If you’re a regular reader around these parts, by now, you’re undoubtedly used to my race reports. You know, those seemingly endless race recaps where I tell you exactly how much I sweated and how many puppies I stopped to pet along the way? I decided that since the Prague Marathon is such an international event and draws people from around the world, it might be helpful to tell you more about the actual facts and details of the race, rather than just my extremely detailed stories. If you’re considering heading to Prague for the marathon (or just want to know more about the actual logistics), this post is for you!
Race: Volkswagen Prague Marathon
Date: May 7, 2017
Start Time: 9 am
Location: Prague, Czech Republic
Years Running: 23
Awards: The Prague Marathon is an IAAF Gold Label event. The RunCzech organization, which puts the marathon together, hosts 7 Gold Label events in the Czech Republic. That’s the most of any country in the world! (I think that is seriously amazing. Literally every single event put on by the RunCzech team is a Gold Label event)
Demographics: 10,600 runners from 88 different countries! The field is 76.5 percent male and 23.5 percent female. The average age of the participants is about 40!
Slogan: “All Runners are Beautiful” <— LOVE THIS
Course: Flat, fast, and 10 percent cobblestone. The cobblestone is broken into short sections, so you’re never on it for more than a few minutes at a time. There is some elevation change as you run under bridges along the river, but it’s not significant. In fact, the Prague Marathon has been the fastest May marathon in the world since 2010, when Eliud Kiptanui ran a 2:05:39 there! The women’s course record of 2:21:57 was set by Valary Jemeli Aiyabei in 2017! The course runs through Prague’s beautiful Old Town multiple times, past throngs of cheering spectators. You cross multiple bridges across the river and run alongside the river for much of the course. The marathon features several short out and back portions, and one loop is repeated twice. Overall, the course is absolutely gorgeous! There is limited shade on the course, so if you have a warm day, like we did, it can get hot.
Race Swag: Jacket and awesome finisher medal for the marathon! T-shirt and finisher medal for the Minimarathon. T-shirt for the Walk with Dogs (more on this below!)
Elite Athletes: As you can tell based on the course description, elite athletes flock to Prague! It is one of the last qualifying events for the World Championships, so countries from around the world send their best runners in hopes of qualifying. I had the pleasure of meeting one of the elite men who was competing to win, Yuki Kawauchi of Japan, at the pre-race press conference.
Weekend Events: Sport Expo, Walk with Dogs, Family Minimarathon, Prague Marathon
Ok, so let’s talk weekend events. The Prague Marathon does a great job of getting the entire family involved! The Sport Expo begins on Thursday and is a good size, with plenty of sponsors and vendors represented. The expo also features some great speakers, including World Champion Lornah Kipligat!
The Walk with Dogs is held on Saturday at 1 pm. It’s a 5k course through the park near the expo, and there are both competitive (cani-cross) and noncompetitive (walk) divisions. You can participate with or without a dog, but either way, it is an incredibly fun spectacle to witness! The cani-cross division is really competitive, and the dogs and their owners go flying!
Finally, the minimarathon is a super fun event for kids of all ages! This event starts at 3 pm on Saturday and features a 3k and a 5k course through the local park near the expo. This is the perfect shakeout run opportunity if you’re looking for a fun way to loosen up before the marathon, or if you just want to experience even more of the greatness that is the RunCzech organization.
More than 5,300 people take part, which is amazing! So often, family races feel like an afterthought to the main event, but that was not the case here at all. I also loved that it is held on Saturday so that people running the marathon on Sunday could participate with their families! We had no idea that the course would be so beautiful, or that we would receive finisher medals at the end! That was a welcome surprise.
Host Hotel: The Prague Marathon has a number of host hotels, but Bobbi and I stayed at the Hilton Prague. I can’t recommend it enough, and here is why. First, all of the elite athletes stay there, and they are constantly wandering around the lobby. It’s seriously so cool and really gets you excited for the race! In the interest of full disclosure, it will also probably make you feel fat. Second, the free hotel breakfast buffet is insane. I think I cried tears of joy the first time I saw it. There’s an entire gluten free section and a better selection and variety than I’ve seen at any hotel buffet ever. Trust me, people – I’ve seen a lot of hotel buffets.
Race Day Transportation: There are a ton of ways to get to and from the start and finish, including public transportation (metro and bus), taxi, or walking! If you are staying in the vicinity of the Old Town, you can almost certainly walk to the start and finish, since they are right in the heart of the city. We took the elite athlete/press shuttle to the start, but walked back from the finish!
Aid Stations: The course map seemed to indicate that the aid stations would be placed every 5k. I’ll admit that this made me really nervous! In actuality, this was not the case at all. I’m not sure if it is because the weather was warmer than usual this year or what, but there ended up being water stops approximately every 1.5-2 miles, give or take. Some were just water stops and some were full aid stations with water and gatorade, but either way, I appreciated their frequency! One thing to note – the Prague Marathon is sponsored by Mattoni, which is a mineral water company. To me, it tasted slightly carbonated (it is not, I am told) and Bobbi and I personally didn’t like it. I felt like it made me more thirsty. I’d recommend bringing your own water bottle/fuel belt if you’re sensitive, or at least try the water when you first get to Prague to see what you think. There are no gels given out along the course, so bring your own if you need them! Sugar, salt, and fruit were available at several stations along the course. They also had cold sponges at nearly every stop, which was AMAZING!
Getting in: The Prague Marathon sells out quickly each year, so register right away if you plan on running it! However, the event also works with more than 50 charity partners for runners hoping to earn a spot in the race through fundraising. If you miss your chance to sign up through regular registration, consider running for charity! The Salvation Army is the race’s largest charity partner.
Overall impression: The Prague Marathon is, hands down, one of the best organized events I have ever been to. Everything works seamlessly, and it is obvious that the RunCzech team is a professional organization. The runners come first at this event, and everything is planned down to the final detail. The beauty of the course, diversity of the field, and the ease of navigating Prague’s city center make this a fantastic destination race for any runner! Traveling to an international race can be exciting and intimidating, but the Prague Marathon truly makes it a joy. English is widely spoken, the exchange rate is favorable, and oh yeah – it is an awesome race! Put it on your bucket list and thank me later.
LEAVE A COMMENT: What international race is on your bucket list?