Home > Lifestyle > Health
Monday August 18, 2014 MYT 2:15:00 PM
Thursday August 21, 2014 MYT 1:45:51 PM
The third ultramarathon along the Berlin Wall saw participants from around the world. - AFP Photo/ TOBIAS SCHWARZ
More than 300 ultramarathon runners completed a gruelling race along the 100-mile path of the old Berlin Wall, a quarter-century after it fell in the heady days that brought down communism.
Extreme athletes from around the world joined the third event of its kind in the German capital, which is also a historical pilgrimage along the symbol of the Cold War.
“I was astonished by the size and length of the Wall and the places it passed,” says the oldest registered participant, Sigrid Eichner, 73, of the 160-kilometre stretch.
The Berlin woman, who has lived in the city’s east since 1974, is a legendary veteran of more than 1,800 running races around the world equal to or longer than the 42.195-kilometre marathon format.
Designed to stop an exodus of people to the West, the Wall cut through city blocks, neighbourhoods, fields and forests and was shadowed by a heavily mined “death strip”, overlooked by watch towers and patrolled by soldiers and dogs.
Today the path of the Wall is a hiking and cycling trail, which takes a seasoned ultramarathon runner 16 to 30 hours to complete, depending in part on the weather.
Promoted as a marriage of “sport and history”, the ultramarathon, like previous editions in 2011 and 2013, will be dedicated to one of the “victims of the Wall” who paid with their lives trying to escape.
Each runner who makes the full distance will receive a medal with the image of Peter Fechter, who was 18-years-old when he was shot dead by border guards during a 1962 escape attempt near the well-known border crossing Checkpoint Charlie.
Running with our heads
The race, called “100MeilenBerlin” (or 100 Miles Berlin), started in Prenzlauer Berg, which since has been transformed from an East Berlin working class district into a fashionable and gentrified neighbourhood.
Runners followed the Wall’s course clockwise, and passed through a rotunda near Checkpoint Charlie that houses a large panorama installation by artist Yadegar Asisi depicting daily life along the Wall in the 1980s.
By remembering Germany’s painful division, “we can all help to ensure that this doesn’t happen again, at least in Germany,” said Eichner.
In all, 305 competitors from 24 countries joined, reflecting the growing popularity of such endurance contests that include the Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc and the notorious Badwater run in California’s Death Valley.
The foreign contingent in Berlin, led by Japanese star Tsutomu Nagata, has doubled since last year and includes athletes from Australia, China, France, Italy, Spain, Turkey, the United States and Uruguay. Their ages range from 23 to 68 years for men and 21 to 73 for women.
As much as a journey along the historic scar through Berlin, the race will also be the culmination of months of training to endure the pain and extreme fatigue.
“We go through many ups and downs. We are also running with our heads,” says Gaston Pruefer, 37, who met his wife Martina, 45, during the previous race.
Last year, he ran by her side to support her, day and night, before they crossed the finish line together.
The couple, who were born on either side of the Wall, believe that “history matters”, but the two -- who now wear matching fluorescent clothes while they run -- get far more talkative when speaking about the future and the sporting challenge ahead.
They praised the Berlin race as an athletic “oasis”, with its relatively gentle terrain, the favourable weather conditions expected and a network of 27 aid and catering stations along the way. – AFP
Tags / Keywords:
running, marathon, history, Berlin Wall, race, historical
Historian: We must recapture vision of founding fathers
Heritage officer sets up corner in honour of Malaysia’s past
Duathlon championships to be held in Putrajaya next year
Netizens slam Chinese film for distorting WWII history
Four categories and new routes for half marathon
Visitors get free checkups at wellness campaign
Tasting the finer things in life
Soft skills for fresh graduates
Fruity twist to Mid-Autumn fest
Penang hawker food at half price for breakfast and lunchtime
Five unusual ways to build endurance for a marathon
‘Stay indoors when haze worsens to protect health’
Apple said to be developing its own original programming
New EU migrant plans ready next week - Avramopoulos
Copyright © 1995-2015 Star Media Group Berhad (ROC 10894D)(Formerly known as Star Publications (Malaysia) Berhad)