Major sporting events like the Berlin Marathon draw crowds: nearly 45,000 runners from 120 countries around the world have gathered in 2022, and that’s not counting all the supporters, families, friends, volunteers, organizers and brand representatives who gather there. Needless to say, all this fills up a city pretty quickly!
For this kind of experience, the more prepared you are, the more you can enjoy it. Here are some valuable tips based on my experience in 2022 on cheering duties, and the advice of my runner friends.
Before the race
As seasoned marathoners know, it’s not always easy to get a spot in top marathons. When we talk about top marathons, we are talking about the World Marathon Majors, where the best runners in the world collect their points to qualify for the World Track and Field Championships and the Olympic Games.
Here are the six cities where these races take place each year:
Note: Registration for the Berlin Marathon 2023 lottery is closed; it ran from September 29 to November 17, 2022.
In Berlin, you can participate in the lottery as an individual or as a trio. In Berlin, your previous performance is not a factor for admission; my friend completed her very first marathon there!
From the experience of runners in my community, it seems that you have a much better chance of getting your coveted spot in the marathon if you register as a trio. It is therefore worthwhile to sign up with running friends to increase your chances of being chosen. The proof: several members of my YAMAJO running club signed up as trios and thus, about twenty runners of the club got to live this experience together!
Registration costs 163 euros and since payment is in foreign currency, it is advisable to use a card with no conversion fees such as the HSBC World Elite® Mastercard® to save 2.5%.
You have several options for flights: book with points, redeem your points for travel credit, or simply find cheap flights. I used the latter option to get to Berlin by traveling with a carry-on and opting for a slightly longer, but less expensive route.
So I went through Dublin, and several other runners took a flight to London, followed by a low-cost flight.
For example, with Aeroplan points, flights are around 35,000 points for a one-way trip in economy class, and 60,000 points in business class. So you could easily afford a flight with the welcome bonus of the TD® Aeroplan® Visa Infinite Privilege* Credit Card.
The cost of accommodation can be very expensive as most hotels in Berlin are fully booked during the week of the marathon. It is therefore important to book several months in advance if possible. With Marriott Bonvoy‘s Best Price Guarantee, you have nothing to lose.
The way to get the best value for your points is to book at least five nights, since the fifth night booked with points is free. For 2023, a five-night stay during the Berlin Marathon starts at 83,000 points :
In 2022, I was able to book five nights for 79,500 points at the AC Hotel Berlin Humboldthain Park. The price per night during that period was 250 euros, so those five nights would have cost me 1,250 euros, or 1,800 CAD! So this is an excellent value per Marriott Bonvoy point according to our Milesopedia point rating.
You can even use your annual free night certificate and add a sixth night for a chance to see the city. Remember to pay for all your hotel expenses with your Marriott Bonvoy® American Express®* Card to earn 5 points per dollar spent.
Tips for enjoying it
Plan your day
There are several things you need to include in your schedule to be in top shape and not burn out before your race.
First of all, you will have to deal with the time difference and therefore, it is preferable to arrive at least two days before your marathon.
Then, plan on spending a good half-day at the expo to pick up your race kit (including your bib). Why? Because it is located in the former Berlin-Tempelhof International Airport, outside the tourist area of the city. Take advantage of this opportunity to buy official race souvenirs, and even stock up on gels if you are traveling with carry-on luggage only (you can order them in advance and pick them up at the Maurten kiosk, for example).
Participate in free events
The running culture is very strong in Berlin, and it is celebrated in a big way during the marathon!
By browsing the official website, you will get more information on the official activations surrounding the event, such as the “shakeout” run the day before the big day to feel your legs and meet runners from around the world.
Berlin’s running clubs also organize their own shakeout runs as well as many other free activations and events before and after the marathon. Find them on social media, then be sure to contact them ahead of time to sign up.
All of these events are usually free, and they often have some nice surprises in store for you, even if it’s just a coffee or breakfast to fill up on carbs! It is a great opportunity to meet other runners who have also sacrificed many late mornings to be ready to run 42.2 km.
As a companion, you can also register for these events and soak in the electrifying atmosphere of the Berlin Marathon.
As with every marathon, city traffic is greatly affected by the race route, so public transportation is by far the best way to get around. It is very efficient in Berlin and as a participant of the marathon you will have free access from September 22 to 25 by presenting your bib number.
Be careful: you will have to pay for your transportation the day after the race, otherwise you may be fined (real life experience).
If you’re not running, only cheering like I was, a one-week ticket to Berlin will cost you approximately 36 euros.
Visit the city after your race
Berlin is a city rich in culture and history and well worth a visit. Read our guide to Berlin to find out what you should see on your first visit:
If your legs are screaming for help after the marathon, you can book tours with Viator to give them a break:
Other practical advice
- Although credit cards are accepted everywhere, it is strongly recommended to carry some change. Personally, I used my WISE card to minimize ATM fees.
- Buy yourself an electronic SIM card with Airalo. You will save the roaming fees of Canadian companies which are often quite high, and time in finding a store that provides physical SIM cards. A one-week package should be enough to get you oriented on race day and stay connected with those who are with you.
- Download the official marathon application; it will allow you to follow other runners according to their bib numbers. It is an essential tool when you’re on cheering duties; you won’t want to miss your runner passing by. It will be crowded, so it’s a good idea to set up a meeting point after the race is over!
- Reward yourself with complimentary access to airport VIP lounges with cards like the Scotiabank Passport™ Visa Infinite* Card. If you are as lucky as I am, you will meet the legendary Eliud Kipchoge!
The Berlin Marathon is the experience of a lifetime for running enthusiasts! Not only do you get to experience this beautiful European city as you run through it to the cheers of the spectators, but you also get to chase the best marathoners who may even be about to set a world record, as Eliud Kipchoge did in 2022.
With proper preparation, points and miles will help you save big on this special experience, and enjoy it to the fullest. Have a good race!