Athletics: Run organizers after Corona not yet out of the crisis

Run organizer after Corona not yet out of the crisis

There are more than 45,000 entries for the Berlin marathon Photo: Andreas Gora/dpa

There are more than 45,000 entries for the Berlin marathon

© Andreas Gora/dpa

This Sunday Berlin belongs to the runners again. The marathon is one of the biggest events in the city and is on the way back to its former glory after the Corona crisis.

The marathon is a dry spell - not only for all running enthusiasts. the corona crisis has hit many organizers of large and small hobby runs in Germany, and not all survived as lightly as the organizers in Berlin. More than 45,000 runners have registered there for the 42.195 kilometers through the capital.

According to the organizer, this is the level of 2019, i.e. a few months before the start of the corona pandemic. With a view to the economic key figures, Managing Director Jürgen Lock speaks of "80 percent of where we were in 2019". Lock is aiming for the previous level again in 2024 and is hoping for an end to the economic crisis that was also triggered by the war in Ukraine. "We got through quite well," says Lock, looking back at the Corona years and is happy about loyal and financially strong sponsors such as the car manufacturer BMW.

schindler: "The situation is already difficult"

Of the Berlin-Marathon takes on a special role due to its budget, says race director Jo Schindler from the equally traditional Frankfurt marathon, which will take place again on October 30th after a two-year break. "The situation is difficult," admits Schindler. "The budget is not what it was." Expiring contracts have not always been or will not always be extended in view of the Corona or Ukraine and energy crises.

"Long-term partners no longer exist," says Ralf Eger from the Magdeburg marathon, where a total of around 4,500 participants are expected on October 9 after 6,000. This makes the run along the Elbe - where shorter distances are also offered, as in Frankfurt - one of the medium-sized events. The lack of income could no longer be offset by increased entry fees this year. A marathon starting place currently costs 45 euros, 35 euros for the half marathon and 25 euros for the ten kilometers. "Next year we have to increase," says Eger. As reserves have been accumulated, he prophesies, "We will see it through."

All would have a decline, explains Schindler. While the magic word marathon apparently still has appeal, shorter distances such as ten kilometers are affected in Frankfurt. Figures by running expert Urs Weber from the trade journal "Runner's World" show a consistently declining number of participants at the largest events this year. According to his surveys, the decline in company runs, which were very popular before the Corona crisis, is particularly hard hit. Mostly short distances are run there, which are ideal for beginners.

Due to rising costs, there is a risk of higher entry fees

The lower number of participants seems paradoxical, because running as an individual outdoor sport was an ideal way to exercise during the Corona crisis. In fact, the experts agree that many people have started running for the first time in the past two and a half years. It just seems that many haven't yet decided to venture into a hobby competition. Schindler estimates that this would take one to two years.

Stefanie Eichel from the Hanover Marathon sees this as an opportunity to score points with new topics such as mobility and sustainability and speaks of many participants who are not yet known. "We have to reach them first. That means we have to get out," says Eichel. She is also a member of the board of directors of German Road Races, an interest group of race organizers in Germany.

"Everyone has to get back on track," says Ralf Eger from the Magdeburg marathon. But if starting places become more expensive in view of the sharp rise in prices for things such as portable toilets, event services and security, the reluctance could continue. Then the dry spell expected until 2024 could last even longer and force some organizers to give up.


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