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Running into history Türkiye İş Bankası İstanbul Marathon

02 October 2013, 7am

The Vodafone Istanbul Eurasia Marathon will be held for the 35th time on Sunday 17 November 2013. It has been organized by the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality since 1979. It is the only course in the world where the marathon straddles two continents, Asia and Europe.

Connecting continents

by Alpaslan Baki Ertekin

The marathon starts on the Asian side of the city, shortly before crossing the original Bosphorus Bridge. The crossing, starting in the very first kilometre, gives runners an outstanding view of the Bosphorus and Istanbul. The route goes on to pass many historic sites including the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia, before ending in front of Dolmabahce on the European side. The race in fact crosses two bridges: the one over the Bosporus and another over the Golden Horn.

The Eurasia Marathon is the outcome of hope and enthusiastic commitment. The original intention was simply to organise a marathon event but, being a unique city in terms of history and geography, Istanbul deserved a unique marathon. In 1978 city officials learned that a group of German tourists were planning to visit Istanbul the following year, with the aim of running a marathon. They had done this in several countries, the most recent having been the Nile Marathon in Egypt. The Eurasia Marathon project grew from this initial approach. Over the entire period that the race has been held, since day one, one of the most important themes has been to encourage friendship and peace.

A course was designed which would showcase some of Istanbul’s greatest sights without disrupting the city’s traffic circulation too seriously. Elite Turkish runners were also invited to participate in the event. In that first race 34 runners from the 74-person tourist group gathered at the start on that historical day. The Bosphorous Bridge witnessed a marathon for the first time in its history, as runners crossed from Asia to Europe just 700m into the race. The inaugural Eurasia Marathon was won by Hasan Saylan, a Turkish athlete from the city of Zonguldak, in a time of 2:35:39.

The race route has changed three times over the years, so winning times cannot be directly compared between the respective periods. Well-known athletes such as Ian Thompson and Terry Mitchell participated in the early editions of the Eurasia Marathon, which also became a testing ground for Turkish athletes, many of whom went on to run at international championships.

Single-use chip timing was introduced for the first time in 2006, for both the Marathon and the supporting 15km event. Without this type of chip, timekeeping would have been impossible for the numbers that the race was starting to attract.

The finish line was shifted from Besiktas to Sultanahmet (the Blue Mosque) in order to bring the drop in elevation to within record-eligible levels, but also to take advantage of a more recognisable and impressive historical backdrop.

The race added an expo from 2008 which provided a further focus for runners. Multiple world record holder Haile Gebrselassie is among the guests it has attracted.

Online registration started in 2009 and the Eurasia Marathon immediately set a new record for registrations, with 7,630 runners from 71 countries. Participation in the mass run reached a record 20.000 people in 2010.

Over the years the Intercontinental İstanbul Eurasia Marathon has risen to take its place among the world’s leading marathons. It achieved “silver” status when the IAAF labelling system was devised, and progressed to become a “gold label” event from the 34th edition in 2012.

The 34th edition was a milestone event, named the “Vodafone İstanbul Eurasia Marathon” to recognise the title sponsor. Participation grew to 13.006 runners registered from 88 countries. The 35th edition of the race will surely attract even more.

To register for the marathon, participants must be 18 years of age or older on the race day. The three race distances available to both men and women are: marathon, 15km and 10km. There is also a special category for disabled participants. 30 September is the deadline for online registrations at:

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