The Hamburg Marathon is going ahead! This is great news! If like us you've been looking forward to the first big race, post-lockdown, it looks like your wait is over. This can only be a good thing!
But, is it...?
Having allowed ourselves a bit of time to properly digest the announcement, we're no longer quite as convinced. While much has been done to help protect runners, we have to ask, as others have mentioned, "What about the spectators"?
Let's give credit where credits due. The race team at the Hamburg Marathon have obviously being giving this year's event a lot of thought. They've introduced a number of measures that will undoubtedly reduce the chance of infection.
Some of the guidelines that the Hamburg Marathon will be following:
1. the marathon field will be capped at 10,000
2. EXPO, start area and finish area will all be exclusively for runners (no spectators)
3. runners will start in waves of 1,000 every 10 mins
4. elite race will be scaled down to 30 athletes, all of whom will be tested before the race
5. runners from countries with high Coronavirus infection rates are banned
6. All participants will also be given a tubular scarf with a breathing filter. This must be worn 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.
These measures will no doubt help prevent infection between runners, especially in areas where they will surely gather, at the start and finish. However, they're unlikely to help spectators.
We expect many thousands of spectators at the race. Just like the London Marathon, Paris Marathon, New York Marathon and all the other big races, we predict a flood of people on the streets. Some will be looking out for family who will be running. Others, for friends. And there will also be plenty of casual spectators, drawn by a big event. Can we reasonably expect so many people to socially distance?
We don't have to look far for examples of crowds offering Coronavirus a perfect breeding ground. Despite expert advice we've seen numerous examples of hordes of people gathering in parks, on beaches and outside sports venues. We think it unlikely that a post-lockdown population is going to do much different, even in somewhere as responsible as Germany.
As it stands we're not convinced that the race should go ahead. We miss running dearly, but spectators need protecting as much as any runner.
Recent discussions including Angela Merkel and local German leaders seem to agree, having said that such events shouldn't be allowed until after October. We've also read claims that the race has still to receive a permit. So this story's outcome may be less certain that has currently been made out.