I went to Warsaw, for a glorious six days. I ran the Warsaw Half Marathon with two Polish friends.
The weather was sunny but cold. The atmosphere and race organisation were great. The Half had been renamed as the Peace Half, post the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Poland’s support for Ukraine was evident everywhere you looked. The Blue and Yellow highly visible… on buses; trams; bridges over the Vistula; apartments; shops; statues. The Spartan Army (Charity for Children) ran the Half as a phalanx, with the Ukrainian flags on their spears. Refugees have free access to transport; museums; galleries etc. Sporting Arenas and Stadiums across the City are being used to help shelter / feed / inform refugees. My friend was hosting two refugees at her house. Train stations were remarkably busy.
I flew into Warsaw Modlin airport via Ryanair on the Saturday. I was picked up from the airport (35 mins drive to Warsaw). My friend had collected the race number… 2000, for me 😊 at the Expo. I sampled wonderful Polish hospitality that night, before finding my apartment sometime after midnight. I was delighted with my modern Studio apartment at €60/night.
I set off at 07:00 the next morning for the 6k journey to the start. Buses etc were free for all race participants. I hopped on a bus and then walked the last 2k by way of exploration of the beautiful Old town. I had a pre-race coffee, with friend, in a wonderful little coffee bar. The cake /bakery selection in Warsaw is great… and soo cheap.
The race started at 9. There were about 10,000 of us sandwiched (in a spacious manner), between the banks of the River Vistula and the beautiful Old Town. Then sun was out, but it was very cold. There is a great sense of space in Warsaw. I did not see many cars. Many roads are like Parisian style avenues; there are many pedestrian areas; there are beautiful Old Italian-like squares.
The course is flat and gives a good overview of the more modern parts of the city, as it criss-crosses the Vistula. The banks of the River Vistula are worth exploring, if one has the time… trails and beaches on one side; cafes and museums on the other. It makes a lovely 10k run up one side of the Vistula, and back down the other. We passed the Citadel; the national football stadium; many parks etc. The day got hotter as we progressed, and my light jacket, gloves and hat were soon discarded.
Support was good and there were bands playing along the route. Water, Isotonic drinks and bananas were readily available. I ran with my friends and had some ‘race-speed’ in reserve. This allowed me to absorb the atmosphere and look around… which I thoroughly enjoyed. We crossed the line in 2:06:48. The winning time was an amazing 01:00:30 for the Men, and 01:08:55 for the Women.
Nice medal and great technical t-shirt at the finish… along with some pasta-laden soup.
Warsaw has an excellent network of bike lanes, separated from cars. I used the Veturilo city bikes app. Nice and cheap to use. Over 200 bike locations across Warsaw. I explored by bike and foot, a large area of Warsaw and it’s suburbs. I also got an insight into how some of the locals lived via 3 different households and homes. I loved the many suburban bakeries and cheap lunches. In town, the Milk Bars are seriously amazing value for traditional, basic food. Prices in general are 50-67% of Dublin prices. English is fairly widely spoken. There are good view from the Stalin gift ‘Palace of Culture’ building (€5).
I will happily return. I enjoyed the mix of old and new; space and high-rise blocks; the people and hospitality. I still have the museums and galleries etc to explore. I’d recommend the Warsaw marathon / half-marathon. An enjoyable, well organised, fast course, and a city with plenty to do. Some of you are familiar with the Wicklow Ecotrail. Ecotrail comes to Warsaw in September. I have it on good authority that the routes (especially the longer ones) are fab. I am seriously considering this 😊.