Riga is the capital of Latvia and the largest city in the Baltic countries. Riga is also home to Riga Marathon where I participated in the half-marathon portion of the event, securing county # 37 (by the time you read this I will have completed races in # 41 countries) of my goal to run races in 50 countries by my 50th birthday (50×50) and ultimately my quest to run the world.
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Riga Marathon is a major event for the city, and this year (2019) was even more special because the marathon gained the International Association of Athletics Federation’s (IAAF) Gold Label; an honor awarded to only 12 marathons in Europe, including London, Prague, Amsterdam and Paris. Of the 12 marathons, Riga is the only one in Northern Europe with this status, and this strategic location is beneficial for runners from Russia, Scandinavia, and other Baltic countries.
Riga’s newly minted-status as the gold standard for marathons was evident during this year’s event. 26,000 people participated in the 2-day event taking part in several events from the marathon to the family fun run. Nearly 5,000 international runners represented 82 countries, with the most coming from neighboring Russia and Estonia.
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The race began on the edge of Riga’s Old Town, a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site, which means that while we got the beauty and charm as the backdrop, we were spared the brutality of running on cobblestones.
The relatively flat course took runners on a scenic tour of the city; around the Daugava River – the largest in Latvia – across several bridges, and through some of Riga’s most scenic neighborhoods such as the Art Nouveau district, Kipsala Island, and also through a bit of the historic center passing House of the Blackheads and the Freedom Monument.
As I mentioned previously, this is a huge event for Riga, and it showed in the enthusiasm of the crowd, with supporters cheering runners on along some of the far off bridges and roads. The cheers of support from the people wearing traditional dress at the Freedom Monument was especially memorable.
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Riga is definitely a destination race worth traveling for. Thanks to an IAAF Gold Label status it’s now a contender on the international marathon circuit. The scenic course, which passes a few major landmarks, is one that I would classify as site running.
It was well organized, with enthusiastic crowd support, which always makes a difference with a race. The finisher’s swag was pretty nice. I especially liked the bag, which folds up, making it easy to take with you and always have on hand. Having it in my purse has prevented me many times from getting a plastic bag while out shopping, and it’s a nice change from the drawstring plastic backpacks that are often staples of race swag.
I didn’t order the official race t-shirt when I registered for the race because I have too many race t-shirts that I seldom wear. However, at the race expo there was a shirt from another vendor that was too cute for me to pass up. And of course, there was the finisher’s medal.
HOW TO REGISTER
If you’re interested in participating in the Tet Riga Marathon, one of only 12 IAAF Gold Label marathons in Europe, scheduled for May 15 -16, 2019 go to the Riga Marathon website to register.