Carnival atmosphere as thousands take part in Prague marathon

Charles Bridge, photo: CTK

The 8th Prague International Marathon was held on Sunday, with thousands upon thousands of people taking part in a variety of events. There was the full marathon of course, but there was also a fun run - which was enjoyed by a lot of families and people of all ages - and even a special event for in-line skaters. All in all, something for everybody. Ian Willoughby was at the starting (and finishing) line on Old Town Square.

Charles Bridge,  photo: CTK
There was a real carnival atmosphere at the Prague marathon. There was a Brazilian percussion band, who were actually from Germany, but they really got the crowd going. Thousands of people were there cheering on competitors crossing the finishing line; some in obvious pain, others making a big finish and wearing expressions of deserved satisfaction. It really was wonderful.

As for the competitive side of the race, the winner was a Kenyan runner called Henry Turas. Kenyans have won in six out of the last seven Prague marathons, and the other year the winner was from Tanzania. Henry Turas's time was 2:11:41 - a bit off the course record. After the race, I asked him how were the conditions.

Henry Turas,  photo: CTK
"It was warm, and sometimes it was very cold."

When you run in a city like Prague do you have time to look at buildings and take in the beautiful city, or do you just keep running?

"Yesterday I arrived here. I see the buildings. It was good."

The women's marathon was won by the Russian runner Valentina Ivanova with a time of 2:32:24.

Among the crowds at the marathon was the head of the European Union delegation in Prague, Ramiro Cibrian. I asked him how he was enjoying the atmosphere.

"Of course as usual the atmosphere is fantastic. I am very pleased again to participate in another edition of the Prague marathon, which in my view is a fantastic event for the city, and also for the European atmosphere."

I've heard you yourself have run a marathon one time. Did you thing about running today?

"I am not any more in condition to run a marathon. I would have like to run in the fun run. I find it difficult to combine with the ceremonies which I also have to participate in, but 5.5 kilometres I still can enjoy very much, running any time of the year."

Ambassador Cibrian wasn't the only figure from the world of politics at the marathon. The leader of the Social Democrats, Vladimir Spidla, actually took part in the marathon, though he had to withdraw with a knee injury. His party colleague Libor Roucek, who is the cabinet spokesman, is also known as a marathon runner. Did he take part this year?

Valetina Ivanovova,  photo: CTK
"I didn't run today because I injured my Achilles heel. I didn't run but I walked the so-called Walk with the Fox with my little son, who is 16 months old today. And by the way it's his third run."

What was the Walk with the Fox?

"It was beautiful because, unlike running a marathon, today I had plenty of time to look around. This year's route was really pretty and spectacular."

How many marathons have you run?

"I've run about seven marathons. The last time was in November last year in New York."

How does a marathon say in New York compare to the marathon here in Prague?

"Of course the atmosphere is a bit different because New York is a megopolis, Prague is only one million people. New York is a modern city, in Prague we have old medieval architecture."

Is it hard running on the cobblestones in Prague?

"That's hard, and it must be especially hard for overseas runners, who are not used to cobblestones. I'm used to it because I grew up on cobblestones."