Marathons of Vladivostok

  • Photo: Julia Nikitina, Running club "RunDnsRun"
  • Text: Evgeny Pozdeev, Konstantin Vasilyev

Vladivostok is made for running. That might seem a debatable assertion given its topography and high humidity; we will try to show with concrete examples that this city by the sea consistently organizes races and marathons of varying degrees of athleticism and carries them out successfully every year.

Marathon is a track and field discipline — a race over a distance of 42 kilometers and 195 meters (26 miles 385 yards). The world’s leading competitions of this form are conducted under the auspices and rules developed by the Association of International Marathons and Distance Races; as appropriate in most cases, it employs a traditional distance of 42 km.

About 800 marathon races are held throughout the world each year — 50 of them in Russia. Marathons in Boston, New York, Chicago, London, Tokyo and Berlin are the most popular and prestigious. They are included in the World Marathon Majors series and have a so-called Gold label. (There are also Silver and Bronze labels.)

To say that Vladivostok does not stand aloof from the marathon movement is putting it mildly — it runs in the forefront, and even has a racing tradition already established here.

"Bridges of Vladivostok"

Despite the name, all three large bridges in Vladivostok are as closed as ever — not only for runners but for all pedestrian traffic. The route of the first "Bridges" race in 2015 ran through the scenic beauty of Russian Island. The wide road on the island is actually quite comfortable for running. And although there are ascents and descents here too (where could one go to be without them?) to run along smooth green fields with views of cliffs and the sea is still much nicer than in the concrete jungle of the city center.

The maximum length of 21 kilometers is exactly half of a marathon, but we can restrict ourselves to smaller distances. To accommodate people with varying levels of preparation, motivation, and endurance — there are three different distances: 5, 10 and 21 km with a general finish area on the territory of Far Eastern Federal University campus.

In the future, organizers promise to add the other half of the distance to make it an authentic marathon of 42.2 km., which would give hope for attracting a greater number of participants from other Russian cities and Asia-Pacific countries.

Timing of Event: September

"Green Marathon"

It is not the first, and certainly not the last, year that the seaside capital takes part in the All-Russia "Green Marathon" — held, according to organizers, to promote sport among the masses, along with healthy lifestyles, Olympic values, and formation of a responsible approach to the environment. Incidentally, the event was included in the program "A Billion Trees" — helping to implement UNEP (the United Nations Environment Program).

In Vladivostok, the "Green Marathon" starts on the central square and runs along the main street — Svetlanskaya. The marathon gathers from one to three thousand people, nearly half of whom resolved to challenge themselves by taking part in the competition. Interestingly, the length is not a classic 42 kilometers, but the symbolic distance of 4.2 km, so even small children are permitted to race.

The race itself is central, but it is only part of the overall event. Organizers always arrange a colorful show for spectators and participants, which is particularly pleasant to visit on a fine summer day. In addition to the sports component, "Green Marathon" has a social function — everyone who attends has an opportunity to contribute to the improvement of the city.

Timing of Event: June

"Vladivostok Ice Run"

Running in Vladivostok can happen not only along country lanes or paved roads. As practice demonstrates, in the winter it can also be on the ice. And it’s not just a jaunt or dash of enthusiasts to Skrebtsova Island (also known as gingerbread), but quite a real marathon, with even prize money for the winners. For example, the half-marathon "Ice Run" — an annual international running festival that takes place on the frozen waters around the city and Russian Island.

Here, as with the "Bridge" run, you can choose one of three distances: 5 km, 10 km and 21 km. For beginners it will probably be enough to try out the five-kilometer race; however, experienced athletes are offered an interesting track that utilizes a MYLAPS timing system for a professionally organized race. The ice marathon course is not easy to negotiate and has a myriad of influences — the winter sun, wind, and in places hostile soft spots that seem to suck in the feet of snow runners. It is important not simply to go the distance, but also to register at the turn-around points, and not to lose the personal timing chip system fastened to the shirtfront with a marathoner’s individual number.

At the finish line, even those who did not come in with the first group will receive a commemorative medal. Moreover, winners can expect honor, recognition and… a considerable amount of money — the prize fund is very enticing.

Timing of Event: February

"Race of Heroes"

Few would call the traditional marathon of 42 km an easy distance. In comparison, 5 km is almost nothing. Except… if it’s the "Race of Heroes" — already known throughout the country as an army obstacle-course race.

In and of itself, the "Race of Heroes" is an all-Russia commercial project that forces participants to think about a healthy lifestyle; at the same time, it also raises morale and popularizes the military. Organizers select appropriate venues — for example, the Marine Corps training ground near Gornostay Bay.

Over two summer weekends, happy holders of "race" tickets get a chance to run through an obstacle course in a "platoon" and challenge themselves in tests of physical and psychological strength. Among the hazards are crossing trenches on rings and crossbars, mesh walls, ditches with barbed wire, jumping from a height of four meters into water, and even a real Pacific Fleet ship landing.

Timing of Event: July

"Running the World"

"Running the World" is an international torch relay. Participants pass a torch from hand to hand in the Olympic style as a symbol of goodwill. Your age and level of preparation do not matter — if you share the principles of friendship, mutual understanding, harmony and unity, you can become a member of the global movement. It is enough to carry the torch a few meters or even just hold it in your hands. If you are a fan of selfies, this is a good occasion to convey greetings from Vladivostok to the rest of the world.

Vladivostok and Primorye have been joining the goodwill relay since 1995. The end of the route passes through Ussuriisk, Spassk-Dalniy, Kirovka, Dalnerechensk, and Luchegorsk; its total length is 580 km. The Primorskiy capital is the starting point of the Eastern branch. According to the organizer’s plan, Russian Eastern-branch runners will meet up with teams from China, Mongolia and Kazakhstan to accept the torch from the Asia-Pacific regional team.

Timing of Event: July

It is worth noting that in Primorye the routes of various races, marathons, and competitions are not limited to Vladivostok alone. Outside the Kray capital, regular events are held, such as ski marathons in Arsenyev and Spassky, where lovers of winter sports from around the region gather. Standing apart is a "sky running" competition (a course over rough mountain terrain), traditionally called "Obgonyalki", which takes place in Shkotovsky district several times a year.

Still, Vladivostok very likely remains the most comfortable place in Primorye for running due in no small part to the diversity of its topography. There are stadiums with smooth level tracks, as well as sharp variations in elevation, and long slightly angled slopes. Fresh sea breezes keep runners from overheating and the mild subtropical climate almost eliminates strong temperature changes.

Come to Vladivostok!

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