Leipzig, Germany: Big City Look, Small Town Feel by Jacob Betzner

The city of Leipzig in Saxony, Germany hosts an annual 5K race, allowing companies, organizations and individuals to engage in friendly competition and socialization one evening in June.

The University of Leipzig Office of Education Abroad kindly extended an invitation to visiting Bobcats to run with students, staff and faculty from UniLe.  Two other travelers and I, along with five automobile engineering students from the the University of Dayton, joined the team for a little exercise and to combat the dreaded and still lingering jet lag.

Team Ohio University and Team Mephisto (University of Leipzig Student Radio)

At registration, runners from all different teams chatted, wished each other luck and munched on bratwursts, maybe not the best pre-run meal, but definitely tasty.  Every runner seemed interested in getting to know the American participants on the University of Leipzig team and really helped us by translating directions given by the event’s emcee.

The pre-race atmosphere rivaled that of a county fair or music festival.  The event took place at Red Bull Arena, home of Leipzig’s Fußball (soccer) team, RB Leipzig.  The enormous stadium made Ohio University’s Pruitt field look like a mere high school sports field.   To put this into perspective, RB Leipzig plays in a minor German soccer league, not the top-league which consistently attracts crowds Americans see at NFL games.  It further excited me for the big Euro Cup quarterfinal match between Germany and Greece tonight.

At 7: 30, nearly 10,000 runners waited anxiously behind the starting line, waiting for the gun to sound.  It took over 20 minutes for the runners to all cross the starting line because of the large number of participants.  Runners immediately hit a tunnel filled with encouraging Leipzigers and the Leipzig Lions cheerleaders and band.

Crowds lined the streets for the the entire five kilometers, cheering for friends and other runners alike.  Running through the streets of the beautiful city with a strong group of supporters on either side, Leipzig felt like a small, prideful town not a big city of over 500,000 people.  Runners dodged one another on the brick streets and shouted encouragement to other runners needing a boost.

All the runners enjoyed the event and enjoyed a free cup of Ur-Krostitzer beer after finishing.  Adrenaline and excitement helped me finish with a time just over 24 minutes, not the best time in the world, but respectable for an amateur.

Me crossing the finish line

All runners received a free commemorative mug and the University of Leipzig runners received a running tee shirt, a wonderful conversation starter in the future.

From left to right: Junior Carrie Rider, Junior Jacob Betzner and Graduate Megan Heileman

Truly a unique event to be a part of, especially for three Ohio University students lucky enough to spend a few weeks in eastern Germany, the Leipzig 5k gives me something to talk about for the rest of my life.

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