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40 Years of the Running Movement for the Masses in Germany … and no end in sight

The 40th Berlin Cross Country Race on November 9th is the “grandmother“ of all races in Berlin

2003-10-15

These days mark the 40th anniversary of the birth of the running movement in the Federal Republic of Germany. On October 13, 1963, in Bobingen near Augsburg, the running pioneer Otto Hosse started the first race for the general public in Germany. The participation was sensational from the start: 1,626 men and women started on a course that led them from a stadium track into the open nature. Hosse was the head of the mass sports running department of the German Track and Field Association (DLV) from 1965 until his death in 1992, and as an active runner he was also an important symbolic figure for the constantly expanding running scene.

Now, anyone interested can chose from ca. 3,000 official running events of the DLV. On every weekend between January and December—and sometimes on weekdays—“competitions for everyone“ take place anywhere between Flensburg and Freiburg, between Dresden and Düsseldorf..

The running movement is still considered to be a (“the“) major supporting part of sport for the masses. It was thus manifest that the Deutsche Sportbund (German Sport Association) immediately integrated endurance running into its numerous “Get Fit“ (Trimm Dich) activities starting in 1970. One remembers the campaign for endurance training with the slogan, “Ein Schlauer trimmt die Ausdauer“ (The smart ones get fit through endurance training) from 1975-1978, as well as another health campaign that came later with the slogan “Trimming 130 - Bewegung ist die beste Medizin“ (Trimming 130: Movement is the best medicine). In 1974, a new organizational form of running found its premiere: open to the public and independent of any clubs, groups started getting together on a regular basis to run—so to say, uncommitted commitment. These running groups were immediately a great success: the number rose to a thousand in the first years. Today there are about 2,600 groups, although those smaller groups that are independent of any clubs and running groups, who just meet to run, are sure to make up the uncountable largest number of sport enthusiasts in our country.

From public race to the city marathon…from jogging to running: in short, that is how the event and language transformation of the continuous booming sport of running can be labeled in Germany. The running movement is more differentiated than ever—whether one only considers the length of the courses, or the races for bambinis, power walkers, and more and more for skaters and wheelchair competitors, and in the future also for Nordic walkers, which have all become standard programme components. While in these weeks the big metropolis races like Frankfurt are on the agenda, numerous other competitions live from their landscape appeal, whether mountain or lake races, or the series of cross country races which is again now starting, through forest areas.

Apropos cross country: about 40 years ago (to be exact, on November 8, 1964), the running movement for the masses began in (West) Berlin with a cross country race at the Teufelsberg Mountain in the Grunewald Forest. The organizer of the “1st Berlin Cross Country Run for Everyone“ was the sport department of the Free University of Berlin with student initiators and todays race director of the real,- BERLIN MARATHON, Horst Milde, at the head, who was then a successful middle distance runner for SCC. Since then, under his direction, SCC RUNNING from Sport Club Charlottenburg has organised alone in Berlin about 350 running events with about 1.2 million participants. Recently, there have been over 100,000 men and women each year: “The enthusiasm for running continues not only in the capital, but all well-organised races can expect to continue growing“, predicts “Mr. Marathon“ Horst Milde, who, together with his successful organizational team, is responsible for the internationally renowned races in the capital. The 30th real,- BERLIN MARATHON on September 27-28, with the spectacular new world record by Paul Tergat (KEN) and over 35,000 participants (runners) and 9,600 inline skaters from 99 countries, was the greatest organizational highlight so far of elite athletes and mass sport in one race.

While the DLV continues to support the running movement with the publication of large numbers of annual race calendars, the virtual running movement is also progressing on the internet: Those interested can find current and multifaceted information and announcements and reports about events, tips on contemporary equipment to training plans custom tailored to the individual needs, not to mention all of the topics shared on the so-called forum (more, ie. under forum.berlin-marathon.com). Thanks to this kind of all around media care, one should not have to worry about running in the future: 40 years of the running movement for the masses in Germany—and it will run on!

Dr. Detlef Kuhlmann


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