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In a surprising turn of events, the postponed Haspa Marathon Hamburg will be allowed to take place with both elite and mass races on Sunday, September 13.
The event, which was originally scheduled for April 19, has been granted an exemption by German authorities --who had implemented a ban on all large events through October 24-- because organizers have agreed to implement a rigorous anti-COVID hygiene plan. The event is a World Athletics Gold Label Road Race.
"We are optimistic that the Haspa Marathon Hamburg will be started on 13 September," said chief organizer Frank Thaleiser through a statement. "We have the plans and the infrastructure required. We will now make detailed plans together with the city to realize the race."
Organizers are expecting 10,000 runners for the marathon, plus an additional 4,000 in a companion half-marathon (last year's marathon had 10,079 finishers). The marathon and half-marathon will have different start and finish areas. Runners in the half-marathon will start in several groups between 8:00 and 8:30 a.m., while the marathon runners will begin racing at 9:30 a.m. with a starting time window of just under two hours. The athletes will be sent on the course in "batches" of 1,000 per starting group in roughly ten-minute intervals.
To ensure physical distancing before the race, runners will assemble in predetermined groups in different halls of the Expo building. There, and also in the finish areas, a total of 120,000 square meters of space will be available to the organizers and under their control; spectators will not be allowed to enter. Disinfection stations will be set up both in the event areas and along the course.
Moreover, all participants will be given a tubular scarf with a breathing filter. These must be worn over the nose and mouth in the event area including the start and finish areas. During the race runners must have these with them and put them over mouth and nose after they cross the finish line. No open drinks or individual food offerings will be available in the finish area; instead all participants will receive a refueling package. Other facilities which are usually on offer, such as massage and showers, will not be available.
"The organizational and hygiene policy should demonstrate that a running event with up to 14,000 participants within a city environment can be carried out responsibly while respecting the restrictions on contact and current hygiene guidelines since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic," Thaleiser added.
The elite field will be scaled down to about 30 athletes, organizers said. These will be the only athletes standing together on the starting line. These athletes will have to undergo testing for the novel corona virus before the race, and will only be drawn from certain countries given travel restrictions. Participation by athletes from countries where the novel corona virus poses a higher risk will not be allowed, either in the elite or the mass field.
The detailed hygiene policy was developed with the help of Manchester Metropolitan University in England which offers a masters degree in Crowd Safety and Risk Analysis.
The Haspa Marathon Hamburg was founded in 1986. Ethiopians Tadu Abate (2:08:26) and Dibaba Kuma (2:24:42) were the race champions in 2019. The course records are 2:05:30 by Kenya's Eliud Kipchoge in 2013, and 2:21:54 by Ethiopia's Meselech Melkamu in 2016.
Separately, the massive BMW Berlin Marathon, scheduled for Sunday, September 27, has yet to announce how their event will be staged this year, if at all. Their most recent statement, dated May 27, said that officials were continuing "to put all our energy into considering various options" for the race. An announcement is expected, soon.