Race to remember Berlin Wall victims, 30 years on

Where guard towers and barbed wire once stood, runners pounded the 100-mile (160 kilometres) path along the former Berlin Wall this weekend in a race with victims of the Cold War relic at its heart.

Racing to remember

On Saturday at 6:00 am, around 500 runners, started the 8th edition of the Berlin Wall Race, ahead of the 30th anniversary of the Wall's demise this November.

With weary legs, most runners will jog through Saturday night, aiming to reach the city centre stadium which doubles as both start and finish, in the early hours of Sunday.

The race is part ultra-marathon, part tribute to those who died trying to cross the Wall, which the East German communist regime hastily erected in 1961 and stood for 28 years.


'Not for the faint-hearted'

The mammoth race is not for the faint-hearted, it is effectively four marathons back-to-back.

"You know you are going to feel pain, you have to accept it and think 'I can do one step more," said Patrik Gullerstrom, from Stockholm, who hopes to finish in under 17 hours and has run the race four times previously.

The course record, set by Briton Mark Perkins in 2014, stands at a mind-blowing 13 hours, 6 minutes for the 100 miles.


Honouring the victims

Each year, one Wall victim features on start numbers and finisher medals, while a ceremony is held at the spot where they died.

For the first race in 2011, Chris Gueffroy, the last person shot dead on the Berlin Wall, was honoured.

He was killed in February 1989, nine months before the Wall fell, and on Sunday, Gueffroy's mother Karin will present medals at the finishers' ceremony.


The wall that tells stories

It passes iconic landmarks such as the Brandenburg Gate and Checkpoint Charlie as well as leafy suburbs, farmland and forests.

Along the route, memorials tell the personal stories of many of the around 130 people killed along the Wall.


East side gallery: Oppression to art

Precious little of the original concrete structure remains, most of it hurriedly torn down when East Germany collapsed in late 1989.

What was once a heavily-fortified border strip that encircled West Berlin and patrolled by guards under shoot-to-kill orders, was in 2006 turned into the 'Mauerweg' or Berlin Wall path.

The longest single section is the kilometre-long East Side Gallery, where the former symbol of oppression is now covered in art, a popular backdrop for tourists posing for selfies.


Wall's history embedded in DNA

The wall was first erected in 1961 and was supposed to prevent the escape and defection of East Germans into West Berlin, an enclave of West Germany deep inside the eastern bloc. 

At least 136 people were killed trying to get through the Wall that divided Berlin from the day it was built 50 years ago on August 13, 1961, to its fall on November 9, 1989.

Most were shot by East German border guards.