Two skaters from Team SAFE (Ryan McGee and Jim McKee) made the journey to Berlin for an incredible race. Here is Ryan's take on this exciting race.
There were just under 5,000 skaters in total at the 2016 Berlin Inline Marathon. The weather was an ideal 70 degrees. There was some wind, but it was negligible along the entirely flat course. Jim McKee and I started in the first wave with all professionals including Bart Swings, the current course record holder. The start was intense - unlike any other race - the sheer density of skaters was intimidating as frames and wheels of approximately 200 skaters clashed during the start of wave A. It was a struggle to elbow for position and avoid tripping over others during the first 500 meters, though Jim and I managed to stick together. The next 2km was incredibly fast as we sprinted across the roundabout around Berlin Victory Column in the Tiergarten and onto a straightaway averaging about 28mph. Then, suddenly, came the turns. With dual pace lines, hundreds thick, it was hard to see the course direction and curbs of the street dividers. Many skaters feel instantly, causing others to fall. Jim straddled a fallen skater, nearly missing his head, and I was threading the needle on one foot to avoid running over others. The resulting adrenaline rush gave us a boost and we began to lead one of the packs for the next couple of km. Eventually we settled into one of the larger pace lines for the next 15km - still maintaining an extremely fast pace of around 23mph with several turns around historical east Berlin landmarks. It was around halfway that Jim took a wrong step and tripped - dropping out to the right of the pace line to fortunately avoid being run over by the masses. Luckily, he was wearing plastic hand protectors and was able to recover quickly. Though, he recollected that he was sliding so fast that he was actually still sliding when he first tried to stand up! I focused on conserving as much energy as possible for the last half of the race. I kept a solid middle position in a large pace line and prepared for the final 3km of sharp turns and the final 500m sprint through the Brandenburg gate. Being comfortable with high speed turns, I hugged the final corners tightly and moved up 5-10 positions with each turn. I attacked on the brick pavement during the last 300 meters where many others skated overly cautiously before the final 200 meters of smooth pavement. My finish of 1:09:36 was a personal best and the best time of any US skater at Berlin 2016. Jim had an incredible time of 1:14:00 given his fall!
What makes Berlin so unique is not only the amount of skaters, but also the amount of spectators constantly lining and cheering along the scenic, historical 42km loop. There is not a moment of silence or boredom of surroundings. Adrenaline is always present to help block out any notion of pain. Berlin is a race where you can test every part of yourself - speed, endurance, technique, an agility. And, unlimited free German beer at the finish line isn't bad either!