(09-Jun) -- Several years ago, the Czech Republic's largest running events organizer, RunCzech, executed a community service project called the FreeRun program where 90 running courses --each 5 kilometers in length and certified by the Czech Athletics Federation-- were measured out throughout the country. The courses were all listed on the RunCzech mobile app, so runners could easily reference and use them.
PHOTO: Runners take to the streets of the 2019 Sportisimo Prague Half-Marathon on April 6 (photo courtesy of RunCzech)
Now, RunCzech is using that network of courses to launch a new in-person running challenge for athletes called "Cesko Beží Dál," which means "Czech Republic Keeps On Running." Over the next 90 days, runners are encouraged to visit --and run-- as many of those courses as they can and attempt to accumulate a total of 125 kilometers. For the kilometers to count, runners must run a minimum of 5 kilometers on each course, up to a maximum of 40.
"We were looking for a creative way of capturing the thrill of the mass sporting events that runners cherish so much, to give them new challenges and goals," said long-time RunCzech president Carlo Capalbo whose organization stages several World Athletics Gold Label Road Races like the Volkswagen Prague Marathon and Sportisimo Prague Half-Marathon. "And this, we hope, will be a way for runners to compete, to compare their results, to have a feeling of solidarity and companionship until it's safe for us to all come together again."
Like other race organizers, RunCzech has has to postpone their events until later in the year due to the corona virus pandemic. They preferred to preserve the in-person running experience for the 120,000 athletes who annually participate in their events instead of converting them into virtual runs.
Under the new program, each participant will receive a digital certificate of accomplishment, and if an athlete reaches the 125 kilometer goal s/he will also receive a special digital medal. There will be ranking for 5-K, 10-K, 20-K, 40-K and 125-K distances. Also, the fastest runners will receive special recognition and awards.
The program is similar to the Anytime 5-K in Bedford, New Hampshire, in the United States where athletes can run any time on a measured course which begins and ends at a local running store. Like the RunCzech program, the Anytime 5-K is not a virtual event and has an on-line leaderboard. Athletes can run alone or in small groups.
The Czech Athletics Federation, Ceský Atletický Svaz, has been a global leader in restarting athletics safely during the pandemic. Their "Back on Track" series of "micro meets" allow athletes to compete safely by limiting the number of competitors and spectators, while still presenting the meets on television for the benefit of athletics fans. Yesterday, the Memorial Josefa Odlozila meeting was staged in Prague under those conditions.
"It's a perfect sample of ideal cooperation based on partnership and services between RunCzech, the main event organizer, and the Federation," Capalbo said. "We believe this could be replicated also in other countries."
More information about the program will be published at RunCzech.com.