Vilnius welcomes those taking part in the Danske Bank Vilnius Marathon in the first month of autumn. The event is already catching up with the world’s greatest marathons because of the weather in the capital city at this time of year, which makes it perfect for covering long distances. The marathon route also stretches along the most beautiful streets in the Old Town of Vilnius.
The event attracted just a few hundred runners in its early days, but the number has risen to several thousand in just over a decade. This growth has brought the Danske Bank Vilnius Marathon and its organisers to the forefront of promoting a running culture. It was hosted for the twelfth time on 13 September and boasted a record number of participants, with 16,000 runners from 49 countries around the world making it the nation’s largest running event.
The main routes for the Danske Bank Vilnius Marathon cross the most beautiful sites in the Old Town. Vilnius is a city on seven hills, making the landscape truly inspiring and presenting an up-and-down route that will certainly test whether participants are well-prepared for the marathon. The runners start at the foot of the castle-topped hill in the heart of the city, near Cathedral Square, and progress along the streets of Vilnius.
Vilnius Historic Centre has been recognised for its unique nature at a global level and appears on the UNESCO World Heritage List. The city’s Old Town, which covers 359.5 hectares, is the largest in Eastern Europe. Between the 14th and 18th centuries, the city influenced architectural development throughout the region and is a well-preserved example of the street network and urban structure that characterised medieval times. The rich diversity of buildings in the cityscape includes many structures in Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque and Classical styles that have survived in good condition. The streets and buildings carry the influences of Lithuanians, Jews, Poles, Russians, Germans, Belarusians, Karaites and Tartars.
At the start of the marathon, runners turn towards the river that flows through the city centre and then head to Vingis Park. This is the main park in Vilnius and is loved by residents, with 162 hectares of green area. Žvėrynas, one of the most prestigious Vilnius districts along which the route lies, is said by researchers of ethnic culture to have something special about it because of the spirit that emanates from the river Neris, and should therefore be the easiest section for runners.
From Žvėrynas, the route heads to the city’s main street, which is the location of the key centres of state power – the buildings of the Seimas and the Government. The Danske Bank Vilnius Marathon is traditionally supported by Vilnius City Municipality. Every year, the mayor has the honour of announcing the start of the marathon and half-marathon.
After the main street, runners turn towards the narrower streets of the Old Town and are led to the Town Hall, the main place for festivals since historical times. According to old sources, the defeated army of Napoleon Bonaparte retreated past this building in 1812. In Užupis, runners are welcomed by St. Anne’s Church, a key site in Vilnius and a Gothic masterpiece. According to legend, Napoleon wanted to take this church to Montmartre in Paris on the palm of his hand.
Teklu Getu Metaferia of Ethiopia succeeded in this year’s marathon at his second attempt: “I liked it very much in Vilnius. The route was interesting and full of challenges,” he said.
Vilnius has more than 500,000 residents, and the number who have caught the “running bug” keep growing. Fans come to the Danske Bank Vilnius Marathon with banners to spur the runners on and meet them at the finishing line, and there are several hundred volunteers at the event. Children are also catered for, with 200-metre races, shirts, medals and other awards. The organisers arrange plenty of music, with 17 groups and a DJ playing music on the route this year. The opening of the marathon was announced with a thunderous beating of drums by a joint Lithuanian, Latvian and French group, and the organisers traditionally invite drummers from abroad to the event.
To capture the runners’ positivity, they are recorded by video cameras located at timing posts on the route marking 5, 10, 15 and 20 kilometres, and at the start and finishing lines. After the event, participants can find the footage recorded at these locations, and all photos are also posted at vilniusmarathon.sportfoto.com. Each runner can find his or her photos using their first name, surname or participant number.
Each year, the running community, sponsors and fans of the event are invited by organisers to join social initiatives and donate some of their participation fee to charity. There is also the chance to make donations during the event.
The 13th Danske Bank Vilnius Marathon will take place on 11 September 2016. Route: Vilnius Old Town. Distance: 2 laps. Other main routes: half-marathon, 10 km, 4.2 km, relay race 4 × 10 km.
Runners from Europe were satisfied with weather conditions on marathon day, with a temperature of 10 ºC and no rain making it normal for the Lithuanian autumn. Guests from warmer countries found it a bit cool, so those planning to visit Vilnius next year are advised to take into account our climate.