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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):

40 demonstrations

15 May

My heart goes out to the police in Vienna today. After over a year of extra work enforcing the pandemic restrictions, they now have to deal with 40 demonstrations in downtown Vienna today. Some are against the (ever more quickly vanishing) covid restrictions and some are to do with the situation in the Middle East. I can’t even imagine how you fit 40 demonstrations into the first district!

May Day or International Workers Day 2021

1 May

Things that aren’t happening that are a reminder of the pandemic: the annual May Day parades organized by the Social Democrats, a political force to be reckoned with in Vienna. Today the street outside my window is quiet. No brass bands are playing as the loyal SPÖ members make their way to the City Hall to celebrate this international day of blue-collar workers. Instead here is at least a photo of the flags I saw on our morning walk:


27 Mar

One thing that strikes me is how many reminders of the World Wars there still are in this part of Europe. Beyond the memorials, there are daily reminders that 80 years ago or so (or just over a hundred years ago) mines were being laid and bombs were being dropped.

There’s an article in today’s Kurier about the bomb squad, whose responsibilities include defusing bombs left over from the wars. Apparently, the squad gets three to four calls a day(!) to take care of old explosive devices.

It reminded me of the time, only three years ago or so, I almost missed the last Vienna-bound flight out of the Cologne airport because the highway was closed and traffic was being rerouted to give a wide berth to the site where an enormous bomb from the Second World War was being defused.

That reminded me of the story a German client told me. His company was in an area of Germany where a lot of bombs got dropped randomly as the RAF planes were on their way home. (This, apparently, was a common practice on both sides. I’m sure there’s a counterpart in the U.K. that defuses old Luftwaffe bombs on a daily basis.)

When my client company was breaking ground for a new plant, they came across one of the bigger bombs and called in the bomb squad. This, of course, delayed progress. When the (U.K.-based) parent company wanted to know why the project was no longer on track, my German client, with some relish (there were some of the usual tensions between parent company and subsidiary), relayed the information that they had been delayed by a British bomb. The head office was attuned to the irony of this and took some of the pressure off.

How easy it is in this peaceful Europe to forget that the E.U. grew out of a desire to never fight neighbors again. And how helpful to have these reminders.

Viennese birds

4 Mar

Caption: Viennese birds

Bird on the left (in Viennese dialect): Worms used to taste better.

Bird on the right (also in Viennese dialect): Everything’s going to hell. (Literally, “Everything’s going down the creek.”)

(For those who don’t know, the Viennese have the reputation of taking delight in complaining a lot.)

Switching from work-from-home back to normal

12 Feb

“And what makes you think that going from working from home back to normal could be a problem for me?” 😉

A joke for Vienna insiders

4 Jan

(Floridsdorf is the 21st district and lies “transdanubia”.)

The Second of Three Days of National Mourning

4 Nov


31 Oct

Well, I didn’t see that coming, even though our numbers are terrible. As of Tuesday we will have the first curfew of Austria’s Second Republic. True to Austrian form it is early. We will not be allowed on the streets between 8 p.m. and 6 a.m.

There isn’t much front page news that interrupts my habit of starting at the back of the paper and working my way forward (the last I remember was the announcement of Karlheinz Böhm’s death), but this was one of the items that did.

Today’s headline, by the way, says that the government is tightening the screws. I’ll leave you to consider which ones.

And speaking of politics …

30 Sep

… I just saw the Chancellor of Austria walking down my street. He’s not my choice and for years I’ve thought he was overrated, but I am impressed that he was walking down a normal street, apparently alone (no security), wearing a mask. It seemed so unlikely to me that I asked a woman who was also watching him go by if that was “der Kurz” and she said, “leider” (“unfortunately yes”).