Prague Marathon – Race Report – May 2016 – Ilia Loubenski
I flew to Prague on Friday May-06 with the race starting on 9am on Sunday May-08.
Prague Marathon is an IAAF Gold Label event, which means top class organisation and a strong elite field. The course is mostly flat – it’s the seventh fastest city marathon in the world with the course record of 2:05.
I picked Hilton Prague for my stay – turned out that was the marathon HQ. So I had an added bonus of seeing the elite field in the hotel including the pre-race breakfast. Not for the first time I noticed how similar the Kenyan runners are in build and general appearance J
I picked my number and the pack on Saturday from the Expo, which was in a large exhibition hall not too far from the centre. I did not dwell there for too long, but the Expo seemed very good – nearly the size of the London one.
The start is from the Prague Old Town Square. The place was pretty crowded, but the organisation was efficient. As it was a warm day I just went to the start straight from the hotel and did not use the baggage service.
The fact that the course is fast for the elite does not mean that it will be PB-friendly for everyone. The first couple of kilometres go through some narrow streets so be ready to lose some time there. Unfortunately the problem is compounded by those irresponsible slow runners who for some reason feel the urge to start from the early gates – there were not too many of them, but they created multiple jams at the start.
These early troubles are quickly forgotten though when at the third kilometre you cross the tourist landmark that is Charles Bridge. It’s closed for tourists and is in full use of the marathoners:
Part of the course (I would say a fifth) is over cobblestoned streets – so be prepared for some extra pounding to your feet. Shoes with extra cushioning might come useful.
The overall field is not too big (I think the limit is ten thousand participants) so after the early couple of kilometres there is not much crowd. There is no concurrent half-marathon on 10k race, but there is a relay happening in parallel with the marathon. So if you hear that somebody is catching up fast at the three quarters of the distance – don’t worry too much as it’s likely to be a relay participant just starting his leg.
The water stations were frequent and efficient (isotonic and food in addition to water at the later stages), they also dispensed sponges. So – perfect organisation overall.
Now – the weather. Early May can be quite hot in Prague; unfortunately this was the case this year. The temperature was not that high – I think 23C max, but with no clouds and large parts of the course being on wide tarmac roads the heat felt pretty oppressing. I heard that there were quite a few people falling by the wayside towards the latter stages. Something to consider if you do your training in colder parts during the winter and spring.
The crowd support was somewhat of a mixed bag. You have big cheering crowds in the historical centre, although some of the people lining the streets are frustrated tourists trying to cross to the other side. But the large chunks of the course along the river and in less glamorous parts of the city do not have much in terms of support.
The medal is quite hefty, but somewhat dull in my opinion:
Overall I would thoroughly recommend this race. Prague is a beautiful city, organisation is top class and it’s potentially quite a fast course. This marathon is very popular throughout Europe – I read that Czech runners comprise only about a third of the field. As it’s not a huge marathon – it is better to reserve the place well in advance if you consider running it.