Pleven Friendship Marathon, 21 May 2023


Competitors from the age of 2 to 84 years compete in the Friendship Marathon in Pleven

More than 500 participants from 16 nationalities took part in 
the seventh edition of the event

Yesterday, 23 May, the seventh edition of the Pleven Marathon took place. The race confirmed its name “Friendship Marathon”, attracting participants from different countries, in a wide age range, and became a celebration of a kind for the city. More than 530 participants from 14 nationalities from the age of 2 to 84 took part in the various disciplines. All of them participated in sports supporting the cause “Running in Pleven for an accessible environment”.

Pleven Marathon 2021

The event was opened with welcoming speech from the US Ambassador to Bulgaria, Her Excellency Hero Mustafa, who said: “I am inspired by your vision to support healthy lifestyles and promote diversity and inclusiveness”. The opening ceremony was attended by the First Secretary of the British Embassy in Sofia, Mr Andrew French. He paid tribute to the marathon’s founder, Stanislav Georgiev, who died suddenly last year and in whose memory the race was organised, adding: “This is a fantastic event that makes sport accessible to all.” The opening ceremony was also attended by the Deputy Mayor, Mr. Stefan Milev, who introduced this year’s charitable cause — helping the people with disadvantages. The funds raised through the marathon will be used to upgrade the signal systems for the blind at some of the traffic lights in the city. The ceremony was also attended by the regional expert from the Ministry of Youth and Sports Mr. Atanas Karshev, who congratulated the runners, as well as the representative of the numerous Romanian group Radu Preda, who delivered a message from the legendary Romanian runner Ilie Rosu, who has participated in all editions of the Pleven Marathon so far. The last words before the start were given to one of the mascots of the event — 71-year-old Boyka Arsova, who for the sixth time successfully crossed the finishing line of the challenging 42 km marathon distance in Pleven.

The Friendship Marathon in Pleven traditionally attracts participants from different nationalities. This year, despite travel restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic, runners from a total of 16 countries took part, including the UK, India, Ireland, Cyprus, Morocco, Nepal, Pakistan, Romania, Russia, the USA, and others. The diversity of the event, apart from having participants from different nationalities, was complemented by extremely wide age range of the runners. Two records were broken this year — for the youngest and oldest participant, which were 2 and 84 years old respectively. The youngest runner took part in the special Fun Run Kids event, and the oldest — in the tough marathon discipline on the 42.2 km course track. To show that running is an accessible and beneficial sport for all, this year the organisers also provided free participation for children, veterans over 60 years of age, people with disabilities, and those who decided to participate in the 3-kilometer urban cross under the motto “I can”. Thanks to the attractive Fun Run Kids event, which is held as part of the marathon, the largest number of participants this year took part precisely in the children’s run — a total of 205 young runners in three age categories.

The fastest and most outstanding competitors in the individual disciplines received awards at a ceremony on the stage of the central square Vazrazhdane in town. The awards were presented by Ms Aurelia Dоmniteanu, Minister-Counsellor at the Embassy of the Republic of Romania. The winner of the marathon distance was Milen Kovachkov, who covered 42.2 km in 2 hours, 45 minutes and 16 seconds. Only two minutes after him Ivaylo Valev crossed the finishing line, and the third place went to the Romanian Ionel Rapotan. The fastest in the ladies’ marathon was Borislava Videva, who finished in 3 hours, 42 minutes and 19 seconds. Her runners-up were Mirela Georgieva in second, and Milena Savova in third. This year there was also a hotly contested race in the 21 km half marathon distance. The fastest runner was Konstantin Bambekov with a time of 1:26:02, with Rosen Todorov and Nikolay Efremov coming in a short time after the winner. In the women’s half marathon, the fastest runners were Anna Stefanova (1:33:29), Polina Gospodinova and Ginka Shavuleva. For the first time as part of the Friendship Marathon in Pleven the participants could also compete in the increasingly popular 10-kilometer distance. The fastest contestant was Iskren Ivanov with a time of 42 minutes and 29 seconds, followed by Ayyub Mortaji from Morocco and Plamen Merazov. In the ladies’ 10 km the top positions were taken by Lilia Ivanova (53:39), Darina Koleva and Michaela Gancheva. Another attractive discipline, part of the marathon, was the relay. A total of 50 people took part in it, divided into 25 teams, with the fastest being the tandem of Ilian Chakarov and Georgi Gergov, followed by Georgi Iliev and Petar Rashev, as well as the third in the ranking Hristo Boev and Daniel Ivanov.

Attracting such a large and diverse range of participants and with its now seven-year history, the competition has established itself as one of the most iconic sporting events in the region. This year, it offered an even more interesting programme under the Park+ banner, with additional activities and outdoor sports such as volleyball, table tennis, mini football, badminton, pilates, functional aerobics and Latin rhythm dancing for all ages. The rich cultural and musical programme impressed again this year with performances of local talents from the dance group ‘Syntez’, the young singer Kristiana Alexandrova and the magic of Bulgarian folklore from the Children’s and Youth Folklore Ensemble ‘Nashencheta’. The seventh marathon in Pleven, although held without its founder Stanislav Georgiev, remained in history as the edition that attracted the most support from volunteers. Many people from Pleven and other parts of the country pitched in to help the organizers, with diplomats from embassies supporting the event among the volunteers.

The seventh marathon in Pleven was organized by the social enterprise Еyes-Open together with the Municipality of Pleven, Maria’s World Foundation, Bulgarian Athletics Federation, SCLA Phoenix, National Alliance for Social Responsibility and in partnership with Jamba, Bulgarian Association of Persons with Intellectual Disabilities, Autism Today Association, JA Bulgaria and others.

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