was sent back in the direction of my apartment to the Agentur fuer Arbeit (agency). After only 10 minutes wait (I got lucky!) and 20 minutes filling out all the information one can find on and off my CV, I had a profile and appointment for personal Beratung, or advice. This appointment isn’t until Sept. 20th. It’s a bit late, and I hope to have work long before then. The online profile is useful though, and I use it along with Indeed.com and stepstone.de, as well as jobspotting, to search through and select jobs.

Finding an internet service was fine, and I won’t have to resort to WLAN thievery and prepaid accounts anymore. Replacing my water heater was less fun, but at least I now have contacts and know how to turn off my water and electricity in future events of water catastrophes.

Speaking of catastrophes, have you heard that the German government (some ministry I don’t feel like looking up) recommended a Vorratskauf? Basically, it’s the end of the world and Germans are being told to prepare for the event of a major terrorist attack by storing enough food and water for ten days in their homes. I don’t know which is scarier, this precaution being condoned after thirty years of peace in Germany and having to find a way to store 30 Liters of water in my small apartment, or the fact that such an attack could happen in Berlin where these precautions would be necessary.

On a lighter note, I had my first volunteering experience at a race. I was a helper for the Bambini races of a recent Sport-Scheck half-marathon and 10K designed to help Berliners prepare for the Berlin Marathon. Bambini is the Italian word for “kids.” Seeing the little kids run 200-900 meters, was soothing for my cranky-runner’s heart. In return for three hours of my time (and a 5:30 AM wake-up call on a Sunday), I got a free shirt, lunch packet, and $10 that were supposed to be transportation costs, but I used it for breakfast. It’s a pretty sweet deal, and I only just found out that I get to be on the course of the Berlin Marathon Sept. 25th as well! I’ll be handing out water near kilometer 30. If you’re there, let me call you out!

So that’s something to look forward to, but in the meantime I’m trying to prep for my own marathon, and since I can’t run (broken toe), I have to find creative ways to cross-train. The bad new is, it’s really hard to replace a 20 mile fast-finish run. It requires about 4.5 hours of cycling at more than moderate speeds. The good news is, the city is here to be explored, and so I went on a ride that I doubt many Berliners ever make- from the west to the far east.

Berlin ride

It was a really interesting tour through a lot of what used to be East Berlin and GDR IMG_1730Germany. I had enough reminders that I was in former east Berlin, from a general light shabbiness that seems characteristic of former east-bloc states to street names commemorating some of communism’s heroes.*

But I also had enough reminders that I was in a new Berlin, finding many of its monuments and old Berlin among all the new construction. There were too many moments where I was at a random corner or crossing, and I just couldn’t capture all of them.

I made time for new and old VDAC (Federation of German-American Clubs) acquaintances as well. I met the president of the Berlin German-American club, who is a delightful and inclusive lady. We met in the Himelbeet Cafe, which is a cafe grounded in a community garden in Wedding, a quarter in north  Berlin. I had never been in this region before, so the ride there as well as the few hours sitting with her, collecting the impressions of this community, was memorable.

IMG_1706On invitation from the student-exchange chair lady of the Hamburger German-American Club, I came to Hamburg for a delightful afternoon of Alsterlauf, conversation and sunshine with two lovely ladies. I collected enough impressions here as well, and found it slightly bizarre to be back in the city I had grown to love. I was struck by a lot of its beauty in the sunlight- the view of a ship, a metonymy for the city as sea-trade-capital, reflected on an adjacent building had to be captured.

So, bureaucracy, training, participating, Hamburg… there. I think I’ve reached the end of it. Berlin has a lot to offer in the late summer, and I couldn’t take advantage of all of it. For example, there was the long-night of museums, where 77 (or more, I forget) museums in the city were open with events and exhibitions from 6 PM to 2 AM the following day. There was also a Schlosser-Nacht in Postdam, neighbor of Berlin and capital of the state Brandenburg. This night of palaces is something I hope to take advantage of next year.

Looking forward to September– the International Literature Festival of Berlin is happening next week, I have several events I’ve been invited to by the president of Berlin’s German American Club, and I have several meetings at the university- school starts mid-October and it’s time to start getting in the academic spirit!

Happy last day of August,

Dorothea

* It is impossible to be in Berlin and not be reminded of its history. I’m not talking about WWII and the only history many US Americans seem to think happened in Germany, but the Cold War history. The city had been divided for forty years, and the divide is mostly stitched together, but by many different surgeons with many styles. One can find the scar of this divide, rigid and bumpy, not only in the landscape of the city, but in the mentalities of its citizens. My generation 25 and younger, don’t remember anything about this divide. However, anytime I talk to an older Berliner about the city, things to do, or traveling through it, I’m reminded that they experience/d the city in a much different way. The Berliner’s relationship to this history is complicated and fascinating. I hope to explore it more as I live here.