It was eighty years ago this week that the Olympiastadion in Berlin hosted the 1936 Olympics, where Jesse Owens won four Gold Medals.
It was seven years this month that the Olympiastadion in Berlin hosted the 2009 World Championships, where Usain Bolt broke the world records in the 100m and the 200m runs.
And this year, unfortunately, the stadium will not be hosting my race2walk2016 attempt to run those two races “Half as Fast” as the world records.
After a thorough review it was decided that they “could not support the project” at this time. While deeply disappointed, I appreciate the time the stadium invested in reviewing my request and wish to thank their staff, especially Matteo Canlis Wandel, for providing me with a proper explanation. I spent the day yesterday at the sprawling and magnificent Olympic complex and was awed by the unique combination of history and functionality that is the hallmark of the Olympiastadion.
When you come to Berlin, it is a must stop.
So it was, with hat in hand following the decision, that I set off in search of another venue to run on Friday, August 5th, the day that coincides with the Opening Ceremony of the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio. It is also the anniversary of Jesse Owens’ 3rd Gold Medal at the 1936 Games in the 200m.
My first stop was the Poststadion in West Berlin, not far from the main train station, nor the former Berlin Wall. It is a handsome facility with a beautiful, fully sanctioned running track that appeared to be brand new. The stadium itself seats upwards of 12,000 people and was built in 1929 on the site of a former Prussian Uhlan military training site. It has historic bona fides, including a fight featuring Max Schmeling in 1935. During the 1936 Games the German football team was ousted by Norway 2-0 in a match that was viewed by Hitler.
As I emerged from the dense trees that surrounded the field, I saw figures at the far end of the track and made a beeline in their direction. At a table sat one Barbara Jensch, a former eight-time German Champion in the Discus, Javelin and Shot Put. Next to her was a trainer named Holger Droge who, fortunately for me, spoke excellent English.
I’m not sure what they thought of this 60-year old American with the crazy story about running races and being denied by the Olympiastadion, but they smiled and said, “You can run here!” The track is a perfect site and they have timers and starting blocks and, most importantly, an enthusiasm for the race2walk2016 project. “We have many international runners who come to the track,” they said as they explained about the importance of the recently renovated facility to the community.
The stadium is the home of the ASV Club and is well known for supporting disabled and Paralympic athletes. It is, in short, a perfect venue for me to attempt both the 100m and 200m runs. I hope to come in faster than :19.1 in the 100m and :38.38 in the 200m.
While neither time would impress Bob Costas, they are the times I need to achieve my goals.
Wish me luck!