Although Marg and I were disappointed to miss out on visiting some of the historic places in the Jewish Quarter, we were heartened to note that just a couple of blocks away athletes were gathering for an important running event. We decided to czech it out.
To our delight, we had stumbled upon the Prague Half-Marathon, a prestigious international event on the running calendar. It had drawn thousands of entrants, including some of the best distance runners in the world. I haven’t been to an event like this before, but some runners were already out on the course when we arrived, and we watched thousands of others mill around for a 10am start.
Helicopters and TV cameras were covering the event, and all the streets were lined with spectators. The course took the runners past many beautiful sights under sunny blue skies in this magical Eastern European city. How lucky were we to witness this.
We stationed ourselves on the end of the bridge near the finish line and were entertained by the hypnotic rhythms of a very energetic drum band. Every runner was applauded and cheered on as he or she passed us. A huge screen broadcast vision of the lead runners – a group of Kenyans – and a very enthusiastic commentator kept us all informed of what was happening over the PA (it was all in Czech language, but from his tone it was clear that an exciting close finish was imminent).
I moved to a spot a few metres from the finish line and managed to get shots of the first four Kenyan male runners as they finished. They had been tightly grouped together in a bunch just moments earlier. The winner, Benard Kimeli, made it two wins in a row, finishing in 59.05 minutes. He won a Volkswagen Touareg for his efforts.
We were fortunate to be in Prague on such a beautiful day to see world class athletes competing.
As a very young boy growing up in Yorkshire, there were a plethora of brilliant English middle distance, and long distance runners. Amongst the best were Chris Chataway, Gordon Pirie, and of course Roger Bannister. I was also fully aware that over in Czechoslovakia there was an amazing runner living in Prague, who was an officer in the Czech army called Emile Zatopek.
He is best known to me & thousands of English school kids for winning three gold medals at the 1952 Summer Olympics in Helsinki. He won gold in the 5,000 metres and 10,000 metres runs, but his final medal came when he decided at the last minute to compete in the first marathon of his life.
Seeing your pictures from Prague and the half marathon, took me back to how powerful the image I still have of the Czech athlete Emile Zatopek and how he dominated the 5 the 10 and the marathon during the early to late fifties.
What is it Gaz with Kenyan runners? The altitude work or the chance for improved prosperity. Both? Nice report.
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I think it is the altitude, the tradition and the genetics, Gaz. I’m not sure if the Olympic victories of the past would have brought much in the way of prosperity, but it’s good to see them being rewarded now for their efforts.