Berlin and its annual marathon jointly awarded Heritage Plaque


The Governing Mayor of Berlin, Kai Wegner, received a World Athletics Heritage Plaque honouring the city of Berlin and the annual Berlin Marathon at a ceremony in Berlin’s City Hall on Wednesday (1). The mayor was joined at the ceremony by the marathon’s founder, Horst Milde, and a host of runners, including Uta Pippig, the 1993 New York City Marathon winner and a three-time marathon champion in Berlin and Boston. The plaque, which has been awarded in the joint categories of ‘City’ and ‘Competition’, celebrates the city’s rich athletics history, including the first organised running events in the 1890s and the foundation of the Berlin Marathon in 1974.


“World Athletics is delighted to recognise the outstanding contribution that the city of Berlin and the Berlin Marathon have made to the history and development of international athletics, with the award of the World Athletics Heritage Plaque,” said World Athletics President Sebastian Coe in a video message. “The plaque honours more than 130 years of organised track & field athletics and running events in Berlin. Notably, in 1913, Berlin staged the second Congress in our federation’s history, and the city is one of only nine to have hosted the Summer Olympic Games and the World Athletics Championships. On those two occasions, Berlin’s Olympic Stadium provided the dramatic stage for the legendary triumphs of Jesse Owens and Usain Bolt. At the epicentre of the city’s running history is the annual Berlin Marathon, founded by running enthusiast Horst Milde. The race director for the first three decades, Horst established the Berlin Marathon’s international reputation for organisational excellence. With more than 40,000 finishers annually, the Berlin Marathon is one of the world’s largest mass road races. The city’s flat, fast course attracts the world’s best elite runners. Twenty years since Paul Tergat ran the first sub-2:05 marathon, Berlin’s streets have seen the men’s world record broken another seven times. Berlin has also welcomed the first women to run a sub-2:20 and, only a few weeks ago, break the 2:12:00 barrier. In total, 13 world records have been set there since 1974. With today’s award of the World Athletics Heritage Plaque, we salute Berlin’s historic place in our sport’s history.“


The World Athletics Heritage Plaque is a location-based recognition awarded for an outstanding contribution to the worldwide history and development of the sport of track and field athletics and of out-of-stadia athletics disciplines such as cross country, mountain, road, trail and ultra-running, and race walking.


The plaque was presented to Mayor Wegner and Milde in the Rotes Rathaus, the red city hall of Berlin, by World Athletics Heritage Director Chris Turner in the presence of guests from the city and representatives of the Berlin Marathon and the German Athletics Federation (DLV). The plaque will be placed on permanent public display in the Rotes Rathaus.


A distinguished line-up of runners attended the ceremony, including the inaugural Berlin Marathon winners from 1974, Gunter Hallas and Jutta von Haase. The latter won three times, and she was joined by another two runners with triple Berlin victories, Pippig and Ingo Sensburg, plus Bodo Tummler, the 1968 Olympic 1500m bronze medallist and 1966 European champion.


Kai Wegner, Governing Mayor of Berlin, commented: “World Athletics, the world governing body for the sport of athletics, has awarded Berlin and the Berlin Marathon the World Athletics Heritage Plaque. This is a great honour for Berlin, which is such a sports-loving city. “Above all, it is recognition of the great enthusiasm of many Berlin citizens who, through their voluntary involvement, have for decades contributed to the success story of this internationally renowned sports event. Berlin says thank you to World Athletics and Sebastian Coe, its chair, for this very special expression of appreciation.“


Horst Milde, founder of the Berlin Marathon, said: “The awarding of the Heritage Plaque by World Athletics to the Berlin Marathon, which has now been running for almost 50 years, is a great and significant honour for the organisational team, the SCC Berlin club, the many volunteers and for myself. It is great praise and at the same time, motivation for the future. We are happy about this high award, recognition and appreciation and thank you for the Heritage Plaque, which will be given a worthy place of remembrance in the city hall of the city. History obliges – the tradition and the great running history in this city are both the present and the future. Only through the further development of sports, athletics, and the preservation of the health of the population can we do this justice.“


Berlin – 130 years of organised running


“Berlin is especially a city of running with the first races introduced by members of the English FC in Berlin in the winter of 1891/92, and the Chaussee runs from Potsdam to Berlin over 25.6km organised by Berlin track and field athletes since 1894, long-distance running found its home in Berlin,” wrote Gerd Steins in the Sporthistorische Blatter of the Berlin Sports Museum.


Since then, numerous other road running initiatives have been born in Berlin, including the Berlin Marathon, the Berlin Half Marathon, the 25km of Berlin, the Avon Women’s Run and the Team Relay.


Cross-country running and track & field have a long tradition in the city. The first documented cross-country race in Germany was held on 26 May 1900 on the Grunau-Eichwalde course organised by the Berlin Sports Club Marcomannia, whereas on 16 September 1900, the first German championship at 100m was held in the city.


The most famous of all German track and field meetings, ‘Internationales Stadionfest’ or ‘ISTAF’, was founded on 3 July 1921 by the Berliner Sport-Club (BSC), the Sport-Club Charlottenburg (SCC) and the Schwimmclub Poseidon.


ISTAF, which is the world’s oldest invitational one-day track and field meeting, was awarded a World Athletics Heritage Plaque in 2019. The plaque was presented to the meeting organisers at the start of the 80th edition on 12 September 2021, marking the centenary of the meeting’s foundation.