New Balance Kö Meile: Bigger than the Olympics
The Königsallee in Düsseldorf is considered one of the most magnificent shopping streets in Germany. There were no bargains here on Sunday, but rather fast times over the mile distance. Race organizer and top athlete Max Thorwirth became particularly emotional.
Words: Agata Strausa
On Saturday evening, Saturday shoppers strolled from luxury boutique to luxury boutique on Düsseldorf's Königsallee, also known as “Kö”. On Sunday morning, the same place was bustling with young runners who, with their parents, were excitedly looking forward to the start of the Bambini or school run. A very special running event started in Düsseldorf with the young runners: the New Balance Kö Meile.
Spread throughout the morning, there were races over 300 meters for the very young athletes, the slightly older ones were allowed to compete over half a mile and from 11 years old they were allowed to run the supreme discipline of the day: one mile, or 1609.34 meters all around the Königsallee. If that was still too short for you, you could also complete several laps around the Kö in the 5-kilometer run.
Surprising triumphs and hard-fought battles
Even among the young runners, one could observe stubborn duels and sprints to the finish line that were bitterly fought all the way to the finish line. Then things got particularly crunchy on the Kö: The first professional race was coming up: the women's elite. Nozomi Tanaka from Japan started the race as the top favorite. Having just finished eighth in the World Championships in Budapest, the 24-year-old was already at the start in Düsseldorf a few days later. Who among the women would have the fresher legs? But then the big surprise.
On the final straight, Vivian Chebet from Kenya overtook her and crossed the finish line first. Tanaka came second and looked a little shocked - or was it just the effort that made her look so scared? Unfortunately we couldn't ask her that in person. Surprise winner Chebet, on the other hand, raved about the competition: “It was wonderful to run here, the atmosphere was great,” said the 27-year-old Kenyan. “I hope to start here again next year.”
“It was crazy with the crowd all the way down the street to the finish.”
Last year's winner Sam Blake from Australia had to admit defeat in the men's elite race. Nothing could be done against the young Frenchman Maël Gouyette. In 4:03 minutes, the 24-year-old stormed to the finish ahead of Thomas Keen from Great Britain with his arms wide open. “I’m very proud,” said Gouyette, who ran a mile on the road for the first time ever. For him, the Kö Mile was a test run for the World Road Running Championships in Riga, Latvia, in a month. “It was crazy with the crowd all the way down the street to the finish,” he enthused. German professional runner Maximilian Thorwirth also raved about the loud audience and the overall vibe of the event. The local hero, who competes for SFD 75 Düsseldorf-Süd, only ended up in ninth place, but received the loudest applause.
Thorwirth was celebrated not only because he is one of the world's best middle-distance runners, but also because he is the man behind the entire event. So he probably had at least one marathon in his legs before his race because he had been running around to do organizational things in the last few days and until shortly before his start. “It was a lot of running back and forth today,” admitted the 28-year-old at the finish. “But it’s a lot of fun to be able to experience this myself as a runner!”
The Kö Mile is actually much bigger than being at the Olympics.”
He enthusiastically talks about the many runners, the numerous volunteers and the audience. “It just makes you incredibly happy,” says Thorwirth. “I used to say that I could be happy with my running career once I was at the Olympics. To be able to do something like this with the whole team here, with all the helpers and the Düsseldorf community, and with everyone who puts their trust in us - and to let it live - is just incredibly nice. This is actually much bigger than any sporting success.”
You might not even see as many happy runners as you saw at the New Balance Kö Meile on the big sporting stage. Above all, seeing so many committed volunteers gave the event a family character - but at the highest level. Some other New Balance top athletes also pitched in to make the event a success. The Düsseldorf community was convincing.
Results Kö Mile Elite Women
1. Vivian Chebet 🇰🇪 - 4:32
2. Nozomi Tanaka 🇯🇵 - 4:32
3. Vera Hoffmann 🇩🇪 - 4:38
Results Kö Mile Elite Men
1. Maël Gouyette 🇫🇷 - 4:03
2. Thomas Keen 🇬🇧 - 4:03
3. Sam Blake 🇦🇺 - 4:04