“We try to always fulfill two aspects; a sport and competitive one and a fun one,” says Carlo Capalbo, PIM president. “The goal is not to only have a day with a marathon and very fast athletes, but create three days of fun that everyone can take part and participate in.”
PIM organizes about 30 races throughout the year, all over the Czech Republic. Their core races are encompassed in the Prague Running Circuit and consist of the Half-Marathon held in March; the Marathon in May and the Grand Prix in September.
“For us, it´s important we have a number of core races, but within each we have a series of competitive and non-competitive events,” says Anne Scheuner-Descloux, PIM marketing and communication manager. “The corporate marathons, the relay races, they increase participation.”
There´s a variety of ways casual runners can participate. In the Corporate run, teams of four can elect to either relay run (each member runs part of the race) or a team run in which all four team members run the entire race and their scores are cumulated. There´s a similar University run open to university students, and for the youngest crowd, the Junior Marathon Championship is which schools from 14 regions around the country compete locally and then send the 10-team finalists to Prague to run in the big race. This year, the Marathon will also host the European Police Championship in Marathon. Organizers expect about 200 law enforcement personnel from around the EU to participate in this event, held every two years in a different European country. Another new program for PIM this year was the Women´s Challenge.
“The idea was to give women a chance to start a long distance race, it´s open to everyone, even beginners and non-athletic people,” says Scheuner-Descloux. “It´s about personal achievement and individual goals, not about running fast. We´d like to increase the number of women running in general.”
Organizers believe the program worked well; there was a 45% increase in the number of women who participated in this year´s Half-Marathon.
In last March´s Half-Marathon, the Expats.cz office fielded two teams. Spearheaded by Sales and Business Development head Bryan Bambrick, the runners enjoyed it so much, they are back for the full Marathon.
“It´s a nice thing for a company to do, and we all felt great afterwards,” he says. “It´s such a fun event that really pulls the community together, and you feel you are really part of something special.”
2010 marks the 2,500 anniversary of the legend of Marathon. The story goes that a spirited Athenian sprinted from Marathon to Athens to announce a Greek victory over the invading Persian Army. He collapsed from exhaustion and died upon arrival, but people have nonetheless been inspired by his stamina and choose to run those 42 kilometers with no news to share. In commemoration, a special Marathon flame that is kept in a tomb in the city of Marathon will make a visit to Prague. On May 5, the torch will be carried from the airport to Old Town Square by a variety of celebrities and will light the Maratonský lev (Marathon Lion), which will then stay lit through the entire Marathon weekend. Expected arrival is around 4:30pm. After, the lion will go on permanent display in the National Museum.
The Marathon Sport Expo kicks the weekend off on Thursday. Held at Výstaviště in Prague 7, the Expo is free and open to all. More than 70 exhibitors came from all over Europe last year and visitors can visit their displays, there will be a program for runners, entertainment and more. The Expo runs daily through Saturday.
On Saturday, skaters can take part in the In-Line Party, a 6.5 kilometer non-competitive loop through Stromovka Park. Start and finish line is at the Sport Expo.
“We want to integrate active people who aren´t runners,” says Scheuner-Descloux. “And after in-line are dogs, doing something good for and with your family.”
“Dogs” would be the Walk with Dogs; an inaugural event that besides a four kilometer walk through Stromovka; includes exhibitions and shows ranging from agility to dog dancing. Proceeds from the event go to animal rights and dog refuge organizations.
Sunday, is of course the big one: the 42,195 kilometer trot through the streets of Prague. No one should feel left out though as PIM also hosts an Eco Walk. Take advantage of the closed off streets and stroll two kilometers, car-free around downtown Prague. Start and finish is Old Town Square. After the Eco Walk participants set off; the Family Minimarathon takes over. This 4.2 kilometer run is a perfect way to get the whole family involved in running. Half the registration proceeds go to support organ donations and transplants. Beware: Prague street transport is disrupted for the morning along the race route. Stick to the metro if you can.
The truly non-athletic should enjoy the Marathon Music Festival . More than 60 bands will participate; raising the atmosphere in the days before the race and encouraging racers and entertaining spectators the day of.
“The concept isn´t to have stars on podiums, but street music,” says Capalbo. “Nearly every kilometer will have a different band playing different music. They´ll cheer on the runners and create an atmosphere that will push everyone to come out and participate.” Events to look out for include the Brazilian dancers and samba playing drummers and on Old Town Square, in conjunction with the Prague Spring International Music Festival; Blue Effect will play on Saturday at 6:30pm. Music and other entertainment will also be held at the Sport Expo.
While hanging out listening to some good music; don´t forget to watch the racers and keep your eyes open for one slightly unusual one. German Ralf Klug plans to run the entire race backwards. He´ll start a couple minutes ahead of the rest of the pack and has a sponsor who will donate 3,000 CZK to charity for each kilometer he completes.
All this race talk makes you want to tie-up your running shoes and hit the streets? If you think you´d like to try your feet at running a marathon, PIM is a good place to start.
“We offer more people support for the racers so it´s ideal for first timers,” says Scheuner-Descloux. “There´s a hotline for people to call; coaches; an entire program just for them.”
There´s a special section on their website dedicated to supporting novice runners; they have a special email address set-up for questions and before the race they have a designated desk at the Sports Expo for those with any pre-race jitters or last minute questions.
Many of PIM’s events are charity driven and fees are either donated to non-profit organizations; or sponsors make a donation on participant’s behalf. Some of the organizations this year include: Czech Red Cross; UNICEF; Czech Guide Dog School; Czech Cystic Fibrosis Association and the Committee of Good Will – The Olga Havel Foundation.
PIM is an every-evolving organization and there are two new events happening this year. On June 12, runners descend on the airport for the Runway Race; a concept dreamed up by Capalbo and the director of the Prague Airport over an aperitif.
“The common denominator in all our events is to do something fun and a bit unusual,” he says. “It´s a non-competitive race; the main goal is to get people moving in general. We´ll also do a one mile sprint between the five fastest Czech men and five fastest Czech women.”
Later that month, on June 26, the Olomouc Marathon will be staged. This will be an evening race, and as the city is just as picturesque as Prague, should give runners something to keep their minds off their burning lungs and throbbing legs.
PIM has raced to the top tier of international marathons despite being so young, and grows in popularity and scope every year. Capalbo has some ideas on why.
“The fact was, there wasn´t an event like this here when we started,” he says. “We have lots of good ideas and a wonderful city. There are business reasons too, for advertisers it´s a unique, original tool for brands to keep close relationships with pre-defined target groups.”
Scheuner-Descloux believes the current trendiness of the sport helps too.
“We benefit from the popularity of road races in general and the marathon is more open to more people,” she says. “We want to differentiate between the big ones, make it a family marathon, in one of the nicest cities. We stress the quality and service for runners.”
And running or not, the streets of Prague will definitely be the place to be this weekend.