By Richard Slack
Marie and I between us have done The Great North Run (Marie five times and myself once) and Redcar (Richard) as half marathons. So with such vast experience we decided that we needed to enter a European city half marathon. Vienna was an easy choice for a number of reasons. The city is beautiful; the course is circular around the city; the route is predominantly flat and 25 years ago we had been to Vienna after we were engaged – what a romantic return! The half marathon is combined with the Vienna city marathon both setting off at 9am with a total entry of around 42,000 runners – and it is a run, no collection buckets, no fancy dress, just 42,000 people either running 13.1 miles or 26.2 miles.
The organisation of the event was excellent, and everything to do with the run was orderly and polite – even the crowds along the route – very Austrian, just right. The race numbers and timing chips were collected on the Saturday with proof of ID and race registration. We were up early on the Sunday morning and travelled to the start by U-bahn, which was located by the UN building at the Reichbruke bridge which crosses the Donau back towards the city. Getting there at 8am we expected already large crowds, but the build up was pretty gradual over the next hour so we were well towards the front of our allocated starting zones. Vienna uses six starting zones allocated by the times of your last half or full marathon and each zone is part of a staggered start. So despite the large numbers the course itself always felt no more congested than a Saturday parkrun on the town moor. This added to the enjoyment of the run immensely.
My plan was to target 1.45 by running four 25 minute park runs. The first 5km was over the bridge and then along through the Prater park past the Prater wheel before turning right towards the city. My first 5km and on track at 24.45 – although perhaps just a little fast and carried away with the start and running space. Thereafter the sun was shining and the temperature was rising into the low 20’s and my plan unraveled as my 5km splits drifted towards 26 minutes. Rather than chase the time I set a new goal of sub 1.50 and seeing how much under that I could achieve. The route followed the Donau canal into the city, along the opera ring (10km mark) before heading out towards Schonbrun palace (15km mark). The final 6km was on a slight descent towards the historic heart of the city at Heldenplatz – the square in front of the Hofsburg palace complete with victory arch – the finishing line. Maintaining a steady pace I was pleased with my time of 1.48.01 (a new PB) which takes me closer towards 1.45 for the future.
At the finish, normal post run water bottles, alcohol free beer (what nee proper beer like) and goody bag – although sadly no T shirts (these were sold separately). Beyond the finish area runners then milled around the Volkspark where in typical Viennese style I celebrated with a Bratwurst with Sauerkraut and a proper beer. Marie and I were staying at a hotel nearby so we had arranged just to meet back there. Like me, Marie enjoyed the run and the European air spurred her on to a half marathon PB of 2.11.28 celebrated with a Schnitzel sandwich and, of course, a beer.
A most excellent trip away combined with a half marathon and the start of a new Slack collection of annual European city events. Roll on next Easter! As for Vienna, we would both thoroughly recommend it is as both a half or full marathon. For a big event it is so well organized with a calm and friendly atmosphere in a stunning location and enjoyed by all.