Keep on Running
Running is one of the most popular sports activities in Slovenia. No wonder then that Slovenians are world champions when it comes to taking part in running events - the country has the highest proportion of citizens taking part in such races. The main reason for that is definitely the yearly Ljubljana Marathon, Slovenia's biggest sport-recreational event in the country.
The event has risen from rather humble beginnings. The first Ljubljana Marathon was in 1996, and attracted a total of 673 runners taking part in three categories - the classic "real thing" 42 kilometres, its shorter 21 kilometre version, and the recreational 10-kilometre run, all of them held on Sunday. In 2000 and 2001, four more variants were added, targeted especially at youngsters in the hope of them getting involved early in the nation's most popular sport. It proved to be a great success with more than 2,000 entrants. The numbers in all categories have steadily grown ever since, annually at a rate of approximately 20 percent and the statistics say that every year there are more and more young runners willing to face the longer distances.
Last year's edition was a marathon of records in all respects: it saw 16,399 runners from 53 countries from all around the globe take part. This was the largest number ever and included an impressive 943 marathon runners. In addition, the Kenyan winners William Biama and Kilel Cheptonui set a new milestone in both the male and female 42k categories with final times of 2:10:11 and 2:25:24 respectively. Their results placed the Ljubljana Marathon in the middle category of such events in Europe. The organisers ascribe this to the eagerly anticipated and publicly requested change of route which now goes along the wide city streets that connect the centre to its more outer areas. This means the altitude difference is lower and the number of turns reduced. However, two things have remained the same throughout the years - the participants start and finish their running adventure at the Slovenian parliament with its the altitude of 298m.
The organisation is getting better every year despite the numerous challenges that come along with the increasing number of running devotees. The aim now is to make the Ljubljana Marathon one of the largest in Europe. Organisers say this will involve attracting a greater number of good foreign competitors and making the Marathon more representative and prominent by organising more accompanying events.
Plans for 2010
First, though, there's this year's event to take care of - the 2010 Ljubljana Marathon will take place on 23 and 24 October. It will begin with short runs for children on Saturday while the main events are going to take place the next day in the morning.
There's still time to get involved: the deadline for registration is 19 October. As of late September, 355 runners had already applied for "the big run", 1,005 for the 21k distance and 495 for the recreational run, coming from 35 different countries. Men dominate in the first two categories, while women take the lead in the 10k race.The participation fee for the marathon and half marathon is EUR 35, with EUR 30 fee for the recreational ten kilometre race. That includes a time-measuring chip, refreshments along the way, a food package at the finishing line and in case of the two long runs also a memorial medal. And of course the fastest runners also receive money prizes. This is definitely one event though where the winning is less important than the taking part. Whether as a runner or a spectator, there is no better event to enjoy Slovenia's national pastime than the Ljubljana Marathon.