Running the race or running late

Amateur marathons are attracting increasing numbers of runners, but at the same time they are beginning to attract some critics.

Perm hosted several major running competitions for amateurs this autumn. 8,000 runners took part in the City’s “Perm Marathon”, and the All-Russia Cross Nation Day race attracted over 13,000 participants from all over Perm Kray. The second wave of coronavirus was yet to gain momentum, so the authorities decided not to cancel the events.

In Russia, long-distance running has only relatively recently gained popularity with ordinary people competing as amateurs, and road races have become big events in just the last few years. Alongside the excitement and enthusiasm, the increase in scale has brought other issues to the fore. Previously, there would only be upbeat comments on social media from runners sharing positive emotions, but voices criticising how the competitions are run are now making themselves heard. The concern is the location of the races.
The main Perm marathon route takes in all the city’s central streets, and so these are closed to transport for the duration of the competition. Car drivers have to avoid entire districts, and buses and trams have to divert their routes for marathon day. Anna Zilyova, a journalist from Perm University, remembers the day of the marathon: “At 6am I set off for work and waited for the tram: 15, 20, 30, 40 minutes, but it didn’t come. It turned out that the trams weren’t running because of the race, so I had to walk which made me an hour late for work!”

Those who oppose holding the races in the centre are asking why the race isn’t held in the city’s outskirts. Photos and video footage of the races wouldn’t look as good of course, and not all competitors are not keen to compete in the back of beyond.

Steven Jennings, a 68-year-old from the UK, admits that running his first Oxford marathon was a little boring: “I had never taken part in a marathon before. It was my first one at age 68. I enjoyed the marathon and it was very well organised. The route was a bit boring, but the compensation was that it was as flat as a pancake”, he said to

Participants and spectators are clearly more positive, so plans are well under way for marathons in the spring and summer of 2021 – pandemic permitting. “Despite the weather, the race atmosphere was fantastic, and it was really well organised”, Sarah Sleet, a Louisville marathon participant, said to


By Madzhid Kasumov