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Connoisseur's Guide · Europe · latvia · Riga ·

Nordea Riga Marathon

Author: Aigars Nords0 COMMENTS

Nordea Riga Marathon

Philosophy of running seems to have taken root into the minds of Latvians as well. Perhaps it is due to growing popularity of the Riga Marathon in the last years. Amazingly, but the 42 km race along the streets of Riga dates back for almost 20 years already. The very first marathon, organized by the Riga City Council, took place in 1991 and gathered a little over 700 participants, yet the race has outlasted a few scanty years as well, with just about 70 enthusiasts gathering at the start line. The politicians have finally reached a compromise and resolved that the race should take place mostly in the central part of the city. During these few hours, the face of the Latvian capital transforms beyond recognition. After all, not hiding in suburbs, but revealing the most beautiful spots of the city is the essence of a metropolitan marathon!
The Riga Marathon has grown to be the largest one among the Baltic States, drawing more than 8.5 thousand participants in May 2009. Like elsewhere in the world, the city traffic is shut down during the race, and the otherwise jam-packed Cable Bridge (Vanšu tilts) over Daugava River is totally deserted. Stillness enfolds the main artery of the city, the only sounds being some music in the distance, runners' steps and heavy breathing just next to you. Nothing else aside that - just silence! Preparation for the race starts several weeks ahead, when those, who feel a little hesitant about their strength can join collective trainings that take place on Saturdays prior to the race in Mežaparks area. Little by little, the force of attraction and curiosity that bring together thousands of beginners overwhelm you, letting to discover that running is a huge source of joy and fun. It gives such an amazing abundance of positive emotions!
On the day of the race, people start flowing in the direction of the 11 Novembra Krastmala (Embankment of 11th of November) already early in the morning. The start signal releases a massive stream of runners, and almost 20 minutes elapse before the last participant hits the course. Six thousand runners participate in a mini-marathon or a so called "fun run" distance of 5km. You can feel the crowd surging up and down in the same rhythm as people literally flood across the bridge! Although Riga cannot measure up to the artistic displays of Marathon du Médoc yet, there are some very attractive runners as well - ladies in wedding gowns, guys in circus outfits, girls wearing pink rabbit ears, moms with prams (the youngest participant was not even a year old perhaps), few Venice masks, a local Chuck Norris look-alike, a huge and colorful Chinese dragon, basketball mascots, bartenders and characters from the Roman Empire. The popular Latvian band Brain Storm, Commercial TV operator LNT, Latvian Radio and almost the entire Symphonic Orchestra, participant of the Olympic Games, popular hockey and football players, local luminaries, those who wish to see and be seen, friends and teams of coworkers. Everyone runs and smiles. If strength starts to wane, walk a little, and then run again, getting closer to the finish at the Arena Riga. The 5 km distance ends at the same finish lines as the full marathon. Its course leads the professional and semiprofessional runners through Ķīpsala and the streets of the quiet centre of Riga (Elizabetes, Hanzas, Pulkveža Brieža, etc.). It's almost like an Art Nouveau themed tour! Orchestras, groups of musicians and deejays perform at the start, the finish and along the course as well, while funs encourage the runners during the whole race. The Riga Marathon comprises also a half marathon, a relay race and a so called Unity Kilometer, sponsored by the British Embassy in Riga. People with diverse special needs, not only wheelchair users, are welcome to participate, and its start is the opening signal for the whole event.
A marathon Expo takes place 3 days before the race, and participants can get their race numbers and timing chips there. It features professional marathon clothing and exudes the special marathon atmosphere. The traditional pasta party, held on the night before the race, is for everyone to feast and get in the mood for the coming day. It's particularly popular among foreign participants, coming to Riga with their families and a bunch of supporters, and entry tickets for this event have to be purchase in advance.
One may ask: what's the gain from it all? Of course, there is a certain prize fund, split among the fastest and the most attractive ones, yet anyone who crosses the finish line receives a special finisher's medal and above all that, loads of positive emotions!
The Riga Marathon takes place on the 3rd Sunday of May, more information on the website:

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