Published on 24th of February, 2017

High Fives With Strangers

Every Wednesday evening at 9:00 PM, a few dozen runners meet in Hamburg’s Schanzenviertel quarters at youth hostel Superbude.

Then, they run.

TIDE Runners”, they call themselves. They are rather loosely organized, but there are a few personalities that stand out. The special thing about this running club is, everyone can participate without any kind of membership or rules. It has some sort of urban guerrilla parkour feel to it. Just without the dangerous acrobatic moves.

The weekly runs will be at the pace of the slowest person participating. It’s not about increasing fitness as a priority, but rather about meeting likeminded people from outside of your social filter bubble – which is becoming more and more important. They emphasize it’s not about the running, but about meeting others from different backgrounds than yours.

Meeting New People

It feels weird to a Hamburger to instantly open up to a stranger. We are a colder and more reserved people and need to spend some more time with a new person until we get comfortable. TIDE Runners’ aim is to change this.

Share an experience to become familiar with each other faster!

I had heard about those guys a couple years ago and was intrigued. It’s been on my list to visit them on a Wednesday for a long time, just that last bit of motivation used to be missing. Until the time I came across this phrase in their online feed somewhere:


Great name – it’s immediately clear it will be a half marathon and it will be during the night. That’s very interesting! The date was fix as well, so I wrote the guys to ask how to sign up. Answer:

“Come next Wednesday and run with us! Afterwards we’ll take care of that.”

Clearly, that was the last bit of motivation I needed.

On Wednesday, February 15th of 2017, I made sure the kids were asleep a bit sooner so I could meet the TIDE Runners in time. I decided to run the 6.5 kilometers to the meeting place, because that would be faster than driving and searching for a parking space in that busy area. 30 minutes later I arrived at Superbude at about 8:59 PM. A crowd of colorful runners was standing around a guy named Henning who said a few things with exactly zero emotion at all. He must be from Hamburg as well. He ended with:

“Okay. All good? Lets run.”

And we did. At a pace of about 6:00 min/km, which is fairly slow to me (but has good training benefits), the 50-60 of us all followed him and a few friends of his around the city.

Great new piece on the wall in the background
Great new piece on the wall in the background

It felt a bit like being in a flash mob, crossing all those roads energetically. Traffic lights did only apply to us to a certain degree. If you’re on your way through a city at night with that many people, you don’t stop for cars – cars stop for you. And sometimes honk in excitement or anger, just as if this was a wedding convoy. It was a surreal experience.

After 16 kilometers we were back again at St. Pauli Superbude. A short set of push-ups and wall-sits followed, which was very CrossFitty. Into the Superbude bar we went. Many of the runners opened up beers right away. What? This is an unusual! Henning wrote down my email and got 10 bucks from me and I was signed up for Saturday night. I ran home and managed to make it a solid slow 29k run for the night, until my watch battery died.

The Race

A few days later, the day arrived. The whole MIDNIGHT HALF thing seemed to be set up like a party. Henning and his buddies managed to get the rooms of CrossFit St. Pauli in the Hafencity neighborhood of Hamburg to use as a base. At 7:00 PM everyone met, but the race wouldn’t start until 10:30. I had a bunch of work to do and the kids at home, so I arrived just before the race began.

Henning said a few words, and we were good to go. It really was a guerrilla race, this one.

This guy Henning
This guy Henning
The whole group of participants
The whole group of participants

The GPS track of the race had been sent around in advance, and one of the guys had spray-painted a bunch of helping arrows on the road, hoping they wouldn’t wash away in the bad weather. That was all.

Fire and smoke
Fire and smoke

It felt a bit like doing something forbidden. Countdown. Go!

Immediately a few guys went off really fast. Some runners were here to win this thing, how interesting! I just rolled with the pack at first, just to see how this will go. The first few kilometers were easy with the bunch, but those arrows were really difficult to see in the darkness. The course led south-east out of town, through Rothenburgsort, where less and less street lamps illuminated the roads. People got out their mobile phones to use the flashlights.

After 7 kilometers we came across the one and only aid station. But this aid station was very different. It was more like a party station. Good vibes, and alcohol on the table! There was a rule: you take one shot of Schnaps or do 20 squats.

These people are crazy!
These people are crazy!

Again: What?!

Who are these people? Who would think this would be a good idea during a half marathon race? I have never heard of anyone doing this except for maybe the Tarahumara people of central Mexico, who run 80 kilometers and more on a huge hang-over. But you never cease to learn so I watched many of them drink a Vodka or German Korn as I did some squats with a few others. Weird!

Afterwards I decided to increase the pace and escape this group. That worked quite well and I felt good at about 4:40 min/km. A guy came with me and we talked for a while. Joachim from Copenhagen. I noticed there were many people from other countries – English was the dominant language tonight.

Joachim and I picked up the pace and pushed each other. We passed by a few other runners. But he was faster than me. At KM 12 or 13 I decided to let him go. Shortly afterwards I reached a small group of four, who were doing a good pace I was comfortable with. So we ran together. English here, as well.

KM 15: The “aid” station was here again! This time they had turned up the volume, put up some disco lights and were “Whoop Whoop!”-ing excitedly. Also, confetti cannons on everyone who reached this place! Partey!

Shots Or Squats

Stretching my stretchy pants
Stretching my stretchy pants

I opted for the squats again. There’s no way I’d risk that tonight. One guy from our group did some push-ups even, and two actually had the shots. Wow. Still, we increased the pace even more afterwards. This was quite fast! I was close to my personal best for a half marathon at the moment.

During the last few kilometers we unfortunately took a wrong turn at a point, which gave a bunch of runners behind us the opportunity to catch up. So our group was now consisting of about 10 fast runners. Those were all really good. I had trouble keeping up. Kilometer 19, 20, Hafencity again, they were all giving it their best it seemed. This felt very good. Lungs were burning, feet aching a bit. Last few hundred meters. And there is the finish! Where? Not really a finish line, but rather Henning with a piece of paper and a stopwatch app running on an iPhone. Who cares!

Pen and paper. How oldschool!
Pen and paper. How oldschool!

I did 1:38:30 – very close to my personal best, amazing. I’m in shape again after the winter! Henning wrote down the names and times of everyone and we went inside to have a beer. Alcohol-free, mind you. It’s just after midnight now, so the race’s name was correct.

The ominous result list
The ominous result list

Then, the party started. But without me, unfortunately, because not only do I have three little kids at home, but also was I signed up for another 20k race the next morning! Bramfelder Winterlaufserie, a race series to keep fit during winter. I wasn’t going to miss it, so I had a few hours of sleep and did those four 5k laps. Not quite as fast, but 1:47:30 is still okay to me.

Good weekend! Those TIDE Runners are a fun bunch. I might be back with them soon, not sure yet. In a later post I read they managed to save 275 Euros from the entry fees and decided to give 300 of those to the Red Socks Ladies for the Unogwaja Light Fund. Very cool. I’ll be back for the next race, I think. For some more high fives with strangers.

The following video was made of the first TIDE Runners MIDNIGHT HALF in 2015. This one was the third, dubbed “The Golden One”. The video really captures the feel of the event, though. Enjoy! – Also, thanks for some of the pictures to Arne Schmidt, Bjørn Brzeske, and Dina Rogova.

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