The Experience real, Mini-Marathon on Sunday in Berlin

© Victor Sailer

There’s a hectic to and fro on the Potsdamer Platz. Children run hither and yon, looking for teammates. Others have already found their group and are stretching, hopping from one leg to the other or circling their arms. A few, at 8:00 on a Sunday morning, are far too tired to move at all. Still sleepy, they stand with arms limp by their sides until anxious parents and teachers, eager to do the right thing, briskly tell them to start warming up. Parents and teachers have to be wide awake as well. They have to gather children and pupils together, pin the correct start number on each T-shirt and attach the timing chip to the shoe, exactly as the top runners do. But most of the mothers and fathers are happy to cope with the stress on this September Sunday morning. “Getting them moving in this age of television and computer is so important,” they say.

Their children will indeed soon be on the move-along the 4.2195 kilometers of the real,- Mini-Marathon, which has been part of the real,- Berlin Marathon program of events since 1989. The aim of the Mini-Marathon is to motivate the children to follow the example of the top runners. The fact that they wear the same timing chip as the grown-ups gives them the feeling of being treated on equal terms. Nor are there any differences in how performances are rewarded.

The medals presented are the same, only somewhat smaller. And the distance that every school team covers in total during the real,-Mini-Marathon is the same as in the full marathon, but in this case divided among ten schoolchildren. They run the last 4.2195 kilometers of the original course together and cross the same finish line as the grown-ups. It’s no surprise, then, that the schoolchildren are so excited. Will they, as a team, succeed in being faster than the very best of the grown-ups? And will the effort and extra training-organized by enthusiastic teachers at school but in their free time-pay off?

Some parents have also given up their leisure time to take their children to training sessions or run with them. “We went running with our sports teacher twice a week,” a couple of schoolgirls relate. “It’s great that now we can take part in such a big running event like this” 9,437 schoolchildren will be on the start line for the real,- Mini-Marathon on Sunday, September 24, at 8:55 a.m. at Potsdamer Platz. There will be last-minute hurry and scurry in the starting area, and for the last time, parents and teachers will be asked, “Are they all there?”

Once the starting gun goes off, excitement and tension will be transformed into shouts of joy, and the longer they run, the more those emotions will turn into sporting ambition, exertion and perhaps even exhaustion. But there’s no cause for concern: at this age, children can’t do themselves any harm with this kind of run. And by the time they reach the finish by the Soviet War Memorial on the Street of June 17, they will have forgotten how hard it was — and that’s also what these youngsters will have in common with the grown-ups at the end of a marathon.