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Munich Half Marathon 2022 review
Great choice for a big-city race in Europe.
Munich has long been one of my favorite cities. World class, yet manageable in size. Possibly the best tap water — not to mention beer — of any major city on the planet, among many other things. Long ago, I spent a semester there on a study-abroad exchange in high school. I’m half German, so have roots not too far away.
So the Munich Half Marathon has been high on my running to-do list. This, like most of my trips, was to be a short one. Fly out from California to Germany on the Thursday, get in on the Friday, gear up for the race on the Saturday, run the race on the Sunday and then decompress, and fly home on the Monday.
The race takes place in mid-October, but if you’re hoping to double up with Munich’s Oktoberfest, think again — unless you’re planning a long trip. Name notwithstanding, the beer festival mostly takes place in September. In 2022, it wrapped up on October 3, two weeks before the race. Still, beer is a year-round thing in Munich, so no need to go thirsty.
The Munich Half is run on the same day as the city’s full marathon, and the course shares the latter’s second half. There’s also a relay and a 10K. In 2022, over 18,000 runners took part in all the races combined.
The half marathon follows a generally flat course that starts in the Englischer Garten (right next to a beer garden, in fact). I’m not quite sure why this park is labeled “English.” It’s a beautiful, sprawling city center park that I’ve run in before, but there isn’t one quite like it in any English city I know — even though London has a lot of great parks. Sometimes, people outside the UK label things as “English” that don’t particularly resemble anything in England. Example: “English muffins” sold in the USA. (And, by the way, I spent the first half of my life to date in England, so know a bit about it.)
Anyway, after leaving the park, the course wends its way through some mostly residential areas before circling back through iconic city center locations — including Marienplatz — and then taking you north toward the Olympic Stadium. You enter the stadium and run on the track to the finish line.
Races in Europe tend to be well priced compared with many in the US. Registration for the Munich Half starts at only 68 Euros and you can sign up for under 80 Euros even quite close to the date. In 2022, it didn’t appear to sell out — or if it did, it was very close to the date. Those prices do not, however, include the shirt, which adds 50 Euros. I ordered the shirt, and was glad I did. Every year, I cull my race shirt collection as I add new ones, but I suspect this one — understated and black — will survive for quite a while.
Packet pickup took place in the days before the race at the stadium where it ends (and where the full also starts). The outdoor pick-up area was at the top of the stadium, so you look down on where you’ll finish on the following day. Packet pick-up was a fairly low key affair. There were some booths selling stuff and promoting other races, but it didn’t deliver the big “expo” experience if that’s what you like. I generally prefer going to pick up my packet in person, so as to get some pre-race atmosphere. But Munich offers a mail option as well and you wouldn’t have missed all that much if you’d gone with that in 2022.
Munich was, I believe, my 64th half marathon. And one thing that made it unusual was the start time — 12:30 PM. I’m used to races in the US that start as early as 6:30 AM and rarely much after 9:00. I’ve noticed that European races often start somewhat later, but this seems late by any standards. I think the reason is they want pretty much all the full marathon traffic to have cleared — even the slowest runners — before they start the half. The full starts at 9 AM.
The timing didn’t particularly bother me. It might have been an issue if temperatures were a factor, but Munich in mid-October is unlikely to become balmy and the afternoon running weather turned out to be fine. Actually, coming from a distant time zone, a late start can have its advantages. Less chance of having to wake up just when you feel you are getting to sleep.
The race start in a wooded area of the park was fairly standard. The usual incomprehensible announcements — incomprehensible not because of the language, but the audio. A reasonable number of porta-potties. No enforcement of corrals, even though they had been pre-assigned based on estimated times. And a fairly on-time start.
One odd thing was that as the runners moved forward in the corrals toward the start line, it wasn’t immediately obvious where that line actually was. Usually, what happens is that people move briskly to the actual start where they begin to run. Here, everyone started to run as they passed under one of those inflatable arches that looked like a starting point. I noticed there was no sign of those slightly raised mats that contain the gizmos that scan the chips in runners’ bibs. But it seemed the race was underway at that point and I started the timing on my watch, noticing others were doing the same. But then, about 30 seconds further on, came the familiar starting mats. So everyone who did the same as me would have had skewed the metrics on their watch for the first split.
I ran pretty even splits. And finished in 2:00:50 (official time), which was 16 out of 56 in my male/65-69 division. Annoyingly close to going sub-two. But I was happy. And I really enjoyed the race — it seemed to go really quickly. Not a moment of boredom. There was some good crowd support along the way, but the main stimulation for me was simply the reality of running in closed-off streets in the heart of Munich.
There was alcohol-free beer at the finish. Given the time of day, I could have done with the real thing.
Race sum-up: Highly recommended. Well organized, great course, easy event to deal with as an overseas runner. Nothing not to like if you are looking for a big city race in Europe. And, overall, a great long weekend. All the more so on account of time with my cousin and her husband and others in Munich. ✈️ 🏃
Next race: Beirut Half Marathon.
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