100 Meilen Berlin 2011 – Race Report by Ádám Zahorán

Mauerweglauf – 100 mile along the Berliner Wall

 

Berlin Wall American sectorMauerweglauf – LG Nord Berlin Ultrateam’s Michael Vanicek and Jan Prochaska won overall, covering the 160,9 km in 16:22, while Marika Heinlein (1. FC Geesdorf) proved to be the fastest female finisher with an impressive time of 17:49.

Each ultra-distance race is unique in a certain level, however, the Mauerweglauf is definitely a special one that can not at all be compared to any other challenges. It’s one and only aspect is based on the circumstances and rich historical background that every single step is influenced by.

The Mauerweglauf was held on August, the 20-21th 2011 – 50 years after the construction works of the so-called Berlin Wall, the seemingly insurmountable border between the West and East.

Berlin Wall

The Berlin Wall was a 156 km system of concrete walls topped with barbed wire, that surrounded West Berlin and closed East Germans access to West Germany. It served as a symbol of the Cold War’s division between West and East Germany, between 1961-89.

The seemingly insurmountable wall was meant to prevent any sort of migration. Still there were about 4500-5000 people attempting to get over the wall during this period with estimated death tolls varying between 150-200.

The Berlin Wall was without any doubt a nightmare for most Germans, not only because of the death tolls but as families and friends were torn away from each other – many thousands of people couldn’t visit their kith and kin on the other side of the Wall.

We must not forget…

Who hasn’t heard about Rainer Eppelman, the former civil right activist and the minister for disarmament and defence of the last East German government? As a matter of fact Eppelman is also a priest and the patron of the Mauerweglauf, who created an “11th Commandment” at a press conference, declaring: “You must not forget!”.

German ultra-distance runners fulfilled this commitment on the 50th anniversary of the Berlin Wall’s construction works by organizing a 100 miler commemorative run along the track of the former Wall.

Conditions were ideal

There was nothing to complain about, since despite the chilly early morning start conditions were ideal during the 100 Meilen Berlin – Mauerweglauf. The temperature was reasonable for the race (in the mid-20 centigrades) with gentle breeze and no rain.

Most of the race was as flat as a pancake, though on the other hand, the surface varied from meadows with bees buzzing and birds flitting, through lush forests, to the smooth tarmac roads the course was dominated by.

 

A little bit of statistics

92 ultra-distance runners, coming from different countries such as the USA, UK, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, France and of course from Germany, lined up at the start to commemorate the 50th anniversary and have a good run in the connected Berlin, in the reunified Germany. 78 of them  completed the whole distance within the jogger-friendly time-limit.

Men’s race

In the first half of the race the leading group consisted of Michael Vanicek and Jan Prochaska, making good headway ahead of Holger Hedelt, a mere few hundred metres backt. At about 80 kilometres the Mannheim-based ultra-distance runner overtook the two Berliner excellences and were running with them shoulder to shoulder for more than an hour. There was a dead-point at 90 kilometres, however, Hedelt needed to face with, meanwhile Prochaska and Vanicek broke away and kept making a good headway to cross the finish-line as the fastest finishers, stopping the clock at 16:22:17.

Hedelt, who had dropped out of the handful leader group at approximately 90 kilometres, didn’t give up the contention despite his difficulties in the rest of the race but kept struggling. Accordingly, third place went to Holger Hedelt, clocking 16:51:43.

Women’s race

The winner of the women’s field proved to be the multiple German National Champion, Marika Heinlein, in a start-to-finish victory. She was running in a nice steady-pace until 133 kilometre. The rest of the race was hard-going since the orientation happened to be kind of difficult for her, leading her to go the wrong way and losing a lot of time by finding the right direction again. In spite of that she was highly delighted with her finish time (17:49:05) and of course the victory it meant to her! The local favourite Grit Seidel took the second place with an impressive time of 18:54:57, overtaking the third-place finisher Catherine Todd from Dubai.

After the race

Since Chris Gueffroy was the last victim of the Berlin Wall dying through the use of firearms, the medals to be given to every participants were dedicated to him.

The prize-giving ceremony, took place at 12:30 on Sunday, was pretty chiruppy but a little bit heart-stirring as well, according to Holger Hedelt who let me know that the mother of Chris Gueffroy was also there with them.

From the race director’s point of view

– The 100MeilenBerlin cannot, of course, YET be compared to the Berlin Marathon, which started in 1974 with 286 participants. Now 40,000 people participate. In this respect, having 100 participants at the start of a 160 km race is a pretty sensational number –  said Horst Milde, race director, who also added – The 100MeilenBerlin along the path of the Berlin Wall is important for the culture of remembrance in our country and we hope that the success of the prosperous premier will keep progressing.

Race website 100MeilenBerlin

 


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