The Czech Republic was recently in the news because the country now wants to be known as Czechia. Both BBC News and The Economist reported on this name change, following the example of France which is the official geographic short name of The French Republic.
When we arrived on May 7, 2016 for the Volkswagen Prague Marathon the next day, I was actually half-expecting Czechia to already be in widespread use but it was not the case. Maybe not just yet.
We flew with Ryanair and landed at Vaclav Havel Airport at noon on Saturday, May 7, 2016. For 60 Czech koruna each, the Airport Express shuttle bus took us to the Prague Main Railway Station (Praha Hlavni Nadrazi) in 40 minutes. We bought one day public transport tickets for 110 Czech koruna. The day’s exchange rate was one euro to about 24 Czech koruna.
We got on the C Metro to the Nàdrazí Holešovice three stops away. Once we got there, it was one tram ride away to the Sport Expo at the Industrial Palace in Výstaviště Holešovice. Although it took three transfers, getting to the expo was easy. The sport expo was in a cavernous site with beautiful colored glass and ironwork detailing.
After claiming the bib and doing the requisite photo in front of the event poster, we retraced our steps and got on the same C Metro to go back two stops at Florenc. We were booked for two nights at the Hilton Prague, the official race headquarters.
The Volkwagen XL7 concept car was displayed in the lobby. I wondered if the marathon winners won this car as their prizes since the automaker is the main sponsor.
We bought water and yogurt at Albert supermarket right across the street and went back to the hotel to rest a bit. By early evening, we were out and about again checking out our dinner options. We ended up at Palladium Mall about ten minutes’ walk away. Dinner was Mongolian BBQ at Jurta inside the mall.
The start and finish lines were at the historic Old Town Square. The buildings around the square are awe-inspiring. The skyline was dominated by the Tyn Church built in 1385 and the Saint Nicholas Church completed in 1735.
The weather was already warm when the race started at 9:00 AM. There were 10,613 finishers so the number of starters must have been higher. Although we did not need it since we were staying within walking distance, it was good to know that the bib served as our free transportation ticket anywhere during the race day.
This flat and fast course weaved through the historic city center, the river side, and crossed seven bridges before ending back at the Old Town Square.
We crossed Charles Bridge built in 1357 and claimed to be the most beautiful Gothic bridge in the world.
The IAAF Gold Label race has a seven-hour time limit. There was a portion of the race where we had to run two loops. I passed by our hotel twice before crossing the finish line. We walked back to the hotel to get cleaned up and went back out in search of dinner. Too many restaurant choices; ended up at the Palladium Mall again but this time, we had Japanese food at the screaming sushi restaurant.
It was nice not to have to rush back to the airport after the race. We stayed another night at the hotel and had our leisurely breakfast.
Our flight back to Brussels was at noon on Monday, May 9, 2016. Richard splurged on a 35-euro limo ride back to the airport. We asked the driver to stop at the Old Town Square so that we could take one more proper photo before we got on our way.