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Bitten by the Marathon bug

Review of the 28th real,- BERLIN-MARATHON Inline Skater race


by Mike Saft

30th September 2001. The marathon inline skaters are meeting in Berlin to make their 42.195 kilometre sightseeing tour of the German capital for the fifth time. That’s how it was for most of the 6,000 starters allowed by the organisers, SCC. They had had to decide fast, because more people wanted to start than there were places. As it turned out the SCC’s decision was the right one.

8:00 am. It’s cloudy, but the streets are dry. The skaters begin to join their starting groups and hope that it’s not going to rain. Last year a wet stretch of road along Strasse des 17. Juni was enough to foil the attempt to break the one-hour record by a whisker. But this year the professional teams from FILA, Rollerblades, Salomon, Tecnica and Verducci aren’t just after Grand Prix points, but should be able to break the one-hour record because the route has been changed so it’s faster. Could that happen anywhere else than Berlin? But that’s not what Frank Drubba, a Hohenschönhausen car salesman’s thinking as he pins his bib number, T2454, onto his vest. He says goodbye to his son, Markus, who, with a marathon best time of 1hr 10 mins, is starting in a group further in front. After 6 weeks’ training the aim is to finish – and even if it took 2 hours, it would be fine.

8:25 am. Dr. Heepe, who is in charge of the medical side of the marathon, reminds the skaters once again how important it is to keep calm and disciplined during the start, and then the professional teams are off. They are followed, one after another, by the other groups and soon everyone – including Frank Drubba – has started without any major upsets.

Up ahead, the teams eye each other suspiciously. No-one wants to waste too much energy that might be needed later along Kurfürstendamm, but the teams are probing each other. After 15 kilometres Tristan Loy (Salomon) Jorge Botero (Rollerblade Worldteam) and Luca Crevenna (Fila) are up to 20 seconds ahead of the rest of the field, which is in hot pursuit. The Italian, Luca Crevenna, drops out of the leading trio but his team-mates manage to catch up with the two remaining leaders at kilometre 36.

At the same time, most of the inline skaters are enjoying their trip on four or five rollers along the marathon route. They are watched by the spectators who turn up whenever it’s marathon time in Berlin. This time there are hundreds of them crowding together at Potsdamer Platz, which is part of the route for the first time since its completion. Frank Drubba is thinking of his timetable and the training laps he did round car parks in or near Berlin after work. Inline skating is a sport that’s booming, which is evident not just from the numbers of starters in the big city marathons in Hamburg, Cologne or Frankfurt, but from steadily increasing performance levels.

The thousands of spectators lining Kurfürstendamm to KaDeWe are able to enjoy an impressive mass sprint of the leading bunch with 61 skaters crossing the finishing line within 6.8 seconds. The photo-finish shows the victor with a time of 1 hr 4 mins 17 sec to be Arnaud Gicquel of the Rollerblade Worldteam, followed by his compatriot Baptiste Grandgirard (FILA) and the Italian Massimiliano Presti (Verducci) – the winner of the Hamburg Marathon in April. Finishing fifth was Christoph Zschätsch, the best German. Of the women, the Spaniard Sheila Herrero, who put up a tremendous performance in this year’s French world championships, finished in 1 hr 12 mins 25 secs, ahead of the French marathon champion Angéle Vaudan and the American Jessica Smith. Anne Titze-Göhl, in sixth place, once again showed herself to be an exceptional German skater.

The winners are already showering or being massaged as hobby skater Frank Drubba finishes 1 hr 48 mins 9 secs into the race. He’s completed his first marathon, he’s beaten his own target time handsomely, and he’s not fallen. Already, he’s happily looking forward to 2002. Of course he will be competing again. The first thing to do is to fill in the Berlin TSC club’s application form. He knows that training with friends means learning from them too, and the best place for that is in a club.

11:10 am. The first runners are arriving, being cheered home by the finishers of the 5th Berlin Inline Marathon.

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