A Runner's Guide to the Oldest Marathon in Europe

The beautiful old theater building in the historic center of Kosice
The beautiful old theater building in the historic center of Kosice

Freelance Travel Writer

Europe’s oldest marathon, the Kosice Peace Marathon, is held in eastern Slovakia’s largest city annually in October. Originally organized in 1924, the marathon boasts a nine decade long history, with thousands of runners coming from all over the world every year. The course in Kosice was originally designed for the IAFF World Half Marathon Championship in 1997, and is exceptionally flat. If you decide to race in the 94th annual Kosice Peace Marathon, here are some of the highlights you can look forward to along the course, as well as other must-see’s and must-do’s during race weekend.

The start line

The Kosice Marathon begins and ends in the heart of the Stare Mesto, or Old Town. Runners follow the main street which cuts through the historic city center, admiring the State Theatre Building and the St. Elisabeth Cathedral, before making their way to a green park area by kilometer four. Parque Anička is the furthest north runners progress before heading back and looping around the city center to the southernmost part of the course near the university area of the city. Full marathon runners will then complete the entire course a second time, whereas half marathon runners will be finished after just one loop. Many athletes have recorded their personal best on this course, with the course record set by Kenyan runner Lawrence Kimwetich at two hours and seven minutes in 2012


The fans

Even if you travel to the Kosice Marathon alone, you’re sure to receive several high fives and experience a lot of local support along the course. Almost every third citizen lines up along the course route to clap and shout for the athletes. Families make an event out of it and parents watch and cheer with their kids. Hundreds of local citizens volunteer to help with the registration and the refreshment and sponging stations along the course, helping the race to operate smoothly year after year.


The Women Friendly Marathon and My First Marathon

The Women Friendly Marathon is an initiative to help women and girls fall in love with running. The program started five years ago to encourage women to train for and participate in the Kosice Marathon. Over the last three years, the number of women participating in any event during the Marathon weekend has increased by over 60%. Local women can participate in free regular training for the race beginning in April of each year. My First Marathon is also an initiative to provide support, advice, and training regimens to runners signed up to run their first marathon in Kosice.


The Mini Marathon

For families with children and beginner runners, the Kosice Marathon organizes a 4.2 kilometer mini marathon on race day. Participants can run with young children in strollers, and all ages can join the fun as long as they are accompanied by a parent (if under the age of 12). The Mini Marathon is a fun way to get the whole family involved and enjoy the sights of the Old Town while getting some exercise.

Run with Your Heart

The charity initiative organized by the Kosice Marathon is called Run with Your Heart. When runners donate money during their online registration, they will receive a symbolic heart on their bib and be entered into a lottery for free registration in 2018. Three different projects are represented with the Run with Your Heart Program. The Society for Children Oncology, an initiative which helps young patients suffering with cancer, Oaza, Hope for a New Life, an organization which helps homeless people re enter society and Athletic for Kids, a program which recruits children to play sports and helps these kids obtain the necessary equipment even though their parents might be unable to buy it.


The Nuit Blanche

On Saturday evening before the Marathon, the city of Kosice organizes the Nuit Blanche (or White Night) event which is a fabulous celebration of modern street art. Musical and light installations compliment the art on display from Slovak as well as international artists. The party in the street carries over into the many restaurants, pubs, and bars. Try carb loading before the race at Peppe’s Pizza and Pasta in the city center.

Peppe’s Pizza and Pasta, Mäsiarska 430/8, 040 01 Košice, Slovakia

Also in Kosice

Before or after the run, you’ll want to make some time to stop into some of Kosice’s best museums. Don’t miss the Eastern Slovak Gallery, one of the oldest and most important museums in Slovakia with 500,000 objects which inform visitors about the history and nature of eastern Slovakia. The only museum documenting the development of science and design in Slovakia can also be found in Kosice – the Slovak Technical Museum.

Eastern Slovak Gallery, Hlavná 110/27, 040 01 Staré Mesto, Slovakia

Slovak Technical Museum, Hlavná 88, 040 01 Staré Mesto, Slovakia


Getting there

Kosice has an international airport with service to Bratislava, Vienna, Prague, Ostrava, Warsaw, Istanbul, Cologne, Sheffield, London, and Tel Aviv. Train connections to surrounding countries are also easily available. Many people chose to come by car and spend some more days exploring the highlights of eastern Slovakia, including the Tokaj wine region, Spis Castle, the High Tatras, Slovak Paradise, and Slovakia’s many caves.


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