My Refugee Journey – 16th April The Belgrade Marathon & 5km

Mike running the Belgrade 5km for Refugee Aid Serbia
Mike running the Belgrade 5km for Refugee Aid Serbia

My Refugee Journey – 16th April The Belgrade Marathon & 5km

So one of the things I had already planned to do before I got to Belgrade, Serbia was to run the Belgrade 5km Fun Run… I had been in contact with Refugee Aid Serbia, one of the local NGOs (Non-Government Organisations) in Belgrade to follow what they are doing to help refugees in Serbia and to help as a volunteer.  They asked if I’d like to run for them in either the marathon, ½ Marathon or 5km fun run, I opted for the 5km fun run as Im still not at the level of fitness I was a couple of years ago when I was still running ultra marathons and having not trained for two years whilst I was basically housebound with panic attacks, I thought it would be best to start off with the 5km and move back up to marathons and ultra marathons maybe next year.

I made a donation to Refugee Aid Serbia and paid for their team T-Shirt which we all wore, and was ready and looking forward to the event.

Come the morning of 16th April, I got up around 7:30am went for breakfast and had lots of apple juice, water and scramble egg on bread rolls, then it was off to the start line, a short walk from the hotel…  I couldn’t have sorted a hotel closer to all the things I am needing to do and visit if I tried!  I’m close to all the Government Ministries and some of the NGOs offices and close by the two parks where the refugees stay.

I met up with the rest of the Refugee Aid Serbia runners, there must have been close to 200 of us, mostly doing the 5km with a couple doing the marathon.  We met at a cool pub called the Black Turtle Pub, had a group photo and then headed to the start line.  The run started at 10:15am and the temperature was already 25degrees C, by the time I reached the 4km point, the temperature had gone up to 28degrees C, it was very hot!

bm2I have to say the Marathon, Half Marathon and the 5km was extremely well organised, and the atmosphere rivalled any marathon Ive done around the UK or overseas.  I would totally recommend everyone to run the Belgrade Marathon, I’m running it next year without a second thought!  For anyone that runs Marathons regularly, running London, Brighton, Paris, New York, Athens etc, these are ones we all do and I guess many don’t think of coming to Serbia to run a Marathon, but you know now, its a must to put on your Marathon Bucket List!

There was plenty of local bands playing music along the way and a group of drummers at one point that were cool and at the 3km point a DJ was belting out the Rocky Anthem, and you could just feel yourself pick up the pace along with everyone around you, there’s something about that song which just lifts you to another level when you are training or running!

Couple of things I will say about the event is that the course does go along tram lines quite a bit so, you just need to look out for your footing at times if you are in the main pack of runners and the course I would say is undulating, the parts of Belgrade I’ve seen so far are a bit hilly, it’s not a flat city, so don’t be looking for your personal best, but having said that, I would say it’s one of my all time favourite running events!  And I’ve done many, believe me! Over 150 Marathons, over 80 Ultra Marathons and I would not be able to count up all the 5km, 10km, 10miles and half marathons Ive done over the years.  So take it from me this is a running event that you done want to miss next year!

I would say if you are on a budget, then stay at the hotel I’m staying at, it’s just £12per night including breakfast, yes its basic, but what do you expect for just £12???  It has free wifi in the room and TV so what more do you want?

Its very close to the start line of the Belgrade Marathon, so another plus! The Hotel name is Hotel Slavija.  If you’ve got the money to burn there are other posher hotels in the immediate area so plenty of choice!

Once the run was over which took me 36mins, which yes wasn’t a personal best by any stretch of the imagination as I’m used to running 10km in that time, but I had to keep telling myself that I was running for the first time in over two years and was having to treat the run just like a beginner, it was mentally tough doing it, not the distance but the battle with myself trying to tell myself I have to start with 5km and work back up to my old level of fitness and to stop stressing about the fact I felt that I should be running the Marathon and not a 5km fun run.

But I have to say, running through the streets of Belgrade in the sun was great and once the run was over I really can say I had a great time.

In all lots of money was raised from everyone buying the T-Shirts for Refugee Aid Serbia which will help go towards feeding the hundreds of refugees stuck in Belgrade.

So come join me in 2017 for the next Belgrade Marathon where I will definitely be doing the 26.2mile event!

The Marathon itself is really cheap at about 40euros and the 5km event is FREE, yes you read that right! FREE, so what excuse do you have not to run next year?

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