(10-Feb) -- Given the dearth of quality marathons available to top athletes in the first half of 2021, Global Sports Communication has teamed up with NN Running Team and MHV Running Events to organize a special elite-only marathon in the northern German city of Hamburg. Dubbed the NN Mission Marathon Hamburg, the race will be open to a maximum of 100 athletes and be held on a 10.5-kilometer loop in the city center. Organizers plan to set the race up so that athletes can achieve Tokyo Olympic qualifying marks. In fact, organizers have embraced the tagline, "the fastest way to Tokyo," to describe the race.
GRAPHIC: NN Mission Marathon Hamburg
"We want to show that we do everything we can to offer athletes a chance for a marathon," said longtime Global Sports Communication managing director and athlete representative Jos Hermens through a media release. The Dutchman continued: "In this case it is extra special because it is a qualification for the Olympic Games. I am proud that title sponsor NN Group also supports us in these times and together we want to fulfill the Olympic dream of all those athletes. Hopefully we will see more races coming up soon."
The 2020 HASPA Marathon Hamburg, the traditional mass participation race, was originally scheduled for Sunday, April 19. Organizers first postponed the event to September 13, and planned to employ a detailed anti-COVID hygiene plan to allow it to take place safely. But by the summer, they learned that hosting the race under Germany's anti-COVID regulations was impossible, and the race was cancelled in July. The mass race cannot come back until 2022.
For top athletes, only a handful of marathons are available through the end of May, 2021, where Tokyo Olympic Marathon qualifying marks can be achieved (course must be World Athletics-certified). The situation is complicated because it is not possible for all athletes to travel to all countries due to constantly-changing entry and visa restrictions. Race Results Weekly has compiled the following list, omitting races in China which have not been fully confirmed:
28-Feb: Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon, Otsu, Japan
14-Mar: Nagoya Int'l Women's Marathon, Japan
14-Mar: Olympic Qualifying Marathon, Belp, Switzerland
26-Mar: British Olympic Trials Marathon, London (Richmond), Great Britain
10-Apr: Access Bank Lagos City Marathon, Nigeria
11-Apr: NN Mission Marathon Hamburg, Germany
18-Apr: Maraton Internacional A Pampa Traviesa, Santa Rosa (La Pampa), Argentina
25-Apr: Wrexham Elite Marathon, Great Britain
By announcing the race in Hamburg today, organizers have given athletes adequate lead time to prepare. Hamburg is centrally located in Europe and is easily reached by a short flight --or even a reasonable drive-- from other major European cities. According to Google Maps, Hamburg is a five hour drive from Amsterdam or Copenhagen, a six and one-half hour drive from Brussels, and a seven hour drive from Prague.
"With the NN Mission Marathon Hamburg, many top athletes may get one of the last chances to qualify for the 2021 Olympics," observed Frank Thaleiser, the managing director of MHV Running Events who will help organize the event. "We are pleased that we may support this cause together with the City of Hamburg and our partner Global Sports Communication."
The Tokyo Olympic Marathon qualifying standards are 2:11:30 for men and 2:29:30 for women. The official qualifying period closes on May 31, 2021.