Košice Peace Marathon is probably the most famous sports event in whole Slovakia. This marathon has a long tradition; in fact, it is the oldest peace marathon in Europe and the second oldest in the entire world (the oldest one is in Boston, USA). So, imagine once a year all the prominent athletes and runners from all around the globe gather in this small city they probably never even heard of before. Every first Sunday in October, Košice turns into a lively place full of the best runners and cheering crowds.
I am pretty sure that all of you know the mythological story about a Greek soldier who ran from the battlefield of Marathon to Athens, to announce a victory. The distance was approximately 40 kilometres, so the same length is used for a marathon race nowadays; 42.195 km to be precise. There are, of course, some doubts about the accuracy of the story and some say the original route had only 35 kilometres. Well, I guess we will never find out. The tradition of annual marathons was popularised in Greece in the 19th century, about the same time when modern Olympics began. Back then, women were not allowed to race, and women's marathon was introduced later, in 1984. Fortunately, nowadays, both men and women, and even a wheelchair division can attend a race, and the winner gets paid up to $500,000.
"MMM" stands for Medzinárodný Maratón Mieru which means International Peace Marathon. There are three sections so that everyone can attend, even the kids. A mini-marathon is 4,2 kilometres long, and it is suitable for kids, families, older ones, or runners-amateurs. A little bit more difficult is a 21 kilometres long half-marathon, but with a bit of practice, it's still doable. Lastly, of course, there is a full, 42.195 kilometres long, marathon. If you somehow manage to win a race, your name will be engraved on the statue of the marathon runner in one of the main squares in Košice. If you are interested, you need to register for the event at least one month in advance. Registration is not free, but the good thing is that part of the registration fee goes to non-profit organisations, so by running a marathon you are doing something good not just for yourself but also for someone in need.
On a marathon weekend, there is also the most prominent contemporary art festival in Slovakia, called Nuit Blanche. The idea came from France and was successfully brought to Košice. If you don't speak French, Nuit Blanche means "white night", so as you can tell, the art festival is happening in a night, and the main art installations are in white. Many unique places that are not usually open to the public provide space for the art installations, so it might be your only chance to visit them. During the night, you can experience a city in a completely different way, and it will leave you speechless. The magical atmosphere of the festival brings to Košice people from not just all over Slovakia, but other countries as well.
If you come to Košice around the time of the Peace Marathon, so before the 1st Sunday of October, the city will be super crowded, every restaurant will be open, and there will also be a cultural program, many concerts, art installations, workshops and, at the end of the day, a huge afterparty. It is the best time to visit Košice, even if you are not a runner. Where else in Europe you could find the oldest marathon?
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