This year’s Mattoni Karlovy Vary Half Marathon (an IAAF Gold Label road race) will go down in history. In the event’s sixth year, the half marathon heralded its first ever European winners among both men and women. As predicted by the pundits, Eva Vrabcová-Nývltová took first place. “Until recently I could never have envisaged winning such a race. It’s an amazing feeling,” shared the Czech number one as she crossed the finish. When it came to the men, Ukrainian representative Roman Romanenko took the number one podium spot. As such the Karlovy Vary race has launched the EuroHeroes project – a new joint RunCzech and European Athletics initiative which aims to promote the development of athletics on the Old Continent.
Number one Czech long-distance runner Eva Vrabcová-Nývltová, (who set a new Czech half marathon record of 1:11:01 at Sportisimo Prague Half Marathon 2018) was the hot favourite to win among women and proved the predictions were spot on from the very first metres. She left no room for her European rivals to get ahead and brought an end to the 18-year wait for the first Czech winner at RunCzech races – a feat last achieved by Jana Klimešová at the Prague half marathon back in 2000.
Eva Vrabcová-Nývltová was clearly bursting with joy as she crossed the finish, despite spending most of the race alone. “I didn’t have any target finishing time in mind, but even so it was tough right from the start – I was running alone, there was a strong wind and I didn’t appreciate seeing all the guys run past me. Fortunately two men caught up with me at the tenth kilometre, and worked amazingly well with me, which helped me out a lot. I’m going to have to think of some kind of suitable reward,” the champion joked.
In traditional RunCzech race style, she was also spurred on by the fantastic crowds lining the streets. “I had an amazing race and really loved the backdrop. I could really feel the support of those watching which is one of the reasons why I love RunCzech races so much,” Eva Vrabcová-Nývltová revealed, adding her enthusiasm for the EuroHeroes project. “It has allowed me to fulfil a dream of mine and hear the Czech national anthem at a RunCzech race. I’m also aware that the world is still out there and it’s a huge source of inspiration for me to keep on improving.” The Karlovy Vary race was also a good preparation for the European Championships in Berlin this August.
Eva Vrabcová-Nývltová crossed the finish in 1:11:54, enhancing the Czech race record by more than five minutes. Ukrainian runner Olha Kotovská came in second place with a time of 1:16:16 followed by another Czech runner Kristýna Dvořáková (1:17:46) in third. The third Czech to cross the finish was Marcela Joglová (1:18:19).
When it came to the top podium spots among the men, it was a battle between Ukraine and Spain. As the race progressed the fastest runner group gradually thinned out leaving Roman Romanenko and Houssame Bennabou at the helm. At the 14th kilometre, the Ukrainian Romanenko cranked up the pace, leaving Bennabou struggling to keep up. “I felt good and told myself I’d try to go for it. I believed I was capable of maintaining my pace right until the finish and am pleased I managed to do it,” the delighted runner revealed who still had some energy reserves at the finish to join in the celebration with the crowd. The Ukrainian athlete triumphed with a time of 1:03:58, with Houssame Bennabou finishing in 1:04:16. Ukrainian runner Serhiy Lebid finished third in 1:05:08.
The clear favourite among the Czech men was Ondřej Fejfar. And just like Eva Vrabcová-Nývltová, he had no intention of disappointing fans. “I had a great race today, it was one of my best half marathons on record and I’m really pleased. I find the course magical here, as ever the atmosphere was amazing with people spurring me on to give more, I didn’t even notice the hills,” Fejfar revealed and clearly delighted with his Mattoni Karlovy Vary Half Marathon time of 1:07:45. Joining him on the podium were Jiří Petr (1:11:23) and Petr Kubričan (1:11:34).
A total of 9 European nationalities were represented at the EuroHeroes project launched in the world famous spa Czech town.
This year’s Mattoni Karlovy Vary Half Marathon saw almost 4000 runners taking part in the main race. The accompanying dm Family Run played host to over 2,700 participants.