I expected blue. In reality, it was a muddy brown. Nonetheless, I was thrilled to be running beside this great European river. I have always loved the famous waltz composed in 1866 by Johann Strauss. The life and beauty of the music match the vitality of activity on and around the Danube as it flows through Budapest.
This city is the unofficial running capital of Europe. Three large annual running events draw international participants to explore the historic and vibrant capital of Hungary. The huge number of runners necessitates separate dates for the full and half. Eight bridges span the Danube, linking Buda and Pest. Whatever race you choose you will traverse a few of those and pass by the Hungarian Parliament Building, Europe’s third largest, on the Pest shore. Then look up at the magnificent Buda Castle across the river.
It is an amazing experience to run across the majestic Chain Bridge. The name signified the iron chains on which the roadbed hung. At the time of its construction, it was the second largest suspension bridge in the world. When it was opened to traffic in 1849, it was only the second permanent crossing on the 2860 KM Danube. Admire the two imposing lion sculptures at the Buda end of the span. In WW II retreating German troops blew up all the Budapest bridges but the Chain Bridge pillars and lions survived.
3 Travel Tips:
- Currency – Hungary does not use the Euro. $5 Canadian can get you more than 1,000 Florints (FT). On my first visit, I recall withdrawing cash at the ATM and thinking I was now very wealthy when I counted what the bank machine spit out. A bystander noticed my astonishment and said, while I might think I have enough money to skip the car rental desk and go straight to a new car dealership, in reality, I might be able to buy a light lunch.
- Subway – Budapest was the first city in Continental Europe to build a metro. The oldest segment, Line 1, runs under Andrassay Avenue and is worth riding just to experience the sense of history and engineering. I was surprised by the shallow depth and low ceilings.
- ‘Hop On, Hop off’ – There is much to see and do in Budapest. I recommend using this tour bus option, riding the entire circuit to first see the city and listen to the commentary. Then plan your stops for the next loop, going to the places which captured your interest. You will appreciate minimizing the walking distance if you do this the day after your race.
2 Running Tips:
- If you arrive a few days in advance of the race, enjoy an easy training run around Margaret Island. This is a unique place of fountains, pools and thermal spas, the ruins of a 13th-century Convent, a zoo, live music, walkways, and a running track around the island.
- Try and stay near the start/finish area of City Park and Heroes’ Square. It was helpful to be able to walk to the start and not mess with public transit or search for parking. Our hotel was also within walking distance of the famous Szechenyi Therme. The many indoor and outdoor pools, of various temperatures, were welcome post-race therapy. Yes, we did see the classic scene of old men playing chess in the pool as the steam rose around them.
Why run in Budapest?
Catch the energy generated by the vast field of runners. See the historic architecture of a great European city. Take in the magical vistas of the Danube. Enjoy Hungarian hospitality and cuisine. Be assured of a safe and well-organized event. The flat and fast course may help attain a personal best.
Interested in Running in Budapest?
The April Spring Half Marathon can draw up to 30,000 runners. The three main events include – 5 K (5,000); 10 K (6,000); Half (9,000)
The September Half (15,000) for 2018 September 9
The October Marathon (15,000) for 2018, October 7
Doug Johns of Creston, BC started distance running at age 60. He has worked, traveled and run internationally.