Berlin, Here I Come!

I can picture it now… I’m dashing through the streets of Berlin. The Brandenburg Gate is looming in the distance. Sweat is dripping from my brow. My legs are heavy and my lungs are ready to burst. The clock is ticking. The crowds are going wild. Someone hands me a Berliner Pfannkuchen which I promptly devour. I get a sudden burst of energy. I charge across the finish line and throw my arms up in jubilation. The sports commentators are beside themselves! She did it! On this most monumental day, Liz Anjos ran the race of her life!

Or I mean, you know, whatever. Maybe something like that! However it goes, I couldn’t be more thrilled to be running the 2015 Berlin Marathon! It has a legendarily fast course and a fascinating history. Fun facts:

1.) Nine world records have been set along its notoriously flat route, including Dennis Kimetto’s current record of 2:02:57 set in 2014. And remember when Haile Gebrselassie dipped under 2:04 for the first time in history in 2008? Yep, that was in Berlin.

2.) When the city was still divided, the marathon was limited to West Berlin. It was only in 1990 that the course was altered so athletes were able to run through the Brandenburg Gate and both halves of the unified city. Many runners had tears in their eyes as they ran through the gate. Remind me to pack tissues.

3.) The aid stations set up throughout the course offer water, sports drink, fresh fruit, and… tea? I mean, I dig that. I just hope it’s not too hot, in case someone mistakes it for water and dumps it on their head! Ouch.

So far training has been going swimmingly. Coach and I aren’t changing too much about our approach from when I ran the Philadelphia Marathon last year, with the exception of delving into slightly higher mileage. As the saying goes, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. I’ve been hovering around 65-70 miles per week for the past month. It was a pretty tough adjustment at first, especially since I just happened to be on the road and at high altitude for the first two weeks, but I feel like I’ve finally found my daily double-digit groove. If you’d like, follow along with my training on Strava.

I’m targeting 2:55 as my time goal, though I’d be happy with anything under my current PR, 2:59. Another goal I have is to place as one of the top Americans. There are no elite American entries this year as of yet, and the top finishing times for non-elite American women have been hovering around 2:55-3:00 for the past four years- right in my territory.

Until next time, here are my questions for you:

I’m arriving in Berlin five whole days before the race. What must I absolutely see and do?

This will be my first time racing the marathon internationally. Any words of wisdom?

If you could run any marathon in the world, which would it be and why?

8 responses to “Berlin, Here I Come!”

  1. Tyler Mathews Avatar

    London is definitely on my bucket list while I’m still getting faster. I’d love to see how fast I could be on one of the flat European courses.

    1. Liz Anjos Avatar

      I’m always surprised by how fast London is!

  2. Brian Avatar

    Hi Liz!

    I saw Andre like or repost this on Facebook and the word “Berlin” stood out. I studied abroad there for half a year and had a blast of a time. The intro of your post here cracked me up and made me miss Berlin dearly. Having had a lot of experience there, I’d love to recommend some things to do in the time before your race.

    Here’s some things off the top of my head:

    Things to do:

    First off, Berlin has something like 100 or so museums, and almost every one I went to was fantastic. Included in my list are a couple that stick out in my memory.

    -Historisches Museum: it’s the history museum there and it is absolutely fantastic. It’s huge and has some fascinating exhibits with tons of artifacts and whatnot. The only museum I’ve been to that has rivaled it is the Armory in Moscow and I still liked this museum better. I’d highly recommend it.
    Pankow: I believe every Saturday or Sunday there is a huge open air flea market. Lots of cool and unique stuff there.
    Museuminsel: It’s an island of museums. There are tickets you can buy that cover like 3 museums, all of which are really cool.
    -Zoologischer Garten Berlin: There are actually 2 zoos in Berlin, I believe because of the wall. I think most would say the Zoological Garden is way better. I just went to the aquarium (which includes bugs, reptiles, and amphibians as well) and it was definitely one of my favorites I’ve ever been to.
    -Ritter Sport World: I believe it’s in Mitte, but it’s basically a store with any kind of chocolate you could ever imagine from ceiling to floor. Definitely some combinations that are absolutely amazing that you can’t get anywhere else. My favorite: Kakao Mousse, which is basically like mini brownies inside of a chocolate bar. Probably not a low calorie option.
    -Neues Museum: I think it might be part of Museuminsel and also part of the 3-in-1 museum pass deal. Has the bust of Nefertiti, something you have to see to believe. I’d highly recommend it.
    -Berlinische Galerie: I believe I had to go here for an art class assignment. Very cool gallery of art (especially 20th century German) and a must if you’re into art. My favorite movement was Blaue Reiter and if I recall correctly they had some great pieces there.
    -Eat/drink, assuming you’re not vegetarian/vegan: currywurst (sausage smothered with curry ketchup sauce, a common stereotypical Berlin food), doener (Turkish kebabs, lots of veggies with meat taken from one of those rotating spits, absolutely amazing), Schnitzelburgers (Wiener schnitzel in the form of a burger. A simple enough idea but so delicious), Club Mate (basically carbonated Yerba Mate tea with some other spices. It’s hugely popular in Berlin and it’s either one of those things you love or hate. Worth a try regardless).

    For just walking around and taking in the sights:
    -Wansee: a cool place to just walk around and chill. It’s a lake/park and is pretty popular. A really beautiful sight.
    -Kreuzberg: the district with the best graffiti art. Berlin has some really beautiful graffiti all throughout it, but in my experience the best works were in Kreuzberg.
    -Charlottenburg: probably one of the most beautiful districts in Berlin. I’d highly recommend waking up early to see the sunrise over the bridges. Has a mansion/palace called Charlottenburg Palace that is really amazing to walk around.
    -Mitte: The middle district with pretty much all of the common tourist destinations. E.g. Brandenburger Tor, Reichstag, embassies, etc.

    Some basic stuff to keep in mind:
    -Western Berlin (Zoologischer Garten, etc.) is -very- touristy. Kind of obnoxiously so, if you ask me. That’s where you’ll find the most kitschy souvenir stuff, though you can find that anywhere really. Parts of it don’t look unlike Times Square or something flashy similar to that. I wasn’t too keen on it, but there are definitely some great things to do/see there and it’s worth checking out.
    -Eastern Berlin (generally speaking) is a bit more business-sided but still has a lot of interesting attractions. I think most Berliners wouldn’t necessarily divide Berlin by East/West because there are more factors to take into consideration nowadays, but this is how I usually defined my experiences. Still, that leads into my third point…
    -Each district in Berlin has a completely different feel to it. Whether it’s beautiful places like Charlottenburg or Schoeneburg that you should stop by, or seedier parts like Neukoeln that you should probably avoid, each place is pretty vastly different. The districts were once individual cities that conglomerated into one huge city and the result is modern day Berlin.
    -I think it’s worth getting a metro pass for the time you’ll be there. There are some intense metro guards that randomly patrol the cars and will trap/fine you. You can occasionally get off without any fee if you play the dumb tourist who doesn’t understand German though.

    Wow, this is quite an essay I wrote. Hope it’s at least helpful to you! I really absolutely love Berlin, it’s my favorite city in the world and I’m feeling some Fernweh just thinking about it. If you have any questions don’t hesitate to ask! Good luck on your marathon!!

    1. Liz Anjos Avatar

      Ohh thank you for all these wonderful suggestions! I’m obsessed with Ritter Sport bars and had no idea there was a Ritter Sport WORLD! That may have to be my first stop after the marathon.. I will definitely refer to this post when planning out the trip. Thanks again!

      1. Brian Avatar

        Of course! Chances are the marathon will stop in Mitte, so you’ll be right by Ritter Sport World anyway. Good luck again and have a great time there, I’m crazy jealous (though not about the running part)!

  3. Shannon Avatar

    I. will. be. there!!!!!! Its my first marathon so I will be cheering you from behind. Berlin is amazing, take in a concert at the Philharmonic if you can. Acoustics are out of this world! And get ready for alcohol free beer at the finish. My husband swears this is one of the best recovery drinks that exist.

    1. Liz Anjos Avatar

      Oh wow, what a cool marathon to choose for your first! And okay you convinced me. I’ve heard so many great things about the Berlin Philharmonic that I might just need to splurge and get tickets. I will definitely look for that alcohol-free beer at the finish!

  4. emaiuolo Avatar

    Oh I am so excited for you. I will be cheering from the floor and hoping I was there to Watch you race. I remember having issues spotting the water tables before I had them on my right and pass them without being able to get to them, maybe they changed that. I also remember thinking that the gate was the finish and I still have to run a little bit past it even though I had spent it too early. I know I put on my notes on my post so hope this helps let me know if you have any questions. Wishing you all the best!


Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Who is Mercury?

Liz Derstine, trail name “Mercury”, is a distance runner, endurance hiker, writer, and musician residing in Boston, MA. She holds fastest known times for women on the Appalachian Trail (supported, northbound), Long Trail (self-supported), and Pinhoti Trail (self-supported).

Newsletter 💫

Subscribe to Liz’s weekly newsletter full of inspiring stories about running, music, trails and life.

Success! You're on the list.