Bernd Huebner: Berlin's 'Marathon Man'

Bernd Huebner i i

Berlin's Marathon Man Bernd Huebner is responsible for the Jubilee Club, founded in 1998 for the 25th anniversary of the Berlin Marathon. Over 2,000 runners from 14 countries, among them 16 wheelchair athletes, belong to the Berlin Jubilee Club. Courtesy of Bernd Huebner hide caption

itoggle caption Courtesy of Bernd Huebner
Bernd Huebner

Berlin's Marathon Man Bernd Huebner is responsible for the Jubilee Club, founded in 1998 for the 25th anniversary of the Berlin Marathon. Over 2,000 runners from 14 countries, among them 16 wheelchair athletes, belong to the Berlin Jubilee Club.

Courtesy of Bernd Huebner

His friends and running buddies call him "Huebi." Bernd Huebner is Berlin's Marathon Man, the only person to have run every one of the city's marathons since it began in 1974.

“In those days, the course ran along the Grunewald, not through Berlin's center like it does today,” Huebner says.

“In the early years, there were almost no spectators and the media barely noticed it. At that time marathon runners were regarded as somewhat mad.”

Running became Huebner’s passion in the mid 1960's. The Berliner used to row, but with frozen lakes in the winters, he decided to look for another activity: long-distance running.

Huebner, a former telecommunications technician, ran to work every day and arranged his vacations around marathons.

“Over the years it has added up to 150,000 kilometers. That's several times around the world,” Huebner says.

In total, Huebner has run 103 marathons all together; among them Rio de Janeiro, London, Honolulu, New York and his favorite, Boston, the oldest marathon race.

On his Friday walking routine, Bernd Huebner shares memories of Boston marathon’s Heartbreak Hill, the big challenge before the finish line.

He recalls the euphoric crowds. They aren’t so interested in a runner’s finishing time, he says. Instead, they treat everyone who finishes like a hero.

Huebner says the first question people ask in Berlin is usually, “What was your time?” and then, “What is the record?”

Bernd Huebner at the 1983 New York Marathon

Bern Huebner crosses the finish line at the New York Marathon in 1983. Courtesy of Bernd Huebner hide caption

itoggle caption Courtesy of Bernd Huebner

Huebner’s best time was 2 hours, 27 minutes, and 4 seconds at the 1984 Berlin Marathon. That’s just 23 minutes behind today's world record.

Huebner’s toughest race was in 2005 when he was diagnosed with cancer and suffering from a torn knee muscle. He didn't know whether he could finish the race, so he brought along a cell phone to call his wife in case he couldn't continue.

By the last 10 kilometers, Huebner was convinced he could finish. He was euphoric as he ran through the Brandenburger Tor, only 195 meters from the finish line. Unconcerned with his time, he was just happy he has finished the race.

Berlin's Marathon Man has overcome his health problems. His big dream is to keep running until 2023, which would mark his 50th Berlin marathon, coming close to one of his hero's accomplishments; American legend Johnny Kelley ran the Boston marathon 61 times.

Right now, Bernd Huebner is preparing for late September when some 40,000 runners will claim the streets of Berlin. Like every year, Huebi will be there, but the 63 year-old is taking his doctor's advice along with him.

"You can't run away from old age, you have to run into old age,” Huebner says.

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