On Sunday 20 November, more than 3500 runners took part in the
annual Kondius Berliner Marathon-Staffel, a marathon relay competition
run mainly on woodland paths, an event staged by SCC-Running who are
also responsible for the Berlin Marathon.
Nothing remarkable in that you might think, except that standing on
the top of the medal podium after anchoring his ‘Team 2008’ to victory
was a 48-year-old man, who 27 years previously had taken a sensational
triumph on the track at the 1978 European Championships in Prague.
Olaf Beyer is still running strong two years away from his 50th
birthday. The former East German caused a major upset in 1978 beating
both the English middle distance greats Steve Ovett and Sebastian Coe
to the continental championship 800 metres final.
Middle distance prospects
There were another couple of remarkable facts about Beyer’s winning
marathon relay team last month. None of the other four runners who
belong to his training group based in Potsdam near Berlin are long
distance runners either, all concentrating like the former European
champion on the middle distances. Additionally among them was a woman,
their squad competing against ‘men only’ teams which took the next
places. Steffen Berger (12km), Sascha Stephan (10km), Juliane Becker
(5km), Patrick Schulz (10km) and Olaf Beyer (5.195km) covered the
marathon distance on trails of a Berlin forest in 2:22:51 hours. Beyer
clocked 17:33 minutes for the final part of the race.
Since Beyer’s athletes run for different clubs, the name of the squad is ‘Team 2008’ (www.team2008.de).
“When Steffen Berger and Juliane Becker joined recently I thought we
could go for the relay,” confirmed Beyer. He put in some quality
training himself, “because I wanted to be on the top of the podium
again. It was ten years ago when I was last running in a winning team
here. That was when I competed for SCC Berlin.” In 1995 his team of SCC
Berlin broke the course record of the event. Their 2:12:22 performance
still stands as a record today.
“It is no coincidence that 2008 is involved in our team’s name
today. Looking at the ages of my athletes the Olympics in 2008 would
suit them, we will give it a try!”
A fit family too
Among Beyer’s team of seven athletes is his son Stefan, who in
contrast to the others is a 400m runner. The 23-year-old has a personal
best of 47.02, and has already won a couple of regional championships
on junior level. “I am sure that he can improve otherwise I would not
recommend him investing so much time in training”, said Beyer. His
daughter used to do pole vaulting but since she started studying
medicine there was not enough time left for the sport.
Reminiscences of Prague
Looking back to 1978 it is interesting to hear what Beyer’s former
coach Bernd Dießner says: “Olaf was in superb form that year, he was a
great talent. Before Prague we were training in high altitude at the
Belmekken in Bulgaria. There he had run 600m in 75.4 seconds and after
a break of 15 minutes he ran another 400 m in 47.6. I knew if he would
run tactically clever he would have a chance to win.”