Association of International Marathons and Distance Races

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Running into history SPAR Budapest Marathon Festival

01 July 2015, 7am

In 1984 a few Hungarian sports organisers dreamed of staging a people’s marathon in Budapest. Today, the last decade has been one of continuous growth. Hungarians came to appreciate the marathon and foreign runners have begun to discover quite how gorgeous a course Budapest offers.

Budapest Marathon

The marathon under socialism: 1984–1988

Inauguration: 14 April 1984

In 1984, following some notably successful foreign examples, a few Hungarian sports organisers dreamed of staging a people’s marathon in Budapest. Marathons had been held in Hungary for decades but they only catered for limited fields of mainly professional runners. In the very first popular Budapest Marathon 625 male and 25 female runners finished the race, coming from 18 countries. The title sponsor, anticipating developments in the marathon market two or three decades into the future, was the state travel agency IBUSZ. A marathon programme, a participant’s T-shirt and complete results at the finish line were delivered from the beginning. Budapest Marathon joined AIMS in 1986, the first East European marathon to do so. Since 1987 everyone completing the marathon has received a finisher’s medal.

All for the run and the run for all

The organisers have attempted to create a running festival offering the chance of participating to those who are not yet ready for the full, glorious Marathon. There’s a wide variety of distances: 30km, 10km, relays, a fun run, a family run, and walking. Everyone who wants to run can find the distance appropriate for them. Race organisers expect to attract 30000 runners to this October’s 30th anniversary event.

Regime change: 1989-1995

In 1989 the Budapest Sportiroda (Budapest Sports Office), founded at the beginning of that year, became the organisers of the marathon for the first time and the race is still held under BSI direction. Runners came from 29 countries and the Guest of Honour was Fred Lebow, founder of the New York City Marathon. Lebow, who was born Fischel Lebowitz and lived his childhood years in Arad — a town in the Hungarian-speaking part of Romania, ran the half marathon.

In 1994 and 1995 there was a hiatus: the Marathon had not been organised at a sufficiently high level to attract adequate financial support. The city government showed no interest in helping and private companies in the emerging Hungarian marketplace were yet to discover the possibilities that sponsorship of the Budapest Marathon could offer. In 1996 the SPAR group stepped in smartly to become the title sponsor of the marathon. The relationship has developed as the event has grown and this highly successful partnership has now endured for 20 years.

Revival: 1996–2004

Since 1996 the half marathon has become a separate event held a month before the marathon and the date of both races has moved to autumn. Since 1998, following a suggestion by Fred Lebow, the City Park, next to Heroes Square, has become the start and finish area. A new era began in the history of the Budapest Marathon: one in which the quality of the services provided is improving year by year.

The Course: beautiful beyond compare

The Marathon route passes through designated World Heritage sites: runners pass over four Danube bridges, three of which are sights in themselves, and along the Danube embankments. These offer a vantage point from which runners can admire the Hungarian capital’s most beautiful sights.

Becoming big: 2005-2014

The last decade has been one of continuous growth. Hungarians came to appreciate the marathon and foreign runners have begun to discover quite how gorgeous a course Budapest offers. The number of participants is increasing rapidly.

Europe’s new favorite running city
In 2014 more than 7000 foreign runners and their families arrived in Budapest from 72 countries of the six continents

42195 metres of music

On the run in the Budapest Marathon runners have long been able to listen to different kinds of music throughout the length of the course. Classical musicians, folk musicians, drummers and rock bands energise participants at 35 music points.

See the latest news from SPAR Budapest Marathon Festival

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Distance Running

Official quarterly magazine of AIMS

Cover of 2020 Edition 4

Latest issue:
2020 Edition 4

Cover: Runners in the Moscow Half Marathon held on 2 August. Over 9500 runners finished along with nearly 2500 others in the supporting 5km event. Winners were Rinas Akhmadeev (1:04:24) and Elena Korobkina (1:10:29). Korobkina went on to win the 10km event held in association with the Absolute Moscow Marathon on 20 September in a time of 31:49. Around 9500 finished the Marathon along with another 12,000 in the 10km.

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