We're off to Austria for a virtual run around Vienna with our local guide, Stefan.
Tell us a little about yourself and your relationship with running?
I was born in Vienna in 1968 and grew up in a little town close to the capital. I have now lived in Vienna for more than 25 years.
I've been running for many years. After finishing several marathons around the beginning of the new millennium, I took some time off to focus on playing football. In 2012, I returned to running regularly and compete in races from 5Ks to marathon. My favourite distance is the marathon (especially when a race can be combined with a nice weekend in an interesting place) but I enjoy shorter races as well.
Running is much more than just a sport for me. Running has allowed me to make a lot of friends both in Vienna and around the world. The sociable aspect of the sport is just as important as the physical one for me. So far, I have finished 21 marathons in 9 different countries.
Stefan during a run on Prater Hauptallee, the famous Eliud Kipchoge INEOS 1:59 Challenge straight
Describe the running culture in Vienna?
Vienna's running scene is big and diverse. There are many running groups and a lot of solo runners. Most groups are welcoming to all who wish to participate. As the base for many international organisations, Vienna has quite an international feel and everyone is welcome to join the running community!
[Note: Unfortunately all group runs are currently suspended due to Covid legislation]
Where are the best places to run in Vienna?
Austria's capital has everything a runner needs. Vienna is located along two main river valleys so a lot of flat routes with or without waterfronts are guaranteed. For those who want to challenge themselves in the hills there are numerous options in the mountains and woods around the city. If you utilise Vienna's excellent public transportation system, the best running spots can all be reached in very little time.
Millions across the world saw Eliud Kipchoge run the first marathon under 2 hours during the INEOS 1:59 Challenge in October 2019.
The 4.3 km straight on which he ran this record is called Prater Hauptallee and is arguably the ultimate hotspot for running in Vienna. The two rows of orange stripes which marked Kipchoge´s course can still be seen. However, Prater area has much more to offer than just its main street. With more than 6 square kilometers, it is the second largest city park in continental Europe.
There are many asphalt or natural soil paths to run on. Follow the markings for "Stadtwanderweg 9” for a nice trail run. Or run through the amusement park part of Prater where the world famous Ferris wheel can be found. “Praterstern” station (subway lines U1 and U2, S-Bahn trains) is just adjacent to the western end of Prater Hauptallee and the amusement park.
Donauinsel / Neue Donau / Alte Donau
About 50 years ago, the Danube Island (Donauinsel) and the New Danube (Neue Donau) were built in order to protect Vienna from the floods of the river Danube. The soil that was dredged for the New Danube formed the 21 km long and approximately 200 meters wide Danube Island. This island is a leisure paradise and also offers plenty of opportunities for sport. Try running both on the island itself and on the New Danube shore!
Three subway lines cross the island and Neue Donau in different locations (northwest: U6 Neue Donau station, central: U1 Donauinsel station, southeast: U2 Donaustadtbrücke station). Alte Donau is a 7 km long and about 300 meters wide lake which was a part of the river until the 19th century. One lap around the whole lake is about 14 km.
For those who like to run closer to the city, Donaukanal is a great option. Running the northern part of this 17 km long canal of the Danube offers the opportunity to run near the city centre but without any motorised traffic.
5 subway stations of U4 line from Schwedenplatz to Spittelau follow the canal, Schwedenplatz is also served by line U1 and Schottenring by line U2.
The perfect place for those who want to combine a run with a look at the imperial Vienna of the old Habsburg monarchy. The spacious castle park is open to the public free of charge and extremely well kept. Runners who want a serious hill workout can run up several paths to the smaller Gloriette palace. The view of Vienna from the Gloriette on top of the hill is well worth the effort!
On Thursdays Frühlauftreff rollover Schönbrunn running group meet at 6:30 am at the Meidlinger Tor park entrance (not far from the subway station), for early birds who want to run with some locals, this is an option (Subway line U4, Schönbrunn station).
This park may be a lesser known place to run but it´s close to the centre, offers a spacious park around two beautiful Baroque palaces (the Upper and the Lower Belvedere) and one of the best views of Vienna´s inner city. The approximately 300 metre long ramps from the middle of the park to the Upper palace are ideal for hill repeats.
Belvedere hills running group meets every Friday at 7 am at the lower end of the left ramp (as seen from below) and is open to all who want to join a nice hill session with Viennese runners.
The closest subway stations are U4 Stadtpark (lower entrance on Rennweg) and U1 Südtiroler Platz/Hauptbahnhof (upper entrance).
A group of Vienna runners pause for a photo during a session at Belvedere Castle
Vienna is surrounded by a huge forest called the “Wienerwald” (or Viennese forests). The options for trail running here are unlimited.
The perfectly signposted official city hiking trails (“Stadtwanderwege”) of the City of Vienna are among the most popular routes. Running from Kahlenbergerdorf to the summit of Leopoldsberg is a challenge even for experienced runners. Linking the two terminus of the U4 subway line through the woods is a Viennese classic (U4-U4). If you want to combine trails with flat routes, there are many options in Lobau on the other bank of the Danube.
Where is the best place to buy running gear in Vienna?
WEMOVE Runningstore is the best place in town and has knowledgeable staff. It's also in a perfect location: right in the shopping centre above the station where direct trains from the airport arrive (Wien Mitte/Landstraße) and two subway lines (U3/U4) meet.
Other options are Blutsch, RunInc, Tony's Laufshop and Traildog.
WEMOVE Runningstore is also home to Vienna´s biggest long run group WEEKLY LONG RUN. In normal (non Covid) times, more than 50 runners gather in the shop every Sunday morning (usually 8.30 am September to May/7.45 am from June to August). You can join one of several pace groups for a run through Vienna before returning to the shop for a get-together. No registration is needed, just show up (on time).
Stefan and the WEEKLY LONG RUN group at WEMOVE Runningstore in Vienna
Tell us about the best local races in Vienna?
Vienna City Marathon
Vienna's biggest and best-known race is the Vienna City Marathon which includes a full marathon, half marathon and relay marathon as well as various shorter races for kids. It's usually held in April but in 2021 the date will be 12th September due to the Coronavirus pandemic. More than 40.000 runners participated in recent years although most people race shorter distances than the marathon.
The Austrian Women´s Run is Vienna's big all female race. Held in Prater and offering distances of 5 & 10 km with about 30.000 participants prior to the pandemic. The race is usually held in May but the 2021 edition is scheduled for the 3rd of October.
The “Eisbärlauf” (Polar Bear Run) is a series of events held in Prater in winter. Organised by the LCC running club, the event offers distances from 7 km to the half marathon (and sometimes beyond) on a 7 km loop.
On the 31st December, LCC stages a big race on a 5.3 km lap course around Vienna´s historic centre. Usually Ringstraße is crowded with several thousand participants who end the year in style.
Can you recommend a local dish/venue to eat after a long run in Vienna?
Viennese cuisine is usually rather heavy and not particularly suitable for sports. One exception is Kaiserschmarrn, a lightly sweetened pancake. It takes its name from the Austrian emperor (Kaiser in German) Franz Joseph I. He is said to have been a big fan of this pancake. Kaiserschmarrn is offered as a Viennese alternative to pasta at Vienna City Marathon´s pasta party at Vienna´s city hall, so it´s perfect carbo loading. Plenty of restaurants of cafés offer Kaiserschmarrn.
Thanks to Stefan for an excellent job in taking us for a run in Vienna!
One last thing...
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