Bratislava – the major city marathon with a personal touch

When you think of Bratislava what’s the first thing that pops into your head? Maybe that it’s the capital of Slovakia, or that it sits on the famous Danube River. Maybe you know that it is situated to the east of central Europe and borders Austria and Hungary.  You might also know of its picturesque, pedestrianized old town, overlooked by Bratislava Castle.

You might not know, but you could probably guess, that like most major European cities it boasts an impressive marathon. Despite a population of just 500,000, the ČSOB Bratislava Marathon is certified as a five star race by European Athletics Running for All.

With a full programme from marathon down to a five metre race for toddlers, the Bratislava Marathon usually benefits from the rapidly improving spring weather, as it takes place on the first weekend in April. 

Despite the promise of good weather, the race organisers can’t control it, but one thing they can control is the athlete experience. The organisers aim to look after each and every runner from the moment they first show an interest. From online registration, to picking up their race pack, and from refreshments on the course to receiving their medals, excellent service with a smile is what the ČSOB Bratislava Marathon team try to provide. What’s more, they promise a memorable experience for just 42 euros.

As you’d expect, this provides a brilliant race atmosphere, and Race Director Jozef Pukalovič loves the buzz it creates.

“Bratislava is a small but beautiful city, and everything is within walking distance, so the whole marathon centre is accessible on foot no matter where you are staying or coming from. What’s more, my whole team don’t save a single smile during marathon weekend, so I believe our biggest selling point is our friendly, lively atmosphere.” 

On Saturday 2 April there is the aforementioned toddlers run, a kids run, a mini-marathon one tenth the length of the main race, and a 10km run. The following day some 1,000 marathon runners are expected to take to the streets, along with those tackling the half marathon and the four person half marathon relay. All in all over 10,000 runners will compete over the course of the weekend, and with seven races on offer, there really is something for everyone.

So what about the race’s history?

“We started in 2006 with just 761 runners and over the last 10 years we’ve developed ourselves into the biggest running event in Slovakia, and one of the biggest sporting events in Slovakia in general. Step by step we aim to keep improving, year on year.”

Last year the race celebrated its 10th anniversary, an important landmark for any race. With more than 1,000 runners in the marathon and over 10,000 runners competing across the marathon weekend, the race has set a new benchmark that it’ll be aiming to surpass once again this year.

Despite the extensive programme already in place, 2016 will also see the introduction of a handbike race, whilst Pukalovič is also keen to increase the number of foreign runners taking part, whom made up 21% of last year’s fields. In fact he hopes the Running for All standards will help him achieve that goal. 

“Being five star certified by European Athletics is a great honour for our event, which is still very young in marathon terms.

“It confirms the status of our marathon and has helped us to officially declare the organisational quality of our marathon; we’re really happy with it and appreciate this initiative that European Athletics have created.

“As a small Eastern European country, the standards have massively helped us to show not just local runners, but those from Western Europe, that here in Bratislava we’ve organised an event that’s as good as any other marathon in Europe.”

The European Athletics Quality Road Race standards act as an assurance for road runners throughout Europe. They distinguish between races that respect the standards and those that haven’t sought certification or assessment. They form the foundation of Running for All, a strong recognisable brand for running activities throughout Europe.

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