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World Championships 2009 - Options for the marathon (and walking events) in Berlin for the IAAF World Championships

New ideas for carrying out the street competitions—the course in the city centre and open races for the general public as part of the pre-race programme


On November 9, as part of the application process for Berlin to host the Track and Field World Championships in 2009, the IAAF Evaluation Commission invited Horst Milde as "Mr. MARATHON" and as an expert on street races in Berlin to present various options for the race course. Here is a summary of his suggestions:

"The possibility of hosting the marathon and the walking events in Berlin for the IAAF World Championships in 2009 opens many opportunities and perspectives for the further development of athletics and the sport of running. The runners have taken over the streets of the city and have thus made running even more popular here than it already was."

The marathon is a festival on the streets
Both the elite runners of the BERLIN MARATHON, which now boasts 5 world records, and the masses of joggers and runners from around the world come together to celebrate a fantastic festival on the streets of Berlin with the support of the population and about a million spectators.

Integrate the youth and the general population
This opportunity to have the best male and female runners in the world at the start, and at the same time to involve the general population and the youth into the event, should also be utilised for the IAAF World Championships in the interest of the furthering of athletics.

Political centre of Germany
The BERLIN MARATHON, as well as the BERLIN HALF MARATHON, very consciously sought out the political centre of the capital for the start and finish of the events, to bring the sport of running closer to the population. In addition, the courses for both races were selected for their flatness-and they are thus very fast. The courses also lead through the most important main streets of the city, which is important for drawing the great number of spectators.

The quality of the course
Even though the weather this year was not ideal, the womens winner, Yoko Shibui from Japan, ran a new course record and fastest time of the year in 2:19:41. The male champion, Felix Limo of Kenya also achieved a world-class time of 2:06:44. These results speak for the quality of the chosen course-which is a strong argument for the World Championship marathon in 2009 to also follow that course.

Utilising the Olympic stadium: Pros and cons
The advantage of having the start and finish of the World Championship marathon in the Olympic stadium would be that the logistics for the start and finish already exist.

Disadvantage: Few spectators at the start and finish - the course runs through areas which have few spectators for the early phase as well as for the last kilometres, which would be detrimental to the atmosphere, and finally, the course runs slightly uphill for the last kilometres to the finish in the stadium.

There are two good options for locating the start and finish elsewhere:

  1. Start/finish in Berlin-Mitte on the boulevard Straße des 17. Juni near the Brandenburg Gate and on the course of the BERLIN MARATHON. The entire inner city would have to be closed off twice and a large organisational structure would have to be created for the ca. 150 male and 100 female runners of the World Championship MARATHON, which would be similar to the organisation of the BERLIN MARATHON.
  2. Start and finish on the boulevard Straße des 17. Juni - near the Brandenburg Gate A new 14-kilometre long, very flat loop that would be run three times would guarantee fast times, an exciting race, and would be easier to oversee, which would also offer more safety. Advantages include: grandstands at the start and finish with spectators, many spectators along the course, excellent atmosphere, and fantastic images of the city for the television coverage.

    Open races in the pre-race programme
    In order to gain the enthusiasm of the general population for the IAAF World Championships from an athletic standpoint, the womens and mens marathon could be complemented with various races for the general public, for instance:

    For the womens marathon:
    1) a 14 km wheelchair race (1 round) and
    2) a 5 km race for youth (like MINI MARATHON at the BERLIN MARATHON)

    For the mens marathon:
    An open 14 km race (1 round) as preparation for the BERLIN MARATHON 2009!

The youth race and the open race would certainly elicit between 10,000-20,000 participants.

The course for the walking events
The walking events should also take place within the city centre: a 2.5 kilometre loop on the boulevard Straße des 17. Juni, near the Brandenburg Gate, with the start and finish identical to the MARATHON.

Walking and Nordic Walking
The walkers would have many spectators on a 2.5 km loop in the city centre, a better atmosphere and there would be excellent images for the television coverage. It would also be possible to integrate walking and Nordic walking races for the general public in the pre-race programme.

New perspectives
The integration of open competitions for the general public for participation within the framework of a Track and Field World Championship is a completely new concept and would require a change in thought by the IAAF. The relocation of the start and finish of the marathon and the walking events outside of a stadium also opens completely new perspectives.

The integration of the general public and of the youth as a means of promoting world athletics is a strong argument for the IAAF to change old rules, and could play an important role in increasing popularity for track and field.

If on December 4, 2004 in Helsinki the IAAF chooses Berlin for hosting the championships in 2009, the German Athletics Association has approved of the above suggestions:
The city course and the open races for the general public.

Horst Milde

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