Guest Post: Wizz Air Skopje Marathon – Macedonia

Posted: May 13, 2018 in Race Reports, Travel
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skopje marathonI’m very pleased to share this guest post from Slavko Desik, with his review of the Wizz Air Skopje Marathon and some amazing sights around Macedonia!

skopje marathon

With a starting line set between two controversial architectural landmarks, the 14th edition of the Wizz Air Skopje Marathon took place on Sunday, May the 6th. An annual event which empties the streets of the capital, it has become one of the most popular athletic events in the Balkan region. Attracting thousands of participants and more spectators by the year, the event creates a vibrant and dynamic atmosphere ricocheting throughout the city centre.

Blessed with a mix between mild Continental and Mediterranean climate, the small country of Macedonia offers favourable running conditions during late spring and early summer. Nestled within a flat valley, the city of Skopje offers no elevation whatsoever, which is another reason why the infrastructure is ideal for an event of such scope and delicate requirements.

skopje marathon

Breaking their record one year after another, the three races combined have attracted more than 10,000 registered runners from 58 different countries – finishing the marathon, half marathon and 5k race, more than 8000 people have crossed the line.

skopje marathon

Skopje was a great host

With a large network of volunteers covering the entire event, as well as administrative wings of several city districts participating in the organization, the logistical response was a sight to behold. Cut out of the traffic network, the city centre was a kaleidoscope run wild.

Young and old, athletic or less so, people from far and wide have come together to celebrate health and willpower. Dressed in vibrant colours, they decorated the city streets, inspiring spectators to sign up for the following year.

skopje marathon

The event opened with the marathon and half marathon disciplines, followed by the 5k race when a spectacular mass of people started to move through the city. Soon after, the finish line was crossed by 398 marathon participants, 1662 people who were competing for the half marathon race and 5993 runners who made it past the 5k mark. Interestingly, the majority of them were women.

More interest in the event than previously anticipated

While the climate in Skopje is more than favourable, a slight anomaly resulted with heavy rains in April and May. Forecasted for the beginning of June, they became a legitimate reason for expecting fewer participants.

Luckily, however, the morning brought clear skies, and thousands of people showed up. Nearly four hours after the start, a pouring rain fell on Skopje though all of the participants made it through.

The event was heavily promoted, with Paula Radcliffe as the chief ambassador. Still holding the active world record for the women’s marathon race, she is an inspiration to many people. Coincidently or not, this year was dominated by women who arrived in surprisingly large numbers.

“An amazing atmosphere”, said Paula describing the event. “The foundation is strong, and the goal is very clear. Growth is inevitable!”

Inspired, perhaps, and looking up to Paula, Andrijana Pop Arsova broke the previously set national record, finishing with 3:05:04 in the women’s category.

skopje marathon

Known for mountain tourism and activities on formidable terrain, Macedonians are not really interested in the long distance discipline. But, according to the numbers, things are changing at a rapid clip.

Antonija Brezovska, a local who participated in the half marathon race, says that it’s never too late to start running. Starting at 33, and balancing her life between being a wife, mother, and entrepreneur, she tells young people to try what they want, without consideration to age.

Ivana Gerchakova, another runner who competed in the half marathon race, says that it is her most important event. “To run in my city, the city where I have grown up… it is such a privilege. Having loved ones cheering you by the side is something that every runner can’t wait to experience.”

A colourful spectacle to enjoy

The Skopje Marathon event is not only an athletic gathering. Many companies and institutions encourage their employees to join the race and work on building a stronger team spirit. Resulting with a lively atmosphere and many families cheering their loved ones, the event is a spectacle to behold.

skopje marathon

The official marathon organization team is awarding spectators as well, hosting cheering sign competitions, and best photography awards. Needless to say, people are more creative by the year. A parade unlike any other, the event sets a positive example for young generations, who also take part in recreational races before the main competition.

Results for the Skopje marathon, half marathon and 5k race

The star of the show, once again, was Evans Kipkemoi Biwott from Kenya, who won the gold medal, followed by two of his countrymen – John Langat and Hosea Rutto Kiprotich.

skopje marathon

Kenyans dominated the women’s category as well, with Jedidah Wanjiru Karungu winning the gold, followed by Marija Vrajic from Croatia, and Adrijana Pop Arsova from Macedonia, who broke the national record for women.

The half marathon race was dominated by Macedonians, who came on top for the first three positions, winning the gold, silver and bronze. Standing on the podium were Dario Ivanovski, Atanas Anchevski and Milos Rancic, who was winning the 5k race for several years in a row.

Another Macedonian, Mirjana Ristikj, took the golden medal in the women’s category, followed by Amela Trozic from Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Silvia Simunovic from Croatia.

For the 5k race, where most of the loyal contenders were now competing for the half marathon gold, first came Bogdan Cvetkovski, followed by Kristijan Stojani and Leonid Vandevski, all from Macedonia.

skopje marathon

Skopje Marathon, men:

  • Evans Kipkemoi BIWOTT (KEN) – 2:14:08
  • John LANGAT (KEN) – 2:14:59
  • Hosea Rutto KIPROTICH (KEN) – 2:28:58
  • Tolossa Chengere DADI (ETH) – 2:39:13
  • Aleksandar KIRADJIEV (MKD) – 2:42:48

Skopje Marathon, women:

  • Jedidah Wanjiru KARUNGU (KEN) – 2:51:24
  • Marija VRAJIC (CRO) – 3:02:00
  • Adrijana POP ARSOVA (MKD) – 3:05:04
  • Biljana KIRADJIEVA (MKD) – 3:15:44
  • Vesna KIRADJIEVA (MKD) – 3:32:16

Half-marathon, men:

  • Dario IVANOVSKI (MKD) – 1:09:10
  • Atanas ANCHEVSKI (MKD) – 1:14:44
  • Milos RANCIC (MKD) – 1:15:56
  • Mudjahid MISLIMOVSKI (MKD) – 1:17:38
  • Jordan ATANASOVSKI (MKD) – 1:21:18

Half-marathon, women:

  • Miljana RISTIKJ (MKD) – 1:29:15
  • Amela TROZIC (BIH) – 1:32:22
  • Silvia ŠIMUNOVIĆ (CRO) – 1:35:06
  • Bojana NAUMOVSKA (MKD) – 1:35:53
  • Emilia TODOROVSKA (SWE) – 1:36:20

5k, men:

  • Bogdan Cvetkovski (MKD) – 00:17:38
  • Kristian Stojani (MKD) – 00:17:42
  • Leonid Vandevski (MKD) – 00:17:49
  • Stefan Stojanovski (MKD) – 00:17:54
  • Kristijan Naumovski (MKD) – 00:18:22

5k, women:

  • Gera Bakraqi (KOS) – 00:19:08
  • Margaux Bojadzieva (MKD) – 00:20:45
  • Renata Sokolovska (MKD) – 00:21:33
  • Anja Ekler (MKD) – 00:23:45
  • Tugce Aydin (TUR) – 00:24:15

If you need another major race event under your belt, the pleasant climate of Skopje offers a great opportunity to participate and beat your own personal record.

Enjoy the sights

Of late, the city is a tourist attraction as well, so you can spend a week discovering Macedonian culture, religious heritage and traditional Macedonian cuisine. With adventure opportunities aplenty, you can explore the countryside, visit the Macedonian religious cradle located in the city of Ohrid, and register for other events that challenge you to push yourself forward.

skopje marathon skopje marathon

Combining heavenly nature, archaic monastery complexes, and cross-country trails to enjoy, the Matka Canyon is a site unlike any other. The 40 km off road trail has 2860 m ascent and 2120 m descent, for what is one of the most challenging events in this region. There is another race that runs for the length of 23.5 km, with less uphill and much less downhill, along the same trail.

skopje marathon

skopje marathon

Arriving down at Canyon Matka, it is an experience of a lifetime. For those cheering on the sidelines, many activities await – kayaking along the canyon, taking a boat ride, entering the caves at Vrelo, or discovering Macedonian religious heritage in one of the monastery complexes that are now monuments of the past.

skopje marathon

Slavko Desik is the editor in chief at Lifestyle Updated  and Discovering Macedonia. A fitness enthusiast himself, he is also the co-founder of Fitness Updated, and an avid runner himself.

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