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NN Running Team links up with Hamburg Marathon to create elite-only race

NN Mission Marathon will take place in Hamburg on April 11, and it will give elite runners a chance to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics

The NN Running Team and the Hamburg Marathon are working together to give around 100 of the world’s top runners a chance to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics. The event, dubbed the NN Mission Marathon Hamburg, will be an elite-only race on April 11, four months out from the Olympic marathon dates on August 7 and 8. The tagline for the marathon is “The fastest way to Tokyo,” and it will be a welcome addition to the 2021 road racing calendar for any athletes who have yet to run under Olympic standard. 

Qualifying for Tokyo 

The NN Mission Marathon Hamburg will be one of the best chances that many runners have to qualify for the Tokyo Games. Due to COVID-19, none of the World Marathon Majors will run until the fall, and a number of other early-season races have been rescheduled or cancelled as well. In a normal year, runners could have counted on the Tokyo, London and Rotterdam marathons (each of which attract fast and elite fields and are held between February and April) as qualifying opportunities, but none are set to take place this spring. 

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The Mission Marathon will be a must-run for a lot of athletes, as we have seen the fast times that other elite-only events have produced during the pandemic. At the London Marathon last October, many runners hit Olympic standard (2:11:30 for men and 2:29:30 for women), including Canada’s Tristan Woodfine, who ran to a 2:10:51 PB. 

At The Marathon Project (TMP) in Arizona in December, another lineup of runners posted Olympic-qualifying results. Canadians Natasha Wodak and Ben Preisner gave themselves great odds to make the Tokyo Olympic squad, as they smashed the standard at TMP and ran to PBs of 2:26:19 and 2:10:17, respectively. 

The Mission Marathon will present athletes who either missed those races or failed to hit Olympic standard with one last shot at booking their tickets to Tokyo. With so much on the line, this could be one of the best and most entertaining races of the year. 

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Who’s on the start list? 

So far, the Mission Marathon start list is pretty short, and only a few NN Running athletes are scheduled to race. Björn Koreman of the Netherlands is one of those runners, and after only recently joining the NN squad, many eyes will be on him to see how he fares and if he can qualify for the Dutch Olympic team. 

“It is great to be able to help top athletes in this way so that they can prepare optimally for perhaps the most important race of their lives,” said Remco Barbier, who is the head of branding at the NN Group, which sponsors the elite running team. While the start list is far from capacity right now, it was only just announced on Wednesday, and it will likely fill up quickly with so many athletes looking for another opportunity ahead of the Olympics. 

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