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Features Vodafone İstanbul Half Marathon

19 May 2016, 1pm

An opportunity to lose yourself in one of the most pulsating cities of the world

How to run a country

by Christopher Gooding

Vodafone İstanbul Half Marathon
Sun 24 April 2016

In recent months Istanbul may have appeared as a somewhat of a tumultuous place to outside observers but behind the media headlines is a wonderfully vibrant and ancient city. For a few special days every year the city unites to showcase its beauty and mystifying history while offering the finest hospitality one could ever imagine. The occasion can best be appreciated by an adventurous sportsperson.

On 23 April each year Turkey marks the first gathering of the Grand National Assembly (what would later become known as the Turkish Parliament) which took place on 23 April 1920. ‘National Sovereignty and Children’s Day’ as it is now known commemorates the fall of the Ottoman Empire following World War I and the country’s step towards building a new country.

On this day the founder of the Turkish Republic, Mustafa Kemel Ataturk, dedicated the new state to the children of Turkey. As a result on 23 April every year children sit in as the representatives of parliament in a demonstration of the country’s commitment to their future. The Vodafone Istanbul Half Marathon, offspring of the Vodafone Istanbul Marathon held each November, is an integral part of this important National Holiday weekend. It shares the spotlight with many national sporting events taking place at the same time as a sign of accord and peace throughout the country.

Offering ideal racing conditions the Half Marathon has quickly become known as one of the flattest and fastest half marathon courses in the world. In this year’s edition more than 5000 entrants were treated to a beautifully scenic stroll along the shores of the Sea of Marmara. A new start and finish section of the course winds around the famous Golden Horn and affords racers spectacular views of where the Bosphorus and the Sea of Marmara meet and the European and Asian sides of the city face each other across the water.

The Golden Horn offers a very flat course which in this otherwise very hilly city can be hard to find. It was one of the original ports of the post-Roman world. Vistas of the Golden Horn have been depicted in countless works of art and the Horn is now home to a thriving resurgence of wildlife, local fish and flora. It also accommodates the Turkish Navy and the area is a very popular tourist location visited by more than 10 million travelers annually.

There is no better indication of unity and emphasis on the importance of the weekend for the people of Turkey than the words used to welcome runners to the event by current Mayor of Istanbul, Dr. Kadir Topbas. His address to the city and international visitors shows the country’s commitment to its future and the future of all who travel its streets.

“I welcome you all: runners, accompanying persons and supporters, to Istanbul. I believe your experience in our city will be memorable as well as enjoyable.

“Raising levels of physical activity is a key ambition for our city. We operate many sports facilities and organise several sporting events throughout the year, of which one is the Istanbul Marathon. The Istanbul Half Marathon is another step taken to motivate and inspire people to take part in physical activity. We hope more and more people will start running and training in order to participate in this event.

“I am also pleased that İstanbul offers a new challenge for runners from all over the world. I am sure many will achieve their personal best times on the flat and fast course of the Istanbul Half Marathon. Our experienced organising team offers you a world-class event.

“Whether you run the İstanbul Half Marathon to win a prize, to finish in a good time or just for fun, I wish you every success. I hope it will be an enjoyable and rewarding day for all involved, and I will see you all at the start and finish lines.”

Aside from the Half Marathon and the beauty of the Golden Horn is the beauty of the city itself. What can be seen in only a few short days constitutes a journey back in time. A brief running tour of the city can be a very exciting opportunity for someone to relive and experience a world from long ago that has been so well preserved in the city of Istanbul. A more conventional half-day tour can take you to one of the Seven Wonders of the Middle Ages: Hagia Sophia, one of the oldest Orthodox Christian churches in the world which became converted into a Mosque by the Ottoman Turks until the building of the famed Blue Mosque just alongside it. The Sultan Ahmed Mosque, better known as the Blue Mosque (for the blue tiles that adorn the walls) is another awe-inspiring site. A walk from the Mosque towards the old “walled city of Istanbul’ leads you to The Grand Bazaar, one of the oldest and most famous bazaars in the world. It receives more than 300,000 visitors daily and was ranked as one of the world’s most visited places with upwards of 92,000,000 visitors annually.

Istanbul is nothing short of a magical city that is well worth the visit. The Istanbul Half Marathon and The National Day of Sovereignty weekend offer a wonderful opportunity to lose yourself in one of the most moving, pulsating and energetic cities in the world.

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