Berlin has an inextinguishable energy. It’s hard to put your finger on exactly what makes it so unique. Historic and progressive, gritty and scenic, it’s a multi-culti mass of a city inhabited by more than 3.6 million people.
It’s home to famous landmarks, hundreds of galleries and museums, and numerous UNESCO World Heritage Sites. And probably just as many bars and nightclubs – including quite a few venues that are said to be open 24-hours a day.
Whatever you’re looking for, there’s a good chance you’ll find it in Berlin. Including a new running adventure. That’s why we’ve recruited an insider to give your the lowdown on some of the best routes in town.
Meet your guide
Kathi Seifert moved to Berlin 10 years ago hunting for a more inclusive and welcoming place to live. Few cities can fit that description better than Berlin.
“I was born in a small town with conservative values. I couldn’t stand the small time vibe. During my youth, I always felt that it wasn’t my type of thing. My parents are quite conservative and authoritative, so I really felt like I needed to get out of there,” she says.
“So I moved to Berlin because I wanted to find people who are likeminded and more tolerant like I was. It’s an awesome place to run because you can explore so much."
"Berlin has so many different areas, and many have their own specialities. They’re almost like different little cities."
“There’s always a new part of Berlin to discover that I didn’t know about it before. And it’s greener than you might think too.”
Kathi hasn’t had it easy and first turned to running as a way of calming down and processing the emotions of having a parent with a mental health disorder. She found that taking the time to go for a run helped her feel more comfortable and confident.
“I got into long distance running because I realized that it’s something that makes me feel better and like I’m myself. I think it’s important to say that for many people running is more than just performance, and this was my entry point.
“It wasn’t about running 10 or 30 km really fast. I just put my hoodie on and went for however long I wanted to. I realized this worked for me and I just built up from there. Then I got the apps, got the watch and got the clothing.
“Today, I find that it’s nice to have the choice still. I’ll often decide how fast and how far I go on the day. Maybe I’ll do an easy run where I don’t look at my watch. I’ll just breath and run at a pace that feels right. Or maybe I’ll want a confidence booster, so I’ll set a goal and feel empowered when I reach it.”
“Running has a big effect on my physical health and my mental health.”
Previously, Kathi worked in marketing but after suffering a burnout nearly two years ago, she turned her attention to creating safe spaces for people to discuss and learn about mental health. Last year, just before the pandemic hit, she founded Deep Talk, a community and event series, after identifying a lack of resources for people in need.
“Through my own experiences, I realized that so many people were suffering. I know now what mental issues can feel like and know what dealing with the stigma is like. So I wanted to create safe spaces.”
“I felt like there weren’t many places to talk about these subjects. Obviously, people talk about wellness and mental health all the time but a lot of it is quite surface level. It’s much rarer that you actually get a platform where you can listen to an expert or a place where you don’t have to feel alone with your issues.”
“I want to help. For now I’m doing a lot of collaborations with start ups and i’m about to found a proper non-profit organization. I would definitely like to take this to the next level and do more than events, Instagram posts and Zoom meetings. I have big plans.”
And for Kathi, running and living in Berlin has been crucial in helping her recover.
“I found that when I wasn’t feeling well, I wouldn’t feel like going out or exploring. But with running, I felt like I was able to do this more. It felt ok. And Berlin was a big part of this. Even though I thought I knew a lot of places here but there are so many little roads that you might not know and probably wouldn’t go if you weren’t running. This gives me the confidence to try harder.”
Here are some of her favorite routes:
5km: Tempelhofer Flugfeld
Kathi’s first route is a loop around Tempelhof Airfield. The quirky green space is a former airport and military area that covers 355 hectares of land, making it one of the largest inner city open spaces in the world and a hub for all kinds of athletes and explorers.
“I chose this route because it’s right in front of my home in Neukölln, my favorite neighbourhood. I really enjoy this route because it’s a crazy place. It’s an old airport where people go to kite board - which is nice to see in the air - or for a variety of sports like inline skating, skateboarding and dancing. Lots of people take their dogs, you can have picnics and it has a bit of a festival feeling in summer. There’s lots of space.
“You go through the gate and it feels like being at the sea because there are no buildings or anything. You can just enjoy how expansive it is. It’s so huge and there’s nothing blocking your site. Plus it’s always super windy. Which can make it a little challenging for runners. I’d say 50% of the route is easy and the other 50% of it is running against the wind.”
Running route 1: 5km Tempelhofer Flugfeld
10km: City Escape mitten in der Stadt
For her 10km route, Kathi escapes the city without ever leaving it. This route runs alongside the Spree river before heading into the trees of Treptower Park for a change of scenery and lots of greenery (sorry).
“My 10km route is really all about getting away from big city life - hence the name, which basically means ‘City escape in the middle of the city’. It’s pretty close to busy areas but it goes into the forest and runs along the river so you really get the feeling of not being in Berlin at all. It’s super green and with the water there’s lots of fresh air.
“Plus, if you’re feeling good you can actually extend it into a 15km route as well. I usually do this because I feel like one of the nicest parts of the route is when you’re in the forest. You’re by yourself and you don’t have any body disturbing you. I think it’s a great way to recover from a stressful day and a nice way of getting close to nature too.”
Running route 2: 10km City Escape mitten in der Stadt
15km: Der Puls der Stadt
For her third and final route, Kathi takes us on a 15km through some of the most iconic and well-known parts of the city. The route, which translates as ‘the pulse of the city’, is scenic and, for Kathi, a welcome distraction from running so far.
“This is really the city explorer route as it takes in a lot of sightseeing stuff and a lot of the historic parts of Berlin. When I first started training for running longer runs, I struggled with motivation to go beyond 20km — even with a good playlist — but I realised that if I had some good visual distractions, then I didn’t focus on distance or how many kilometres I had left to run.
This route is nice for that, and it takes me to places that i wouldn’t really go normally. The architecture is super nice and you go to the most political part of the city so you really feel that sense of history. This would be the route I’d recommend to people who are new to the city. It gives a great overview of different areas, so a person who runs this route would probably get a good idea of where you want to hangout after the run.”
Running route 3: 15km Der Puls der Stadt
Kathi’s Cafe Hotspots
Terz — “This little cafe serves up tasty homemade treats for all kinds of eaters. Hot or cold, meat or vegan, sweet or savory. Coffee or juice.”
21 gramm — “This place is my top brunch tip. It’s also really nice for an after-work drink too.”
La Isla — “Want the best coffee in town? This place is for you. It’s a zero waste cafe with a lot of vegan and gluten free options. The boss is also a big runner, if that encourages you to check it out.”
Pavillon am Ufer — “This is an outdoor cafe at the Landwehrkanal, making it a real hot spot in spring and summer. It’s perfect to observe people, enjoy a drink and the beautiful atmosphere at the canal.”
Kathi’s top tip
“Running at your own pace is more important than anything else. This is something I’ve learned the hard way. It’s better to take a step back than trying to move three forward.”
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