Tuesday, May 25, 1999

TR Czech Republic

Trip Report
Czech Republic
5/21 – 5/2/24/99


Prague Marathon
Prague, Czech Republic
Sun, May 23/99
Marathon # 133 – Country # 11

 I had been living in England for one month and had been training and running short races with the Bishops Stortford Running Club but I had not run a marathon since my ‘burnout’ in Mexico in Nov/98. It was time to find out if I could go the distance?

 I picked the Prague Marathon since it was a big, popular race in Europe and had a website that made it easy to find and register. Nicole and I decided to go to Prague for a long weekend to run the marathon and play tourist. We arrived on Fri so we would have time to explore the city before the race. We took a tour to enjoy all the tourist sites starting with Old Town. The center of the Old Town, appropriately named Old Town Square, has served as Prague’s main marketplace for over 1000 years. The square is home to most of the major sights, including the city’s famous Astronomical Clock that is part of the Old Town Hall. Old Town's ancient town hall (Staroměstská radnice) was established in 1338 after the agreement of King John of Luxemburg to set up a town council. Several old houses had to be knocked together over the centuries as the Old Town Hall expanded. A Gothic chapel and a neo-Gothic north wing were destroyed by the Nazis in spring 1945. The chapel has been reconstructed. The most popular part of the tower is the Town Hall Clock (Orloj). Originally installed in 1410, the clock was rebuilt by the Master Hanuš in 1490. It consists of three parts – the procession of Apostles, the astronomical clock and the calendar. The main attraction is the hourly procession of the 12 Apostles. The height of the tower is 69.5 m and it offers a great view of the city.

Then we walked across the Charles Bridge.  The Charles Bridge (Karlův most), named after the Emperor Charles IV in 19th century is Prague's most familiar monument. Designed by Petr Parler, it was completed in 1400 and it connects the Lesser Town with the Old Town. Although it is now pedestrianized, it withstood wheeled traffic for 600 years. There are thirty statues on the bridge, many of them have been replaced with copies. Originals are kept in the Lapidarian of the National Museum and at Vyšehrad. The magnificent Gothic Old Town Bridge Tower was designed by Petr Parler and built at the end of the 14th century. It is considered the finest Gothic tower in central Europe, mainly for its decoration. There are marvelous views of the Vltava River Valley, the Žofín, Střelecký Island, the Old Town and the Lesser Town.

 Next was the Prague Castle. It is the largest ancient castle in the world (570 m long, on average 128 m wide, area 7.28 hectares). Constructed in the 9th century by Prince Bořivoj, the castle transformed itself from a wooden fortress surrounded by earthen bulwarks to the imposing form it has today. Rulers made their own additions so there is a mixture of styles. Prague castle has had four major reconstructions, but it keeps its classical facelift it took on in the 18 century during the reign of Maria Theresa.
The castle has three courtyards and it has always been the seat of Czech rulers as well as the official residence.

And of course there always has to be a church. St Vitrus Cathedral might appear ancient, but much of Prague's principal cathedral was completed just in time for its belated consecration in 1929. Its many treasures include the 14th-century mosaic of the Last Judgement above the Golden Gate, the baroque silver tomb of St John of Nepomuck, the ornate Chapel of St Wenceslas, and art nouveau stained glass by Alfons Mucha.

We concluded the tour back in Old Town Square (Starometske namesti) for dinner and drinks. Hotels in Prague were expensive but meals and beer were cheap!

Sun was ‘M’ –day! I wasn’t sure what to expect from my old ‘rested’ body? My longest training run had been 18 miles and I had no confidence that I was in marathon shape. The course started and finished in Old Town Square and crossed the Vltava River many times. Shortly after the start we passed many of the city’s tourist sites. We ran along the Vltava River beneath the seemingly never-ending hilltop castle, and crossed over the historic Charles Bridge, dotted every few meters with its parade of haunting Baroque statues. In the race’s first two miles alone, we crossed the Vltava River no fewer than three times, over three bridges, each one presenting an expansive view of the city that stands physically and historically in the center of Europe.
I wisely started slow and was happy when I reached 10Km in 55:58 and a split of 5:25.

Around the eight-mile mark we ran through the city center, getting lost in the knotty turns of the Old Town’s narrow cobblestone streets lined with tightly packed Gothic houses that date to medieval times. Along Na Prikope Street we passed Wenceslas Square, the walkway and boulevard that is the site of almost every important moment of Czech modern history, including the country’s declaration of independence in 1918, the Nazi invasion in 1939 and the popular demonstrations of the Velvet Revolution in 1989. I passed 15 Km in 1:22:34 and a split of 5:21/Km and the half in 1:54:43 and a split of 5:23. That was really slow and I felt good so I decided to lower the pace for the 2nd Half.

I passed the National Theatre near 32Km and reached 35 Km in 3:07:19 and a split of 5:03 and pushed the pace lower again to cross the finish line in the Old Town Square in 3:43:31. My finish time wasn’t great but I was happy. I did not experience any problems and I ran a negative split in the 2nd Half by seven minutes. Maddog was back! I had completed marathon #133 and country # 11. It was my first marathon and country since moving to England. I knew it would not be my last!

After a hot shower Nicole and I wandered around Old Town Square enjoying the sights and a few beers before we treated ourselves to a fantastic dinner with a bottle of wine for less than $50!

When we returned home to England I sent an email to my family and friends to tell them about the marathon and our wonderful trip to Prague. And a great idea stuck me? If I was going to travel and run marathons around Europe I should write race/trip reports after each race so that I could keep my family and friends informed. Yes – that was a good idea! I would start after the next marathon!

That was one of the best decisions I ever made. Without those trip reports that recorded my thoughts, observations and race statistics there is no way I could possibly contemplate writing a book about Maddog’s marathon adventures! (Believe me - it was not easy going back and writing this report 16 years later. But it was needed for the book!)






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