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Features Pardubice Wine Half Marathon

04 May 2016, 3pm

The flat Pardubice course takes runners on a tour around all the town’s historical monuments

Through the green gate

Pardubice Wine Half Marathon
Sat 16 April 2016

Pardubice is a regional capital of the southern part of East Bohemia built on both banks of the River Elbe river 100km east of Prague. With about 90,000 inhabitants it is the second-largest city in East Bohemia.

The Pardubice Wine Half Marathon has more than 20 years of tradition behind it and is fast becoming a full-blown sporting festival. The main race became the Czech national championship in 2009 and will remain so until at least 2017.

The first target was to attract as many people as possible to the race – of all ages and every level of ability. The top Czech runners regularly participate but also people who just enjoy their sport. To appeal to a wider range of runners a 7km run was set up to allow everyone to run through the beautiful historical town of Pardubice. They can enjoy the atmosphere of the race and enjoy the same crowd encouragement urging them to better individual times. The Pardubice course helps in this because it is flat and takes runners on a tour around all the town’s historical monuments: the iconic Green Gate, the East Bohemian Theatre, St. Bartholomew´s Church. The home straight is along town’s main street called the Avenue of Peace.

A recent addition to the festival has been the ‘Commons Run’ aimed at children and young adults. It proved popular from the start and now attracts over 1000 participants. The happiness they draw from it is a beautiful start to the sporting day and the experience stays with them thanks to quality souvenir medals. The Sports festival includes other sorts of races: in-line skates, kick scooters, hand-cranked wheelchairs and tandems which can reach speeds of up to 80km/h.

The race is gaining popularity because of its family appeal and the entry fees are kept low. In the finish area refreshments include Czech beef goulash with locally-brewed beer, Czech pie with good coffee and fruit. Feeding runners has been part of the race’s tradition from the outset.

But it is the beautiful town of Pardubice which creates the atmosphere. Czech runners testify to this by repeatedly voting Pardubice among the top races in the Czech Republic. The City of Pardubice also appreciates the race and rates it as one of the most important events of the region, alongside the Pardubice steeplechase or the ‘Gold Helmet’ speedway motorcycle race. Foreign runners who discover the race like it so much that much that they keep coming back. They spend many days here; Prague is only an hour away by train or car.

It was the train that led to the rapid growth of the town in the 19th century, when Jan Perner built the railway from Olomouc to Prague in 1845. Pardubice became part of the Pan-European network.

Pardubice developed into a major industrial centre in the first half of 20th century known for its petroleum refineries and the factory Explosia where the plastic explosive Semtex was created. On the other hand the town is also famed for making gingerbread and pastry – which are highly appreciated by the runners.

Tasting and buying gingerbread after the run adds to the post-race atmosphere, along with performances by professional artists, bands playing throughout the day.

The surrounding area is also worth exploring for its rich history: it was first mentioned in connection with a new monastery built by the crusaders in 1295. Later, Arnost of Pardubice, the first Archbishop of Prague and advisor to the Czech king and Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV, turned the village around the castle into a prosperous town. In 1491 the Castle was bought by William of Pernstejn who greatly expanded the town: the Gothic castle was rebuilt into a magnificent Renaissance chateau which still stands.
His descendants, Lords of Pernstejn, continued his work and built the Renaissance square and the Green Gate as the dominant feature of the whole city. In 1874, the first steeple-chase cross country race Velka Pardubicka took place and has now become one of the most prestigious horse races in Europe.

One of the town’s most famous sons was the constructor and aviator Jan Kaspar who in 1911 became the first pilot to fly the 100km from Pardubice to Prague. In doing so he brought fame to the Czech tradition of aeronautics. It was a tradition that was continued through the Tesla (now Foxxcom) factory which produced the Tamara and VERA passive sensors, able to detect stealth aircraft. Many of today’s national hockey players, natives of Pardubice, are international stars including Dominik “The Dominator” Hasek, Milan Hejduk and Otakar Janecky.

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