The 11th of September was a sunny and warm day in Vilnius, capital city of Lithuania. Though it was chilly in the morning, the temperature was supposed to reach about 24 degrees Celsius at noon. Probably a little too hot for those fast-paced runners, who were aiming for their personal best in the Danske Bank Vilnius Marathon. On the other hand, very few go for their personal best to the hilly Boston; many choose the more evenly balanced Berlin. The same applies to Vilnius – most come here not for the records, but for that very special feeling. Having taken place for the 13th time, the Danske Bank Vilnius Marathon had exploded in terms of popularity during the last few years attracting around 15,000 participants. However, its origins could be traced back to a small group of running professionals and enthusiasts back in 1990s – shortly after Lithuania had declared independence. The first mass running events in Vilnius took place starting from 2001 and soon the autumn running tradition caught on.
The first official Danske Bank Vilnius Marathon took place in year 2004, where couple of hundred professional and non-professional runners participated. Soon it gained international prominence attracting high profile runners from foreign countries, who were setting new course records. It was Richard Rotich from Kenya, who finished the course in 2 hours 21 minutes and 15 seconds in 2007. The record stands true to this date.
The winner of this year’s Danske Bank Vilnius Marathon among men was American runner Christopher Zablocki, who managed to finish the course in 2 hours 25 minutes and 55 seconds. The fastest woman of the marathon was Lithuanian Loreta Petkeviciene. She finished the course in 3 hours 2 minutes and 31 seconds. The course record in women category was set two years ago by Lithuanian Olympic athlete Vaida Zusinaite, who accomplished the run in 2 hours 43 minutes and 13 seconds.
Leaving the records aside, there is so much more about the Danske Bank Vilnius Marathon that attracts thousands of participants. First and foremost, it is Vilnius Historic Center that is recognized for its unique architectural dynamism and is included in the UNESCO World Heritage List. Covering the area of approximately 360 hectares, the Old Town of Vilnius is the largest historic city center in Central and Eastern Europe. Old part of Vilnius is known for its vast diversity of buildings including structures in Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque and Classical styles and influences.
Standing on the start line in the morning of 11th of September, one should have found himself in a very special place. Take a look at one side and you see the startlingly white Cathedral, Bell Tower and Gediminas’ Castle Tower atop the hill. Gaze at the other side to enjoy the view of the long straight Gediminas avenue, main street of Vilnius. Carefully glance around you to spot narrow entrances into the cozy streets of the Old Town.
The clock shows 9:00, the start of the marathon is announced and several thousand runners embark on the streets of Lithuanian capital. The first few kilometers of the course extend by the side of river Neris – runners can enjoy the view of bridges, city center buildings and Opera House on their left and of recently built high rise office buildings on their right.
Next, the course brings them to Vingis park, which is like a small forest in the middle of the city, covering 162 hectares of green area. Here they have to accomplish the first significant climb. Once the runners emerge from the park, they turn on Gediminas’ avenue to pass by the Lithuanian Parliament and the Government buildings. A few more kilometers on the main city avenue, and the course finally takes them to the narrow streets of Old Town.
Should you find yourself running within the large group, overtaking maneuvers in the Old Town could be a complicated task. Furthermore, the steepest climb of all the course awaits you on the Subacius hill. Nonetheless, such treasures like St. Anne’s Church and panoramic views of Old Town and new business quarter of Vilnius should make up for your efforts in full.
The list of runners taking part in the Danske Bank Vilnius Marathon is also extraordinary. This year you could have been running shoulder to shoulder with Lithuanian Olympic stars Diana Lobacevske and Remigijus Kancys (of course, if you were fast enough). There was also one of the best ultra-long distance runners in the world Gediminas Grinius running the half-marathon course, who even managed to share some tips with fellow runners during the race.
Dear reader, if you have read thus far, you already know that there are more than enough reasons to come to Vilnius. Now, it is time for the decision – make a reservation on you schedule for the 10th of September, 2017, plan your journey and prepare to enjoy the unforgettable running experience in the 14th Danske Bank Vilnius Marathon.