Sunday morning, 5 am. The small village where I live is still sound asleep. I am the only one who is already awake as I tie my running shoes. Why am up putting on my shoes at 5 am on a Sunday morning? The answer is simple: Today is the BMW BERLIN-MARATHON. Of course I am not going to miss it, so like every year I am volunteering together with my friend. I put on my volunteer jacket from last year and lock the door behind me. I press the play button on my cell phone and stick my headphones in my ears. The usual fog covers the meadows and fields around me. It bothers me just as little as it does the sleepy bus driver, as I pass him with a big grin on my face, show him my ticket, and greet him with an euphoric "Good Morning". My excitement grows as I approach the city and the number of people wearing running shoes around me increases.
“Next stop: Berlin Hauptbahnhof” booms from the loudspeakers. I jump up, and with me almost everyone else on the train. The doors open and I get pushed out into the flow of the people who all have the same destination today. Out of the train station and across the bridge. My friend greets me outside of the gate for volunteers, and once I get signed in we head over to the food area. Then we get started: stack boxes, unpack them, stack more and unpack more.
The first runners are already off, and during the break, together with the massage therapists, other volunteers and police officers, we watch the live coverage. The atmosphere is amazing and we are pulled into the excitement of the multitudes of people lining the streets, cheering on the running heroes. The top racers are especially exciting as they reach the finish, and we are all watching as the winner passes through the Brandenburg Gate and heads toward the finish line. The final seconds. The excitement is almost too much. Then we hear the cheers from all over. We jump up and celebrate the heroes of the day. But we don’t have too much time, as the first runners are about to reach us.
I grab a lunch packet and greet the first ones. Not for long though, as more and more people come towards us, bathing in sweat. Now it is no longer possible to hand each person their medal, but rather we hold them out to them to keep up with the masses. “Thank you”, “Gracias”, “Merci” I hear all around me, any my phrase of “You’re welcome” goes out to many runners at once. No time to relax. Even though my arms are slowly beginning to feel like statues, the feeling it incredible. We are right in the midst of it all. We look right into the happy and exhausted faces, experience the emotions so directly that it still gives me goose bumps today. This is our moment. And we completely part of it. My broad smile is not alone. All of the volunteers are right in their element. The system is flowing and we are an experienced team. People from all around the world, people dressed as hotdogs and bees, exhausted men and energetic women, super athletes and first time runners – the city belongs to them.
At some point the chaos subsides. The last runners arrive and suddenly it is over as fast as it began. Now it is time to tear down the boxes and start cleaning up. We all feel like we also just did the race. And in a way, we also had our own marathon.