“It’s hard not to smile when experiencing a mix of runners, musicians, cooks and drag queens”

you never know who you'll encounter along the Copenhagen Half Marathon route. Photo: Copenhagen Half Marathon

You never know who you’ll encounter along the Copenhagen Half Marathon route. Photo: Copenhagen Half Marathon

On Sunday 18 September, the Copenhagen Half Marathon will add an estimated 22,500 participants to the European Week of Sport’s grand total with a colourful blend of sport, culture, music, food, international participants and spontaneity.

For the Copenhagen Half Marathon, its maiden race could not have gone better, with 19,425 local and international participants and a five-star “Quality Road Race” certification from European Athletics to reward its success. Building on running’s growing popularity as a leisure activity – particularly in Denmark – and its reputation as a fun and inclusive blend of sport, culture, food and spontaneity, the Copenhagen Half Marathon is now an unmissable calendar event for running enthusiasts and the local community alike.

We asked Danish Athletics Federation Director Jakob Larsen the secret to the Copenhagen Half Marathon’s success and found out how a wedding and a group of cheering drag queens became race highlights in 2015.

The Copenhagen Half Marathon starts at 11:15am on Øster Allé and keep an eye out for a basketballer who is aiming to dribble his way from start to finish.

Sport, culture, fun and spontaneity the perfect mix. Photo: Copenhagen Half Marathon

Sport, culture, fun and spontaneity the perfect mix. Photo: Copenhagen Half Marathon

What can a large event like the Copenhagen Half Marathon gain from being part of a pan-European event like the European Week of Sport (EWoS)?
I would argue that, from a participant’s perspective, the Copenhagen Half Marathon being part of the EWoS will add to their sense of being part of a truly spectacular event, which is indeed part of an international community. The event, having more than 3,500 non-domestic participants from 90 different nations, will bring thousands of people together across cultural and geographical borders – so from a participant’s perspective it will definitely underline the multicultural nature of running.
From an organiser’s perspective, being part of the EWoS basically adds to the story of our race. We consider ourselves an international race, bringing people together from all parts of the world to enjoy their common interest, running. So being part of the EWoS strengthens the story and helps us communicate our race, and it definitely adds to the international “feel” of the race.

How is the Copenhagen Half Marathon maintaining its impressive momentum from the first edition last year and how it did earn a five-star certification rating by European Athletics Running for All?
We give our outreach programs a lot of priority. Almost 15,000 of this year’s participants did not take part last year, so we have been busy recruiting new runners to our race. This is done by means of communication, pre-race training and international exchange programs with international races all over Europe. We are of course very proud of our five-star certification, especially since it is aimed at recreational runners who want to gain some race experience. In our mindset the most important participants are the ones who do not have to be there, but choose to. This is essentially the definition of the recreational runner, so we have used the European Running for All certification as a checklist in order to provide our participants with the best race experience possible.

What makes middle and long distance running such an appealing physical activity in Denmark?
For decades, the public debate has had health as a major area of focus. Physical exercise is a big part of this, and no other sport is as accessible as running. Thus, a lot of people have felt encouraged to start running in order to improve their health. But starting to run is in many ways like going on a diet – you do not do it because it’s fun, you only do it until the problem is solved. It is my opinion that we in Denmark have managed, by means of events, clubs and running communities, to in fact bring purpose to running – not only as a means to improve your health, but in fact to enjoy training, the social gatherings of runners and achieving objectives of your own.

A wedding between two participants was a 2015 highlight

A wedding between two participants was a 2015 highlight. Photo: Copenhagen Half Marathon

Can you think of a particular highlight from last year’s event? One of the participants, spectators or interaction between them that made you smile?
There’s a lot to choose from, but having to choose I would probably say that having a marriage taking place on the start line, with the newlyweds then continue to run the race, was quite nice. Also I would mention our cooperation with other cultural institutions such as local music festivals, food festivals and the local Pride organisation; each of them had hotspots along the course, which not only provided entertainment for runners and spectators, but also created a special mix of culture and sports within the context of our race. It was hard not to sport a happy smile when experiencing the mix of runners, musicians, cooks and drag queens.

Visit the Copenhagen Half Marathon website

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