The story of the Bewag BERLIN HALF MARATHON reflects the history of Berlin - East and West came together

The story of the Bewag BERLIN HALF MARATHON reflects a major part of the history of the German capital. It all began during cold war times and continued during reunification. The events leading up to today’s event could really only have happened in this city.

Its predecessors came from East- and West Berlin.

1981 the Lichtenberg Marathon (East-Berlin) was first

On 29th November 1981 the Lichtenberg Marathon was staged in East-Berlin. It was the first real city race in the capital of East Germany. This race was one year later succeeded by the “Berliner Friedenslauf” (Berlin Peace Run), which covered various distances up to a marathon.

The Friedenslauf was the biggest road race in the former GDR. While in former years the East German government had shown no interest in city races, that attitude changed, when big and spectacular city races developed in western countries.

Races like the New York City Marathon or the BERLIN- MARATHON in the western part of the city were successful.

So the government decided that it would be good to have a big race as well – and as usual in those times it was dedicated to "Peace". For the runners the motto did not matter. They were just happy to finally get what they had asked for for many years.

Samaranch and 70.000 runners!

It was stated by the government of the former GDR that up to 70,000 runners participated in the "Friedenslauf". This was the figure announced in 1985, when the race took place during the 90th session of the IOC in East Berlin.

The “Berliner Friedenslauf” was of course used for propaganda by the government of the GDR. So we will never know the real number of runners from former years. But there were some quite enormous fields. The “Friedenslauf” had no half marathon distance, but a 20 k race, which attracted a maximum of about 6,500 participants.

HALF-MARATHON 1984 in West-Berlin

On 2nd September 1984 the BERLIN HALF-MARATHON was launched in West Berlin. Already at this time it was organized by SCC Berlin and was designed to be the final test for the BERLIN-MARATHON, which took place four weeks later. The race had only local character. There were never more than about 1,800 runners. Still among the winners was for example Kerstin Preßler. The Berlin runner was an international athlete who even won the BERLIN-MARATHON once.

Horst Milde and Stefan Senkel

After the wall came down in 1989 and the political system of the GDR had collapsed the support for the “Berliner Friedenslauf” was gone as well. So the former organiser Stefan Senkel had to quickly find a new partner to save his race. Horst Milde, the race-director of BERLIN-MARATHON and the other various races in Berlin took over, joined in and saved the race.

And the traditional “Berliner Friedenslauf” suddenly had a bright new future. For some time the name “Berliner Friedenslauf” was kept besides the new title of the event: BERLIN HALF MARATHON.


Already in 1990 the organisers from east and west had agreed on one distance: the HALF MARATHON. Horst Milde had well in mind that it was the 21.0975 k which had a prosperous future. After having declining numbers of participants for some years, the race has meanwhile developed very well. And it also saw some great results.

European record 1993: Carsten Eich

Carsten Eich’s (Leipzig) winning time of 60:34 minutes in 1993 was a European record at that time. Joyce Chepchumba (Kenya) won the women’s race in a superb 68:22 in 2000, which still is the course record.

European record 2001: Fabian Roncero

It was in 2001 when Fabián Roncero beat the hour. The Spaniard set a new European record of 59:52 minutes on the fast course. It was the only sub 60 minute time of that year and Roncero became one of just a couple of athletes who have broken the hour.

On top of that the race had more than 10,000 entries for the half marathon distance. And it continued to develop strongly. In the last two years there were more than 17,000 entries altogether.

Among them were runners, skaters, wheelchair athletes, handbikers, walkers and of course the participants of the Bewag FUN RUN.

This 3.5 k race is for designed for beginners and school children.

The Bewag BERLIN HALF MARATHON is well on the way to become a race with a similar reputation as the real,- BERLIN-MARATHON.