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It’s the people who write history – in the past and today. Get to know some of our BMW BERLIN-MARATHON legends.
Legendary places and events
The Brandenburg Gate is probably the most-known sight of the German capital – but by far not the only outstanding and symbolic one, that will come across your path during your stay in Berlin.
It’s the people who write history – in the past and today. Get to know some of our BMW BERLIN-MARATHON legends. #berlinlegend
Without Borders through Berlin
Anyone who hears the name Uta Pippig immediately thinks of the Brandenburg Gate. Born in Leipzig, she marked the beginning of a new era for the capital and for the BERLIN-MARATHON in 1990 with her amazing run as an East German across the borders of the divided city. Just three days before Reunification, the route led through East and West Berlin for the first time.
World-Class Athlete behind the Iron Curtain
Uta Pippig began training for the long distances at the age of 13. In 1986, not yet 20 years old, she won the marathon at East German Championships in Leipzig. However, when she travelled to the Tokyo Marathon in 1988, her trainer Dieter Hogen was not allowed to accompany her. She came in second with a time of 2:32:20 hours. The political conditions in the GDR restricted one’s opportunities for self-determination, and in the case of Uta Pippig, limited her opportunities to establish herself in the international world of sport.
The Fall of the Wall and Uta Pippig's Breakthrough
1990 therefore marked a breakthrough in many respects, not only with regard to Germany as a whole, but also for Pippig's career. The Wall had fallen, and the participants of the BERLIN-MARATHON were able to pass through the Brandenburg Gate on the new route for the very first time. For many participants, this was a special moment. Uta Pippig describes this moment in our Fall of the Wall anniversary video interview with an incomparable feeling of freedom that still inspires her in all of her endeavors today. This day was crowned by her victory over 42.195 kilometres and a new course record with a time of 2:28:37 hours.
International Success Story
Inspired by this experience, Uta Pippig appeared on the world stage of running in the early 1990s and collected marathon victories in Boston and New York. She was named ‘Runner of the Year’ by the Association of International Marathons and Road Races in 1995 and 1996. Between 1990 and 1996, she won seven marathons in these cities, and added to her list of exceptional achievements by competing in the Olympic Games in Barcelona in 1992 (7th place in the 10,000M) and in Atlanta in 1996.
After Sport is before Sport
Despite such a diverse athletic biography, looking back, Uta reflects: “My victory in Berlin on that day (1990 BERLIN MARATHON) was probably the emotional highlight of my career.” She is still our running expert for the BMW BERLIN-MARATHON and certainly deserves to call herself a Berlin Legend!
A sensational Comeback
Winner Kenenisa Bekele
The winner after the 2019 BMW BERLIN-MARATHON
© Andy Edwards
Kenenisa Bekele | before the marathon
Winner of the 2016 BMW BERLIN-MARATHON
© Andy Edwards
Nothing is impossible for Gladys Cherono
Last year, Gladys Cherono ran faster than any other female before at the BMW BERLIN MARATHON. With an unbelievably strong personal best of 2:18:11, she broke the previous course record set by Mizuki Noguchi of Japan (2:19:12, 2005). As clear as this victory, the Kenyan formulated her plan for the race on September 29th. “My goal now is to win for the fourth time in Berlin.” That would make the 36-year-old the new record holder for the BMW BERLIN MARATHON, ahead of running legends Uta Pippig, Aberu Kebede and Renata Kokowska, all of whom have won three times in the capital.
In 2012, Gladys Cherono won the 5,000m and 10,000m races at the Track and Field Championships. No other woman had ever accomplished that before. In the same year, she gained notable attention with her performances in the half-marathon races in Ra's al-Khaimah and in Prague. Two years later, the powerful woman became World Half Marathon Champion in Copenhagen with a time of 1:07:29.
She doubled that distance for the first time in 2015, achieving a second-place finish at her marathon debut in Dubai (2:20:03). A few months later, the Kenyan then made the leap to the top of the podium at the BMW BERLIN MARATHON. This success landed her a key spot in the marathon circus. Shortly after her victory in Berlin last year, she said in an interview with regard to the women’s world record in the marathon: “With hard work and hard training, nothing is impossible. I know that one day I will break this record.” Maybe this day is closer than we think. Gladys Cherono is keeping things exciting.
Gladys Cherono | before the marathon
3-times winner of the BMW BERLIN-MARATHON, Course record (2018)
© Andy Edwards
Work hard, be respectful, and plan.
“As this is a big competition, implement your training well in the race and run with full confidence.” – This is Mare Dibaba’s advice for all runners racing in Berlin.
Mare won the marathon world championships in Beijing 2015 and is ready to toe the starting line of the 2019 BMW BERLIN-MARATHON.
Interview with Mare Dibaba
Tell us your story. How did your love and passion for running come about?
After my participation in school competitions and victories I started to gain confidence. I kept on competing with my friends and started with regular training.
What motivated you to pursue a career as a professional runner?
My good results in school competitions.
What was your biggest success so far and which success was the most important for you?
My biggest success was winning the 2015 Marathon World Championship in Beijing. It was a very important victory for me, because I told myself and family that one day, I will bring home a gold medal for my country. At the 2015 World Champion that dream came true.
Which traits do you most appreciate about yourself?
My strong capacity of taking my work seriously. I am able to maintain focus and don’t get distracted from my work by any other situation around me.
What is your life motto?
Work hard, be respectful, and plan.
In your opinion, what makes a strong athlete, what skills and characteristics do they require?
Having a good discipline towards athletic requirements, focusing on work, and following the instruction of coaches.
Who is your athletic role model? What inspires you?
Fatuma Roba and Derartu Tulu from the previous generation. And Tirunesh Dibaba from the current athletes.
What kind of message do you want to give to women who are looking for a career in running?
My advice to women who want to run is to stay strong and keep a healthy base. The situation around them may be difficult when they progress towards their goal but, they have to say “no” to things that will hold them back. Most important is to listen to coaching instructions and give full attention to work.
What does your life look like outside of competitive sports?
Mostly, I spend my time working at home and spending time with my family and watching movies.
To what extent has success in sport also contributed to success in your life?
Sport (Athletics) has changed my life completely. Before, I didn't even have a cent for public transportation, but I am now standing by myself and even help my family to have a better life.
You are a powerful woman—tell us more about it.
I come from a family of farmers and I was helping my family in house holding throughout my childhood, this gives me strength to pursue my athletics career.
What is your life motto?
Never give up stay strong.
Why do you want to race the BMW BERLIN MARATHON?
Since the BMW BERLIN-MARATHON is in a good season and has a flat course, it's a good race to run fast and improve my PB.
What motivates you on days when things are not going so well?
My patience and knowing there are also tomorrow.
Do you have any tips for the participants in the BMW BERLIN MARATHON?
As this is a big competition, implement your training well in the race and run with full confidence.
What is your goal for the BMW BERLIN MARATHON 2019?
My goal is to improve my personal best in the 2019 BMW BERLIN-MARATHON.
From parking lot to first place
"Do not compare yourself with others, concentrate on yourself and make the most of your opportunities." Inspired by her athletic role model Allyson Felix, coupled with down-to-earth nature and sense of purpose, Katharina Rumpus has worked her way up in the world of inline skating—a true story of a superwoman.
The heralded story of the football player, who metamorphoses from a sandlot kid to a million-dollar professional, is often told in the media. However, this kind of storytelling may more likely be attributed to a resourceful manager than to the truth. In the case of Katharina Rumpus, she truly did have a very modest start to her career. Currently, the 25-year-old from Powerslide Matter World Team is one of Germany's fastest inline skaters.
Katharina has achieved this success despite beginning her internship as a student teacher in Neckarsulm at the start of the year. Dealing with a dual life is new for the athlete from Heilbronn, as she has previously had to organise her school and university studies around her sports. The aspiring secondary school teacher for maths and sports admits frankly, “But I also have to say that the internship is much more stressful than studying. I am not as flexible with my time and I had to reduce my distances significantly.” But all the hard work appears to be worth it for her. Katharina has always known that she wanted to go to college. Her desire to teach is great, or, as the Heilbronn woman expresses sympathetically: “The internship is a lot of fun. I just love working with children and sharing my knowledge with them.”
Katharina does what she loves well—very well. That’s the way it was with skating, too. Actually, she never planned on becoming a professional athlete. That simply developed out of her love and enthusiasm for sports. Early on, Katharina was on skis—not skates. She started her sports career at a young age at the club Ski Sport Franken Heilbronn. In order to stay fit over the summer months for the upcoming winter season, Katharina trained with her brother on inline slalom skis, always under the aegis of her father. Naturally, she also took part in competitions in this discipline due to her irrepressible desire for victory. At one of these competitions, the family found out about inline speed skating by accident. “We were hooked immediately, and that is how the insane journey began”, the superwoman describes that decisive moment. What followed were odd training sessions on illuminated parking lots at night or on crummy bike paths. Her father provided the training, and his son and daughter skillfully executed it. When asked about the miserable conditions for training, Katharina says: “That did not bother us; quite the contrary, it made us tough and incredibly versatile. The competitions not only provided an opportunity to compete with our peers, but also a chance to skate on good tracks and real road courses.”
The concept worked. Katharina Rumpus won three junior world titles. And in contrast to the story about football players told earlier, the woman from Heilbronn did not immediately look for the big money. Although she did start training at a pro camp, she also continued her academics. During her studies, the aspiring teacher focused on the marathon. Her ability for self-reflection helped her come back stronger from defeat. In 2016, Katharina became the European Champion over the 42.195-km distance and in 2018, she won the BMW BERLIN MARATHON.
Back to the current day. If you think that Katharina Rumpus might not be a main contender at the BMW BERLIN MARATHON in 2019, since, as she mentioned, she has not been able to get in as much training as she was used to, be warned. “I think I’m in good shape despite everything,” she modestly assesses her situation. Her athletic role model is Allyson Felix, so this statement takes on a very different meaning. She tells all women, who, like Katharina, want to be successful on skates: “Do not compare yourself with others, concentrate on yourself and make the most of your possibilities.”
The Victory Column
The Siegessäule, or Victory Column, also lovingly called “Golden Else” by the people of Berlin, is the counterpart to the Brandenburg Gate for the BMW BERLIN MARATHON participants. Just as the historic gate stands as a symbol for the imminent finish, the 67m-high column is something like the opening signal for the race. After only a few hundred metres, the runners reach the so-called "Great Star” roundabout, a central space in the Tiergarten park, where “Golden Else” has resided since 1939. Previously, madame was at home in what is today the Platz der Republik (near the Reichstag building), commemorating the German wars of unification. The architect Johann Heinrich Strack had it built on behalf of Wilhelm I between the years 1864-1873. In the late 1930s, the victory column was transferred to the Great Star. The pillar survived World War II almost unscathed. Nevertheless, there were several remedial measures taken to fix her up over the following decades. The last time “Golden Else” was touched up was in 2011, when, honouring her nickname, they brightened her up with 1.2 kg of new gold leaf painting. Tip: Photographers enjoy the motif of the runners at the Victory Column very much, so smile while passing by.
Schöneberg City Hall
At approximately km 23, the participants of the BMW BERLIN MARATHON reach the Schöneberg City Hall—and will find scores of spectators lining the course. Large crowds are nothing unusual at the city hall in Berlin's Tempelhof-Schöneberg district. Approximately 800,000 people gathered for an official demonstration in response to the construction of the Berlin Wall in August 1961, in front of the city hall on the square then named Rudolph Wilde Platz. On June 26, 1963, US President John F. Kennedy spoke in front of thousands of spectators at the same place, giving his famous “Ich bin ein Berliner” speech. Incidentally, three days after the assassination of Kennedy, Rudolph Wilde Square was renamed John F. Kennedy Square. A freedom bell (a gift from the Americans) has been hanging in the tower of the Schöneberg City Hall since 1950. Every day at noon, the largest secular bell in Berlin is rung. Depending on their pace and what wave they started in, the runners might get a chance to hear it ringing. The building and its interior frequently serve as film locations, for instance for the hit series “Babylon Berlin”.
The Berlin-Tempelhof Airport
On October 30, 2008, the Berlin-Tempelhof Airport was closed after 85 years in operation—even if some travel portals still attempt to book flights through the airport! The decision in 1996 to close the airport was primarily based on plans to construct a new major one in Berlin Brandenburg (BER). This purported new airport is also causing confusion again and again on the flight portal websites, since BER was long supposed to be finished but does not yet exist. But the “Berlin Airlift” definitely took place. This initiative of the Western Allies ensured that the inhabitants of Berlin would be provided with the most important foodstuffs after the Soviet occupying forces blocked land and waterways for supply. From June 26, 1948, to September 30, 1949, approximately 277,500 supply flights made by the U.S. Air Force and the Royal Air Force delivered about 2.35 million tons of cargo to the Berlin-Tempelhof Airport. The supply aircraft were coined “candy bombers” after an American pilot began dropping mini parachutes with chocolates and other sweets as he approached the city, and “Rosinenbomber” (raisin bombers) when a British plane was supposedly bringing raisons for the bakeries for the Christmas holidays in 1948. Today, the facilities at the former airport are used, among other things, as a trade fair location, including the BMW BERLIN MARATHON EXPO. The associated property is called the Tempelhof Field, and serves as an event site, such as for the BARMER Women’s Run.
The Brandenburg Gate
Everyone in the Federal Republic of Germany actually carries around this legendary Berlin Hot Spot in their pockets, as the back of the German version of the 10, 20 and 50 Euro-cent coins are adorned with the Brandenburg Gate, the desired destination for all starters at the BMW BERLIN MARATHON. After reaching km 41, the participants arrive via Glinkastrasse at the boulevard Unter den Linden. From here you can see the Brandenburg Gate, behind which the finish awaits. These final metres are unforgettable. The spectators are packed along the course, cheering on the participants to the finish. The runners get to pass through the Brandenburg Gate on to their deservedly celebrated completion of the BMW BERLIN MARATHON just a few metres further. As soon as the medals are dangling around their necks, many participants turn back to have a look at the early-classicist 20-meter high triumphal gate. At the request of King Friedrich Wilhelm II, it was built according to designs by Carl Gotthard Langhans between the years 1789-1793. Originally, it was the crowning glory of the grand boulevard Unter den Linden. Today it is considered more as a symbol of reunited Germany. During the separation of Germany, the border between East and West Berlin passed directly by the Brandenburg Gate. In 1990, for the first time, the course of the BERLIN MARATHON led down the middle of the Brandenburg Gate. Due to the great demand for a chance experience that, the limit had to be set at 25,000 starters.
The Berlin Olympic Stadium
For the 1916 Summer Olympics, the Equestrian Centre Rennbahn Grunewald was converted into the German Stadium. But due to World War I, the Games did not take place in 1916. For the 1936 Summer Olympics, the German Stadium was then almost completely demolished, and the present Olympic Stadium was erected in its place. In the following years, there were constant reconstruction measures, such as the partial roofing for the Football World Cup in 1974. Currently, the sports venue has a capacity of almost 74,500 seats. The main occupant is the Bundesliga club Hertha BSC, which hosts its home games here. But the venue in the area of Berlin known as Westend is home to many other sporting events, as well. Every year in late summer, the track and field elite gather here to compete in the International Stadium Festival (ISTAF), the world's largest athletics meet. The jewel of the venue is considered to be the blue Tartan track. On August 16, 2009, Usain Bolt set a still-standing world record here in the 100m finals at the World Athletics Championships with a time of 9.58 seconds. However, the blue track was not popular with everyone at the start. During its introduction, conservationists expressed concern that waterfowl could inadvertently land on it. As it turned out, the blue track did not get confused with a body of water. For the participants in the GENERALI BREAKFAST Run at the BMW BERLIN MARATHON, the Olympic Stadium marks the end point for the 6 km course.
The Berlin Wall
"The Wall must go!" chanted the citizens of the GDR during the so-called Monday demonstrations during the peaceful revolution in the fall of 1989. This was the beginning of the end of a border system that was 167.8 kilometres long and 3.60 metres high that separated East and West Berlin from one another. The so-called inner-German border between West Germany (the old Federal Republic) and East Germany (GDR) was also delineated by a wall. The total length was 1,378 kilometres. Now, thirty years after reunification, only remnants of the former border fortification system can still be found in Berlin. The participants of the BMW BERLIN MARATHON will pass by pieces of this history, for example, at the Brandenburg Gate and at Potsdamer Platz. When the 30 km point is reached, where no trace of the Wall can be found, we hope that is also true figuratively for the runners, when they reach this milestones that is known for the phase when they “hit the wall”. At the finish, all the finishers become part of the #berlinlegend and not “just another brick in the wall”, as sung by Pink Floyd on the album “The Wall”.
Attentive visitors to the capital will still repeatedly stumble across traces of the Wall. They can be found in three variants: as paving stones embedded along its former path in the pavement, by a bronze strip integrated into the ground, and by coloured markers on the hinterland borders. Those interested in this history should visit the Wall Museum in the Haus am Checkpoint Charlie, as well as the memorial to the Berlin Wall in Bernauer Strasse.