The 45th BMW Berlin Marathon took place on Sunday 16th September 2018, and it turned out to be a very special one this time...

33-year-old Eliud Kipchoge, from Kenya, managed to beat the old marathon world record by an incredible 1:18 minutes, making his finishing time a terrific 2:01:39. This was the 11th world record broken throughout the history of the Berlin Marathon, and it was the biggest jump in the men’s world record in over 50 years. With the Nike Vaporfly 4%, nothing could stop him that weekend - he outran the competition by 5 minutes.

Setting new records with the Nike Vaporfly 4%: our Keller Sports Marathon Team

  Keller-Sports-Nike-Marathon-Team_1   Our Keller Sports Marathon Team played their part in this historical event too. Having had the Nike Vaporfly 4% launched shortly before the marathon, the four runners were perfectly equipped for fast finishing times! The shoe was designed based on input from the best marathon runners in the world - it was born to be fast. If you want to read up on the details of the shoe, we’ve already discussed the Nike Vaporfly 4% in depth here.

Armed with the same shoe model as world record holder Kipchoge, our four runners succeeded in beating their own Berlin Marathon personal bests. What a wonderful achievement!     What were our team’s experiences during the Berlin Marathon? How did Max’s first ever marathon go? How did the experienced Berlin-based runners Steffi and Thomas feel about their ‘home game’? Was Jan able to beat his ambitious goal of completing the marathon in just over 3 hours? How did it go for Julia, after feeling ill just a few weeks before the race? Read on to find out all about it!

Before the Berlin Marathon: shake-out run and Nike Breaking2 experience

To make sure we were well prepared on the big day, we met up the day before the marathon, which was on Sunday. On Saturday, we went on a relaxed 5k shake-out run to loosen up our legs and to do a last little bit of training before the race. We got together with Maren Schiller, our Nike EKIN Andi and a group of other Berlin runners to begin our jog at the heart of Kreuzberg. After the first kilometres, as we ran along the blue racing line and saw the street cut off for inline skaters, we started getting our very first competition jitters. Keller-Sports-x-Nike-Marathon-Team-2 We continued through Hasenheide park and doubled back onto Kottbusser Damm, where the highlight of the run awaited us.

We did a quick cool-down and were then greeted with refreshments and invited into a cinema hall that had been hired exclusively for us at the Moviemento, Germany’s oldest cinema.

That’s where we watched the Breaking2 documentary on Nike’s attempt to complete a marathon in less than 2 hours.

Knowing that Eliud Kipchoge was going to try to break a world record on Sunday, we thought watching the documentary was a great way to fire up our motivation for the marathon.

It was a very inspiring and emotional film. We got exciting insights into the life and personality of this exceptional athlete. Although our team was not doing a Breaking2 but rather Breaking3 and Breaking4 projects, the film was a great motivation for us. We learnt that, if you have passion and believe in yourself and in your goals, you can achieve anything - or in Kipchoge’s own words: “No human is limited”.   Keller-Sports-x-Nike-Marathon-Team_16   We ended the day with a pasta party (i.e. the obligatory pre-marathon carbohydrate feast), and each had the evening to him/herself to prepare mentally for the race and go through any personal pre-marathon rituals.

Berlin Marathon - the morning and the pre-start nerves

Berlin, 7:45 am
The team met up at the hotel lobby around one and a half hours before the start of the race.
Unfortunately, this is when we got the first piece of bad news of the day: Julia hadn’t yet fully recovered from her ailment and she’d had a high temperature the evening before the race. As a doctor herself, she knew there was only one thing she could do: not take part in the marathon. But she was dedicated enough to stay and support the four other runners!

Max, Steffi, Jan and Thomas were all on completely different levels of marathon experience, so the overall group feeling was mixed. Although it was her ninth marathon, Steffi was a little too nervous for this one but managed to calm down by chatting with her teammates.

Thomas had lost his nervousness in the past week and turned them into pure excitement, while Jan was just really in the mood for a good run! Being his first marathon ever, Max was a little distant while he struggled to deal with the whole range of chaotic emotions he was going through - from thinking “this’ll be great fun” and having limitless motivation to feeling slightly overcome by the sheer distance he was about to cover.   Keller-Sports-Nike-Marathon_2-2  

Marathon prep and finish

The months of preparation for the Berlin Marathon 2018 were very different for the four competitors. Steffi, Jan and Thomas had completed some long runs and felt perfectly ready for the race. Max, however, pulled a muscle in his groin three weeks before the marathon and couldn’t quite train as well as he’d intended to.

With four completely different time goals, the four runners were among the last to join the start line. Whereas Steffi and Thomas were aiming for around the 4-hour mark, Jan and Max were going to attempt to finish the marathon in around three (3:05 was Jan’s and 2:45 was Max’s).

Berlin Marathon from the point of view of the Keller Sports x Nike Marathon Team

Apart from the time goals, the strategies and experiences on the route were also very different for the four runners. We’re going to share with you the personal impressions of our team - what they felt and thought during the Berlin Marathon, what strategies they used, what their personal highlights of the race were and how they feel about running 42.2k.

Steffi: new personal best at the Berlin Marathon despite an incident

The race in Berlin was already Steffi’s second marathon this year, but for her, it was very special.

“The atmosphere was just amazing. We had people cheering us on for the entire 42.195k. This is where the world elite start their journeys. As a local here in Berlin, this was simply the best run ever.

My strategy was to keep my pace slow to begin with, so I wouldn’t shoot off too quick through excitement. But the last 12k are out of your control, that’s when you really start to have fun!

On the whole, I’d say positive thinking is the most important thing during a marathon. I love seeing my family and my friends cheering me on along the marathon, or I’ll listen to music and sing a few songs to myself, all while looking forward to the finish line.   Keller-Sports-Nike-Marathon-Team_12   Unfortunately I had two unforeseen hiccups this year. First, at kilometre 7, I had to rescue my left Nike Vaporfly 4%. Someone stood on the back of my heel and my shoe fell off, so I had to turn back around 4 metres against what felt like an endless river of runners. Thankfully, I beat the flow of the river, got my Vaporfly 4% back and carried on running.

After that, trying to open my last gel slowed me down too. I couldn’t find a way to open it without scissors, so I had to ask one of the Red Cross helpers to give me a hand. Despite the hurdles, my official marathon time of 04:08:16 is my new personal record, and I certainly wasn’t expecting it! The magical 4-hour mark is now closer than ever!

Thomas: crossing the finishing line with an unconventional running strategy

It was also a ‘home game’ for Berlin local Thomas, who was taking part in the Berlin Marathon for the second time.

“From all of the training I’ve done and from last year’s marathon, I’ve learnt that I start to struggle to keep up a constant at around kilometre 25 (or even earlier). It doesn’t actually matter how fast or slow I run before that. This is why I started the race at a pace that was fast for me.

When it came to mental preparation, I kept myself focussed on the marathon for as much of the time as possible. Before the run, I split the route into shorter bits so I had lots of shorter goals to aim for.

Unlike last year, this year my body held out really well. I believed very strongly in my unconventional mental strategy all the way through the run and was absolutely certain I would beat my personal best.   Keller-Sports-Nike-Marathon-Team_11   My personal highlight was reaching the finish line, or rather, being across the finish line. Joy, pride and gratitude were just some of the emotions that overcame our team. Unfortunately, all of these positive feelings were soon joined by the aches and pains that the mind and the body managed to suppress during the run.

In the end, I finished the marathon with a time of 3:45:17. Had someone told me that I was going to beat my personal best by that much, I wouldn’t have believed them!”

Jan: the 3-hour mark within grasp

“In Berlin, it’s just a massive party along the route. You never run alone. It really is the best marathon in Germany. My goal was to finish in under 3:11, setting myself a new personal best. I aimed to finish in 3:05. My strategy was to keep a constant pace of 4:20, and on the day itself, I kept an average pace of 4:18, which was fantastic.   Keller-Sports-Nike-Marathon-Team_10   During the race, I try to work out in my head what kind of time I’m at and what finishing time I feel capable of achieving on the day. Then I compare my actual time with the interim goals that I’ve set myself on my watch. At the Berlin Marathon, I’d already made good progress in the first 5k. I often try to think of the cool beer I’ll enjoy at the end of the race too!

At the end of the race, the time on my watch was 3:01:12, which brings me ever closer to that magical 3-hour mark. My highlight of the day was running the same route as Kipchoge on the day of his amazing world record. And now there’s not even an hour between my personal best and the world record - only 59:33 minutes!”

Max: Marathon debut full of special moments

“I’d originally planned to finish my first marathon in under three hours, but I already knew before setting off that my injury would make this goal very difficult to achieve.

I didn’t really have a running strategy, I just tried not to run too fast and get carried away by following the pace of faster runners. I tried to keep a constant pace, which worked well until the half-marathon line, but then my thigh started giving me trouble.   Keller-Sports-Nike-Marathon-Team_14   During the run I had lots of personal highlights:
The first was hearing my parents’ voices just before the 20k mark. Then I saw them at the side the of the track, and that gave me a really big boost. I also saw my buddy Robert at kilometre 30 even though we’d lost track of each other from 5k onwards. When we caught up with each other, he was struggling as much as I was and was suffering from muscle problems. We ran together for a few minutes until he decided he couldn’t continue and he dropped out of the race.

My third highlight occurred 7k away from the finish line. My left thigh was hurting a lot and I had to have a break. I was close to giving up when suddenly a little boy and a girl came and stood by me. They looked at my start number and said “Come on Maximillian, there are only a few kilometres left until the finish, you can do it”, and they patted me on the shoulder. That gave me the motivation I needed to keep going and finish the marathon, no matter what.

The finish line was the most special moment of the day, running under the Brandenburg gate with everyone watching me at the sides of the track. The step across the finish line was a very proud moment: I’d finished my first ever marathon! I was at the finish with a time of 3:21:20. I have to say, the Berlin Marathon was one of the coolest and most beautiful running experiences of my life!”

Berlin Marathon Cheering Zone KM 37

The highlight for the whole team was the Cheering Zone of the power runners at kilometre 37. High fives with the friends and family gathered there gave everyone the extra push they needed for those last oh-so-hard 5k! The atmosphere was incredible. There were so many people there that it looked like a party at the side of the track, all cheering the runners on. With all of the good vibes in the air, we soared to the finish line!   Keller-Sports-Nike-Marathon-Team_9  

To wrap up

Max, Jan, Thomas, Julia and Steffi can all look back on an eventful and exciting weekend. Not only that, but they also followed Kipchoge as he broke the world record with his astonishing time of 2:01:39! Steffi is absolutely convinced that “we’ll live to see someone break the two-hour mark, for sure.”