Words: Elana Meyer | Photos: Elana Meyer Communication, James Moberly & marathon-photos.com | Video: RunCzech
"If you want to win a race try the 100 meter. If you want to win an experience try the marathon." Emil Zatopek
Photo credit: marathon-photos.com
Legend has it that a Greek messenger, Pheidippides, ran 25 miles from Marathon to Athens in 490 BC to bring the news of a miraculous Greek victory over the Persian army. He ran all the way, delivered the good news
and then died.
At the first modern Olympics, in 1896, the marathon was instituted in commemoration of that fabled run. The very next year, on 19 April 1897, the first Boston Marathon was held, in which John J. McDermott emerged from a 15-member starting field to complete the course (then 24.5 miles, the same distance as from Marathon to Athens) in a winning time of 2:55:10. Then in 1920, the distance was standardised at 26,2 miles or 42.2 km. Now more than a century old, the Boston Marathon is recognised as the oldest city marathon in the world.
Over the years, the popularity of marathon running has grown in leaps and bounds, and today there are more than 500 marathons taking place around the world, with the majority of participants being recreational runners. These runners don’t run to win. Some run with the goal of just finishing the challenging distance, while others have a time they want to achieve or they have a very strong reason for being there.
In 1980, I was encouraged by another young runner to enter the Foot of Africa Half Marathon, held in Bredasdorp. Even though I was only 13 years old at the time, I went on to win the race. I loved the experience and challenge and knew that one day I would return to complete the other half and run the full marathon.
Since then, I have competed in marathons all over the world, as well as run in marathons for charity, and each time it was an exceptional experience as I crossed the line, totally overwhelmed by emotion and a great sense of achievement. The marathon distance of 42.2 km is challenging, but a marathon is an event that most people can complete if they are well prepared to achieve this goal!
Photo credit: James Moberly
I was recently invited to attend the Prague Marathon. Starting at the Old Town Square in Prague, the route winds through the streets of one of Europe's most beautiful cities and is a spectacular race. The field is limited to 10,000 runners and it takes 15 minutes for all the runners to get off the mark. Classical music fills the square to create a unique vibe at the start, as the runners fill the narrow streets of the Old City and head towards the historical Charles Bridge, where they are serenaded by the wonderful sounds of the Czech musicians. From there, the race snakes make their way through some of the more modern areas of Prague, crossing the Vlatava River on several occasions. After 42.2 scenic and melodious kilometres, the race ends back at the Old Town Square, surround by cheering crowds.
I had the opportunity to run in the marathon relay with the legendary Ingrid Kristiansen, who smashed many barriers in the eighties to set world records over distances from 5,000 m on the track to marathon. We grew up a decade apart and the many records she set became my targets and motivated me to run faster.
So it was amazing to take a walk down memory lane, laugh and enjoy the food and beer while appreciating the bond of friendship that running has created.
On the local front, there are a number of fantastic marathons to participate in, and now runners can also look forward to the revitalised Cape Town Marathon. To be held on Sunday, 21 September 2014 in South Africa’s oldest city, the 42.2 km Cape Town Marathon is a prestigious global city race open to a range of running enthusiasts, from elite athletes to social runners.
Along the spectacular route, you will take in the famous natural beauty of Cape Town’s mountains and sea, as well as many of the city’s great attractions. Running in this marathon is a unique way to experience the gorgeous highlights and vibrant spirit of Africa’s most visited and celebrated city. The route is wheelchair-friendly, and the 8 hour cut-off time can accommodate the social runner.
With 98 days left, there is enough time to get ready and be a part of the Cape Town Marathon.
For more information on the Cape Town Marathon and to enter, visit www.capetownmarathon.com