News23 Nov 2003

Horst Milde: The man who taught Berlin running


IAAF President Lamine Diack presents the IAAF Plaque of Merit to Horst Milde (© IAAF)

Berlin, GermanyIt was on last Friday evening (19 Nov) when Horst Milde got one of the warmest rounds of applause of his life for an honour which he rates as the most valuable he has ever received at an international level.

During a reception the IAAF, which is holding its Council meeting in Berlin this weekend, took the opportunity to honour Horst Milde for his lifelong work and commitment for athletics, with IAAF President Lamine Diack presenting him with the IAAF Plaque of Merit.

Milde is Berlin’s Fred Lebow. The 65 year-old not only is the Race Director of the Real Berlin Marathon plus a number of other big road races. He also has a tremendous share of the great development of road running in Germany and especially in Berlin. If one speaks about Horst Milde in the capital he is referred to the man who taught Berlin running.

“I was very proud to be honoured by the IAAF. I never expected this. But I have to stress that this success was possible only because I have got a great team of co-organisers, who are also absolutely committed to our sport.”

350 races in 40 years

In 40 years he has organised almost 350 races with altogether around 1.25 million participants. Worldwide these are quite unique figures taking into account that it was one single race director for all the events. And probably they can only be matched by the New York Road Runners Club.

It was in 1964 when Milde and his fellow students started one of the first ever cross country races in Germany. Additionally this race in the West Berlin wood (Grunewald) was one of the very first ones nationwide that allowed everyone to take part. And at once this became the biggest German cross country race with more than 700 competitors.

German Championship win

It was also in 1964 when Milde won a German championship race for the first time. Being a middle distance runner with personal bests of 1:49.8 minutes (800m), 2:25.00 (1000m) and 3:51.8 (1500m) he ran in a 3x1000 m relay for his club SC Charlottenburg (SCC Berlin). Together with Bodo Tümmler, who was the European 1500m champion in 1966, they won the relay again a year later.

Berlin Marathon

But the far bigger success came years later, when Milde was in charge for a number of Berlin road races. Already back in 1974, Milde organised the first Berlin Marathon, which took place on a route next to the Grunewald. The SCC Berlin had 286 entries. With the help of the allied forces it was Horst Milde who finally got the permission to stage the first city marathon in Berlin in 1981.

It had not been an easy task to persuade the police to block the roads for the runners. “Roads are for cars only”, Milde was told during a meeting with police chiefs in 1981, when he presented the route of the marathon with the finish right on Kurfürstendamm.

And there was another anecdote: The route was passing the famous Checkpoint Charlie – which in the eyes of the police was simply impossible. Again Horst Milde did not give up but contacted US forces instead. John Kornblum, who later became the US ambassador, gave the permission to run along the checkpoint – police officers were stunned and finally had to agree.

Unification race

The first Berlin Marathon had 3486 entries and was watched by hundreds of thousands spectators. This was a breakthrough for road running in Berlin. Nine years later Horst Milde again persuaded governments in both West and East to get the permission to run through both parts of Berlin. Three days before unification 25,000 runners passed through Brandenburg Gate.

For many more years Horst Milde was still working in an honorary position. He owned a well known bakery and cake shop in Berlin. It was in his small office of his shop were he produced not only recipes for baking but also ideas for the development of road running. It was only when Horst Milde gave up his own business a couple of years ago when he finally worked full time as the managing director of all the races.

Today Milde and his team from SCC-Running organise a dozen events per year plus a number of smaller races for fun. The Avon Running Women’s race has existed since 1985. It has always been far the biggest of its kind in Germany. In May this year more than 10,000 runners took part. Another very big one is the Bewag Berlin Half Marathon, which takes place on the first Sunday in April. More than 20,000 athletes are expected to take part next year. Besides the races organisers provide extensive training advice and medical support for athletes throughout the year.

120,000 participants altogether this year

This year SCC-Running will have a record number of about 120,000 participants altogether. Horst Milde’s success is not only based on the tremendous experience he has after 40 years. He managed to form a successful team of organisers in the background. Most of them are not involved in the SCC Berlin, but it was performance that Milde looked for not club membership. About a dozen persons behind the front man do major jobs, among them are the Medical Director Willi Heepe and Milde’s son Mark, who is responsible for the elite field. Four World bests were produced in the Real Berlin Marathon since 1998. Most recently Paul Tergat ran a memorable 2:04:55, two years ago Naoko Takahashi smashed the 2:20 barrier.

So consequently Horst Milde is very happy with the IAAF’s decision to introduce World records in road running. “I think this is a very important decision for our sport. We have hoped for such a decision for some time. I am convinced that it will benefit our sport and increase public interest.” Concerning the future of running Horst Milde is optimistic: “I think more and more people realise that running is a healthy sport. So internationally I see a great future for running and a great potential.”

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