VCM 2021 – Some impressions

13 Sep

The Vienna City Marathon (VCM) is back, in its 38th iteration, and like many things that had to take a break at the height of the pandemic, it felt really special. The ORF (Austrian Broadcasting) wrote that it brought victories for unexpected contenders—and it did.

My ritual on VCM days hasn’t changed. I watch the beginning on TV, then walk down to a stretch near me to see the first runners go by (first man, first woman, first Austrian man, first Austrian woman), and then I walk home to watch the rest on TV. My dog, Maylo, really gets into the spirit, as you can see. 😉

And so it was that I saw Derera Hurisa, the frontrunner for almost all of the marathon, running with the total focus top marathoners seem to have. (Do they even notice us cheer and clap?) He was surrounded by the three or so people who were left in the lead after several had dropped out or dropped back. Then came Vibian Chebkirui, the first woman, alone except for her pacemaker.

First Austrian man, even at that point, was Martin Mistelbauer in something of an upset, clearly having a good day and running with great panache. Finally, gamely, came Victoria Schenk, a school teacher and track and field athlete, who was expected to—and did—win the Austrian title in the women’s race. I say “gamely” because there were times when she was clearly struggling and it almost hurt to watch.

Some firsts (I think):

  • The date (usually the VCM is run in April)
  • Couples in ball dress (right down to long white gloves on the women) waltzing at the Rathaus to provide some entertainment and applauding the top ten runners as they came in
  • A group playing Japanese drums spurring on the (Japanese?) runners
  • Cheerleaders in front of the State Opera
  • Descriptions of the clothes people were wearing (e.g., “neon orange top, black shorts and white shoes”)
  • One of the hobby runners in the half marathon collapsing right near the finish line of the full marathon and needing the ambulance so that Vibian Chebkirui, the leading woman, had to swerve to avoid them and to complete the race (she did this with great goodwill and grace)
  • Four Japanese runners (men) in the top contenders, one of whom, Kento Kikutani, came in (in the final reckoning) fourth (three of these four placed in the top ten)
  • I write “in the final reckoning” above because Derera Hurisa, who crossed the finish line first, was, heartbreakingly, disqualified for wearing shoes that didn’t meet the relatively new regulations, which moved all the other men up one slot
  • Not quite as sad but nonetheless something of an upset: the favorite among the women, Gelete Burka, took a tumble about an hour into the race and lost her lead, coming in third
  • The Kenyans on the podium (Vibian Chebkirui, Edwin Kosgei, and Leonard Langat) didn’t look very happy although the Ethiopians (Gelete Burka, Meseret Dinke, and Betesfa Getahun) did—even though it was their countryman who was disqualified

Some fixtures:

  • The route with shots, some aerial, of this gorgeous city (see photos)
  • The enthusiastic ORF (Austrian Broadcasting) commentary

I’m not sure at which point I became a convert to watching (but never running!) the marathon. I used to wonder at anyone who wanted to participate in such a race when the first person to run that distance dropped dead after delivering his message. Now I find it fascinating and am always surprised that two and a half hours have gone by so quickly. I also greatly enjoy the interviews afterwards with the athletes.

I’m glad it’s back, next year in April again—Sunday, 24 April 2022.

Some more info (in German):

Official VCM website (also in English):


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