ISTANBUL MARATHON: ITS HISTORY AND TOP 7 LANDMARKS ON THE COURSE

The Vodafone Istanbul Marathon is the only race in the world where the athletes run from one continent to the other within hours. 

Participants run over the Bosphorus Bridge which links the Asian side to the European side of the city, during the 35th annual Eurasia Marathon in Istanbul, on November 17, 2013. AFP PHOTO/BULENT KILIC

Istanbul is a unique city known for connecting Asia and Europe in once place, giving the visitors the opportunity to witness incredible sights. The Vodafone Istanbul Marathon is the only race in the world where the athletes run from one continent to the other in a matter of hours in one day. In 1978, the first marathon took place after the authorities were informed of German tourists arriving in Istanbul the following year. These German tourists were attending the marathons of the places they were visiting. The Intercontinental Istanbul Eurasia Marathon project was already being planned at the time and this event marked its launch. Along with these tourists who were going to attend the marathon, Turkish elite athletes were also invited to the event. In total, there were 74 people who attended the race. The first race was won by a Turkish athlete named Hasan Saylan who finished the course in 2:35:39. 

Since then, the Intercontinental Istanbul Eurasia Marathon, or now known as Vodafone Istanbul Marathon, takes place every year. The aim of the marathon has been bringing peace and friendship since the day it started. Even though the course changed over the years the Marathon took place, it always starts in Asia and ends in Europe. Vodafone Istanbul Marathon witnessed great athletes such as Terry Mitchell and Ian Thompson. It also became a great opportunity for athletes to test themselves and their strength before attending any international marathons.

Today, Vodafone Istanbul Marathon is quite famous for the wonderful sights it offers to the runners as well as its well-done organization. The Marathon is a 42 km run and it must be completed in 6 hours. However, there is still a 15 km run, and an 8 km long Fun Run for those who cannot run the 42 km Marathon. Let us take a closer look into each one. 

42 KM MARATHON

  • The 42 km Marathon starts at 9:00 am in Asia and finishes at 3:00 pm in Sultanahmet. 
  • The race should be completed in 6 hours. After 6 hours the running course is reopened to the traffic. The runners who could not complete the race in time will then need to continue to run on sidewalks. However, if the participants reach the finish line after the time limit, they will not receive a medal or a certificate. 
  • Runners need to be at least 18 years old to participate in the marathon.
  • There can only be 15,000 participants.  
  • Before the race, participants need to receive their race package at the Marathon and Sports Expo that includes the timing chip, bib number, marathon t-shirt as well as the race bag after showing their passports. After the Marathon and Sports Expo ends, you can no longer receive your race package. 
  • The race starts on the Asian side of Istanbul, 250 meters away from the 15 July Martyrs Bridge, formerly known as the Bosphorus Bridge and finishes in front of the Sultanahmet Mosque on the European side. 
  • There are refreshment stations every 2,5 km after the first 5 km where you can drink something. 
  • On the day of the race, there are free buses that deliver the participants to where the race takes place. These buses are located in two areas: Taksim Square and Sultanahmet Square.

15 KM RUN

  • 15 km run starts at 9:15 am and finishes at 1:00 pm.
  • The participants need to complete the 15 km race in 3 hours and 45 minutes. If the participants have not yet finished the course by this time, they will be required to continue to run on the sidewalks as the course will be reopened to the traffic. The runners who cannot finish the race in time will not receive any medals or certificates. 
  • Anyone who is older than 16 years old can participate in the 15 km race. 
  • There can only be up to 7.500 participants in the 15 km race. 
  • The participants can receive their race packages at the Marathon and Sports Expo prior to the race day. 
  • The 15 km run starts on the Asian side of Istanbul, 250 meters away from the 15 July Martyrs Bridge, also known as the Bosphorus Bridge, and finishes in Yenikapı. 
  • The refreshment stations are placed every 2,5 km after the first 5 km. 
  • The free buses departing from Taksim Square and Sultanahmet Square can be taken to reach the starting point of the race.

8 KM FUN RUN 

  • The 8 km Fun Run starts under the Altunizade Bridge and ends in Dolmabahce. 
  • The participants can take the free buses in front of the Mecidiyekoy Metro Station to reach the starting point of the race.

GENERAL WARNINGS ABOUT THE MARATHON

  • There are 30 ambulances available as well as a tent hospital in case of a health issue. However, it is advised for the participants to be medically examined before the race. People who are suffering from the respiratory tract and heart disease should not take part in the race. 
  • Please note that the information given about the time and the course may change each year. These are the correct information as of 2019. Please check the official website of the Vodafone Istanbul Marathon to get the most accurate and latest information. 

LANDMARKS OF THE MARATHON

One of the most beautiful aspects of the Vodafone Istanbul Marathon is that the participants have the opportunity to see some of the most important and mesmerizing landmarks in Istanbul. The people who participated in the race often state that the sights were beautiful and that they enjoyed the race as much as they enjoyed seeing Istanbul.

THE 15 JULY MARTYRS BRIDGE (THE BOSPHORUS BRIDGE)

The race starts 250 away from the first bridge that connects Europe and Asia which gives the participants the unique opportunity to enjoy the view of the Bosphorus, as well as the famous silhouette of Istanbul. 

The 15 July Martyrs Bridge is built between Ortakoy in Europe and Beylerbeyi in Asia. The building of the bridge started in 1970 and finished in 1973. The bridge is illuminated with colorful lights at night, creating an enjoyable sight to the viewers.

DOLMABAHCE PALACE

Dolmabahce Palace started to be built in 1843 and the construction finished in 1856, lasting 13 years in total. The Dolmabahce Palace was commissioned by the Sultan Abdülmecid of the Ottoman Empire who at the time lived in the Topkapı Palace. Dolmabahce Palace was designed to be a lot more modern compared to the Topkapı Palace in meeting the needs of the Sultans as well as their comfort. For a long time, Dolmabahce Palace became the permanent residence of the Ottoman Sultans. After the Republic of Turkey was established in 1923, the founding father Mustafa Kemal Atatürk started to stay in the Dolmabahce Palace during his time in Istanbul. In fact, he passed away in his room in the Dolmabahce Palace on 10 November 1938. His room is still preserved as it was and open to visitors to see the inside even though they are not allowed to enter. 

Dolmabahce Palace has three main sections. There are administrative rooms where the Ottoman Empire was ruled from and important decisions took place. There is also the Ceremonial Hall where important guests were received by the Sultans. Along with that, the imperial ceremonies took place in this section of the palace which is why it is called the Ceremonial Hall. This section is famous for the crystal chandelier that was a gift from Queen Victoria of England. Another section is the harem where the women of the palace stayed safely as well as where the children were educated. Dolmabahce Palace is open for visitors from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm. Dolmabahce Palace is closed on Mondays. 

GALATA TOWER

The Galata Tower is one of the highest towers found in Istanbul with its 63 meters height. The Galata Tower was built during the 14th century. It was essentially a part of the defense wall and was used as a watchtower. At the time the Galata Tower was called the Tower of Christ. It was mostly used in keeping a watch of the Golden Horn. Since the tower offers a panoramic view of the entire city, Sultan Mehmet II the Conqueror, used the tower for detecting the fires in Istanbul after the conquest of Constantinople. 

Even though the Galata Tower has a rich history, it is mostly known for Hezarfen Ahmet Celebi among the locals of the city. He made himself wings similar to bird wings and jumped from the Galata Tower, managing to fly over the Bosphorus, he landed in Uskudar on the Asian side in the 17th century, during the Ottoman Empire period. He flew 6 kilometers or 4 miles in total from Europe to Asia. 

In 1967, the Galata Tower was opened to the public after being restored. At the top of the tower, there is a coffee house where you can sit down and enjoy the view of the city while eating and drinking. Even though there are elevators, you still have to climb some stairs to reach the top of the tower. There is also a souvenir shop at the entrance where you can buy something to remind you of the time you spent here. 

THE FATIH MOSQUE

The Fatih Mosque is one of the most mesmerizing structures in Istanbul. On the grounds of the Fatih Mosque, there was the Church of Holy Apostles during the reign of the Byzantine Empire in the 4th century. The church was badly damaged after the Fourth Crusade and was finally demolished. In its place, the Fatih mosque was built between the years of 1463 and 1470 by the order of Sultan Mehmet II of the Ottoman Empire, ten years after the Conquest of Constantinople. 

The Fatih Mosque is named after Sultan Mehmet II whose title is “the Conqueror” which is translated into “Fatih” in Turkish. Sultan Mehmet II wanted the structure to compete with the magnificence of Hagia Sophia. The Fatih Mosque is not only a mosque but a complex that has schools called medreses where theology, astronomy, mathematics, physics, law and medicine were taught,as well as hospital, hospice, market, library, caravanserai, a soup kitchen for the poor, hamams dormitories and tombs.

The original structure, unfortunately, did not last long. After the earthquakes happened in 16 and 18 centuries, the Fatih Mosque was badly damaged. An earthquake happened in 1766, caused most of the structure to collapse in a way that it was not repairable. Therefore, another structure was built in this place with a different plan than the original structure. However, the original design inside the mosque was copied. The remnants of the Church of Holy Apostles and the original Fatih Mosque can still be seen in some places of the complex. Mehmet the Conqueror and his wife’s tombs are still located in the Fatih Mosque complex and receive many visitors each day.

TOPKAPI PALACE

Tokapı Palace is probably the biggest landmark in Istanbul that you can visit. The Topkapı Palace was built in the 15th century. The construction started in 1466 and finished in 1478, taking 12 years to complete. The building of the Topkapı Palace was ordered by Mehmet II the Conqueror. The palace became the residence of the Sultans and the headquarters of the Ottoman Empire until Dolmabahce Palace was built in the 19th century. The palace’s name literally translates into the Gate of Cannons due to the big cannons located outside of the gates which were used during the Conquest of Constantinople. Even though the population was relatively small in the palace when it was first built, it increased over the years, reaching 5,000 and even 10,000 during the important days. 

After the Sultans moved to Dolmabahce Palace, the Holy Relics of the Prophet Muhammed, as well as the royal treasure and imperial archives, stayed in the Topkapı Palace. In 1924, after the fall of the Ottoman Empire, the palace was turned into a museum. Today, you can still see arms and weapons of the Ottomans, Chinese and Japanese porcelains, imperial treasury, Holy Relics and portraits of the Sultans as well as their belongings in the museum. 

HAGIA SOPHIA

Hagia Sophia is another world-famous structure in Istanbul. In 360, a church was built by the order of the emperor Constantine I of the Byzantine Empire. This church was known as the “Great Church” because of its size. After it was burned down in 404 due to riots, another church was built in its place in 415 by the order of Theodosius. This church also burned down because of another revolt in 532. The remnants of the second church can still be found in the west garden of Hagia Sophia. There are also some bricks found in the storage which are thought to be from the first church. 

After the two churches burned down, Justinian I ordered a much bigger church to be built and he assigned the two well-known architects of the time for the job. After the Crusade in 1262, Hagia Sophia was extremely damaged. When Sultan Mehmet II of the Ottoman Empire conquered Constantinople, he renovated the church and turned it into a mosque without harming the original structure and the designs. The famous Ottoman architect Mimar Sinan strengthened the structure and added two more minarets. 

In 1935, Hagia Sophia became a museum where the visitors can both see the influence of the Byzantine Empire and Christianity as well as the Ottoman Empire and Islam in the structure itself, standing together side by side.

THE SULTAN AHMET MOSQUE 

The Sultan Ahmet Mosque is one of the most famous landmarks in Istanbul. After finishing the race, you could definitely admire the view and even visit the mosque itself. 

The Sultan Ahmet Mosque was built between the years of 1609 and 1616 during the Ottoman Empire era, under the reign of Sultan Ahmet I who lived for 28 years and ruled for 14 years. It was Sultan Ahmet I himself who ordered the mosque to be built. He wanted the mosque to be a complementary structure to the Hagia Sophia since it was built across from it. The architect of the Sultan Ahmet Mosque was Sedefkar Mehmet Ağa who was both the pupil and the senior assistant of the famous Ottoman architect Mimar Sinan. 

The Sultan Ahmet Mosque is also known as the Blue Mosque due to the handmade Iznik ceramic tiles used on the interior of the mosque. These tiles had flower shapes on them painted with blue ink. Since there are over 20,000 ceramic tiles in the mosque, the inside looks blue, hence the name of the mosque. However, the official name of the mosque comes from Sultan Ahmet I who ordered the mosque to be built. Unfortunately, he passed away before he could see the finished structure. 

The Sultan Ahmet Mosque is a complex with medreses, hamams, hospital, primary school as well as a resting place for the Sultan, making it an important part of the social life back in the Ottoman Empire era. There are also tombs on the grounds of the mosque where Sultan Ahmet I, his wife and his sons are buried.

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