04 April 2022, 2pm
23rd International WACHAUmarathon
Sun 25 September 2022
Every September around 9000 runners converge in one of the most stunning natural and cultural landscapes of Europe to run the WACHAUmarathon. Located close to Vienna Wachau is an enchanting valley where the River Danube meanders past medieval villages nestling between terraced vineyards from which come wines of the highest quality. The region was declared a UNESCO world heritage site in 2000.
The WACHAUmarathon takes place every autumn. It is a magnificent blend of culture, history, nature and joyful competition. The flat course, which descends slightly with the river, makes it favourable for runners of all levels.
The marathon starts in the village of Emmersdorf where runners get a view of the majestic baroque monastery of Stift Melk before passing through several charming villages. After 20km they pass the village of Spitz on the north bank of the Danube where the half-marathon starts. Together with the runners from the quarter-marathon (Achleiten) they all pass the pretty medieval town of Dürnstein. According to legend King Richard I of England (Richard Lionheart) was imprisoned there in the year 1192.
Enthusiastic competitors rush off from the different start zones heading for Krems, the medieval capital of the region. Apart from the marathon and half-marathon a quarter-marathon and a nordic walking event are also offered. The full distance can also be run as a relay consisting of 2, 3 or 4 persons.
Transport to the starting zones is all part of the race experience. The logistics are a huge challenge for the organisers because there is only one road – and that’s the one on which the races are held. But for participants it is a benefit. When signing up runners choose which kind of transport they prefer: boat, train or bus. Any choice provides them with a unique experience. They can sit back and enjoy the natural splendours of the scenery while the organisation gets them where they need to be. The WACHAU region is approximately 80km west of Vienna and direct transport from Vienna is also offered.
The first WACHAUmarathon took place in 1998. The present organiser of the race, three-time Olympic runner Michael Buchleitner, won the first edition before taking it over as organiser 10 years later. Since then he has constantly worked on improvements including big efforts towards sustainability.
The numbers of participants has stabilised at around 8000-9000, coming from about 50 different countries. Most come from neighbouring countries like Germany, Hungary, Czech Republic and Slovakia but there are usually some competitors who travel from much further away.
The last race was held 2019. Due to the Covid19 pandemic it had to be cancelled in 2020 and 2021. “Last year big spring races changed their dates to late summer so there was an over-supply of running events in September with clear disadvantages for smaller and medium-sized runs“ explains race director Michael Buchleitner. “So this year we are more than ready to put all our energy into preparations for the 23rd International WACHAUmarathon“.
“The half-marathon is the mainstay of ordinary runners here in the WACHAU” says Buchleitner, “that’s why we like to draw attention to that distance.” To achieve top times Buchleitner recruits top international runners. In 2016, with perfect conditions, the Kenyan Peter Kirui was the first person to run under the hour in the half marathon (59:53). The 15-year old women’s record was broken in 2018 when Perendis Lekapana, also from Kenya, ran 1:09:21.