Martin W. Teague/USA – Finisher of the 1st Berlin Marathon 1974 now starts at the 50th Berlin Marathon in 2024 – He tells his story
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Start des 1. Berlin-Marathon ("Berliner Volksmarathon") 1974 - Waldschulallee 80 in Berlin-Charlottenburg - Photo: Jane Teague

Martin W. Teague/USA – Finisher of the 1st Berlin Marathon 1974 now starts at the 50th Berlin Marathon in 2024 – He tells his story

By GRR 0

A foreword to a unique anniversary

On September 29, 2024, the Berlin Marathon will celebrate its 50th anniversary with around 50,000 participants from 145 countries around the world.

On October 13, 1974, 286 runners from 4 nations started on a side street (Waldschulallee 80) in Berlin-Charlottenburg.

Warm-up exercises before the start on a green in front of the Mommsenstadion – Photo: Jane Teague

The winner at that time, Günter Hallas and the winner Jutta von Hasse (both from Berlin) and the founder of the race are still living.

In a private campaign, Peter Bartel and Horst Milde searched for the other finishers of the 1974 race.

28 runners and 3 female runners could still be found. But the biggest surprise is the registration of an American, Martin W. Teague.
He wants to run the Berlin Marathon again in September 2024.

The US Marathon Team of the Berlin Brigade (Martin W. Teague – third from top left) – Photo: private

  A preliminary report: „Volksmarathon“ by Michelle Lowryon of the 1st “Berlin People’s Marathon” – Photo: private

Martin W. Teague from Glen Ellyn, Illinois USA was a member of the 1974 marathon team of the US Army Berlin Brigade, part of the Allied Forces in West Berlin at that time. 9 out of 10 Americans who started crossed the finish line.

The US Brigade Berlin Marathon Team with bib number, rank and time:

CLIFFORD LEWIS #10 / Rank 6 / 2:49:42 
CHARLES A. MILLER #1 / 30th place / 3:14:55
ROBERT MAYFIELD #7 / 31st place / 3:14:55
GEORGE DEMETRALLAS # 5 / 39th place / 3:18:20
WALTER MYERS # 8 / Rank 48 / 3:23:02
DONALD HANSON # 2 / Rank 54 / 3:27:19
MARTIN TEAGUE # 6 / Rank 61 / 3:31:25
DONALD LITTLE # 4 / Rank 103 /3:54:24
JIMMY JACOBS # 3 / Rank 146 /4:25:26

Martin W. Teague, a contemporary witness, tells the following exciting story of his 1974 race, which is a special documentary of sporting significance in West Berlin at that time.

The US Group on Kronprinzessinenweg/Hüttenweg – screenshot by Prof. Helmut Winter

He told me that he is well trained and is looking forward to getting to know a completely different and new Berlin.

The 1974 winner Günter Hallas is starting this year „only“ as a walker. He has completed the Berlin Marathon 42 times.

Jane Teague, his wife, has provided copies of her photos of the 1st Berlin Marathon, as seen from her perspective.

Berlin is looking forward and wishes him a a fulfilling arrival at the finish line shortly after the Brandenburg Gate.

Horst Milde
Founder Berlin Marathon

Martin W.Teague tells his Berlin Marathon story from 1974:

„Though many years have passed since the first Berlin Marathon, it was such a special event in my life that it feels like an old friend.

How did this American, halfway around the world from home, find himself huddled together on a chilly Berlin morning with 286 marathon runners waiting for the start of this big race?

After the first lap – Photo: Jane Teague

This is how it came to be. In April 1972, I arrived in Berlin as a U. S. Army infantry soldier with the Berlin Brigade. The brigade was largely a ceremonial unit of symbolic importance during the Cold War years following WWll, and I served in the honor guard.

On one occasion we participated in the changing of the guard ceremony with the Russians at Spandau Prison. In 1973 I was transferred to Andrews Kasserne on Finckensteinallee, site of the 1936 Olympic training swimming pool. There I managed all military and civilian sports activities. My qualifications were swimming related—not running.

While there, I earned the gold German Sports Medal, and, in 1974, it is where I first learned that the Berlin Brigade was going to sponsor an Armed Forces marathon team to run in the Athens Classic Marathon that autumn. I immediately set about to join this team.

All the soldiers and a few American civilians, who showed up for the first organizational meeting, were excited to tread the path of the ancient Greek warrior, thus emulating the penultimate event of the Olympics. The Army would make everything possible for those who qualified in a series of time trials of increasing distances.

We were mostly just young, fit, ordinary runners with little long-distance running experience, and that was certainly the case with me. Throughout the summer, we ran in the Grunewald, near the Berlin Brigade Headquarters and the U.S. Embassy on Clayallee. In the beginning, we mostly ran in Army-issued tennis shoes.

After suffering painful blisters, these were finally replaced with better shoes from German shoe stores. The more I ran, the more I ate, and still I grew thinner. Several times after a run, I wondered why I smelled of ammonia. There was much to discover about running in the 1970s, and I did not realize I was actually overtraining and burning muscle.

I remember one early run in which I got leg cramps that caused me to drop further and further behind our group, until I was alone and, doubly worse, I was lost. This was the one time I thought about quitting. Fortunately, two of my teammates, who were late for practice, discovered me. With their encouragement, I was able to finish the run. Soon thereafter, I passed all the requirements to qualify for the Athens dream.

Then this dream was crushed for all of us. War broke out between Greece and Turkey over the island of Cypress. A ceasefire in the late summer divided the island in two, not unlike Berlin itself.  Then the threat of terrorism reared its ugly head. At that point, the U.S. State Department and Army cancelled the trip, due to safety concerns for Americans in Greece.

Our team leader, Major Charles Miller, broke the bad news to us; but, he offered us an immediate alternative, where we could put our training to the test. Instead of traveling 1800 km to a Mediterranean climate with ancient roots, we were consoled with a race that would be a quick trip across town. The words “Wie schade!” were very apt, but, we soldiered on. And that is how I found myself on the starting line of the first Berlin Marathon (named first „Berliner Volksmarathon“).

On that exciting morning of October 13,1974, we were bussed to the race staging area.  My new wife of five months came along with her 35 mm Minolta camera to cheer us on and take photos.  We were given light blue t-shirts with “Armed Forces Berlin“ emblazoned on them, dark blue Adidas shorts, and a new pair of Adidas Marathon shoes.

We were told that the shoes were the most advanced of their kind, ultra lightweight with wafer-thin soles. The concept of cushioned soles did not yet exist. I still have this uniform, a relic from 50 years ago. By some happenstance (or perhaps gracious hospitality), our running team was assigned race bibs 1 through 10–these were the very first numbers of the very first Berlin Marathon. At that time, none of us realized that there would be hundreds of thousands of entrants in this race over the next 50 years.

There was nervous anticipation to move as race time approached, calmed by a warmup and words of encouragement. Then a starting pistol rang out, and we were off! We quickly left the street and began to string along the sidewalks of neighborhoods and parks. We stepped off and over curbs, which became hurdles in the last miles. We slowed for traffic and pedestrians, who had no idea who we were or what we were doing.

The course was two half marathon loops with a table for water at both ends. That was it. No Gatorade or energy bars. They had not yet been invented. For a while, I ran with three of my comrades; but, gradually, we found our own paces, like that day in the Grunewald; except on this day, I had confidence and reserves of strength.

There was no throng of people in grandstands or blaring music to welcome any of us at the finish—there were just a few onlookers and the congratulatory handshakes of teammates and fellow runners and a big hug from my beaming wife, who waited near the awards table, where a woman handed out the medals. I received my medal, along with a certificate, and a patch for finishing in 3:31:25. Nine runners in our team of ten finished.

Martin W. Teague at the finish of the 1st Berlin Marathon in 3:31:25 – the medal is presented to him by Rotraud Zylka, who is still present at the Berlin Marathon as a volunteer today – Photo: Jane Teague

I left Berlin and the Army the next year in July 1975. Career and family followed, and my wife and I decided to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary back where we had met and include the 25th Berlin Marathon in our celebration.

Berlin had changed greatly by 1998. The Berlin Brigade was deactivated, and the city was busy mending itself together after a terrible separation. It was a poignant trip.  Where I had once dreamed of running the Athens Marathon, I now began to dream of running the 50th Berlin Marathon as a proper finish to my running odyssey. Had I run in Athens in 1974, I would not have run the 1st and 25th Berlin marathons, and I would not be running in the 50th either.

The running gear from 1974 such as shoes, shirt, trousers  – Photo: Jane Teague

Berlin’s 50th Jubilee Marathon is coming quickly now, and I am preparing once again. I will push the struggle down as I run and think of my old teammates and life over the past 50 years.

I envision a painful finish, but it will also bring absolute joy.

Thank you, Berlin, for a lifetime of inspiration and memories!

Martin W.Teague
Glen Ellyn, Illinois USA
10 May 2024
Home: 630 469 1361
Cell: 630 222 8920

PS:  It would be a good idea for the US Army to invite the surviving veterans of the other nine participants of the US Marathon Team of the former US Berlin Brigade to Berlin.
We have found 31 finishers of the 1st Berlin Marathon 1974 in Berlin who we have invited to a reunion of veterans on the days of the anniversary of the 50th Berlin Marathon 2024.

Horst Milde
Founder Berlin Marathon


Berlin Marathon today – shortly before the finish with the Brandenburg Gate in the background – Photo: Victah Sailer



author: GRR