The history of the walk races connected with Podebrady dates back to the last century, but the long tradition is definitely not fading at present, on the contrary. Its freshness is evidenced by at least two exceptional events: in 1997, Czech athletics celebrated a hundred-year-old World Cup. In the 2017 season, the European Cup was held here on the occasion of the 120th annual domestic athletics, and in 2021 Podebrady hosted the European Team Championships.
Everything started … at the end of the nineteenth century, when the first sports clubs and competitions came to existence. The first 50 km race walking competition from Karlín (in Prague) to Poděbrady was held in 1894 – i.e. two years before the first modern Olympic Games. The merit goes to pedestrians (the then term for race walkers) from AC Královské Vinohrady who competed on the track for a club title.
It should be noted that the beginning was rather symbolic: no race took place until the end of the 1920s. Only with the introduction of 50 km race walking at the Olympics in Los Angeles in 1932, three years earlier – i.e. in 1929 – a new premiere took place. With the exception of four years during the WWII the "Poděbrady" race is held regularly. With regard to the change of rules (e.g. due to the recognition of World Records) since the 1990s the race has been organized at the 1 km long town circuit in the Spa Park.
As a tribute to the glorious history ... let's mention a few names. In the 1930s, a five-time winner was Jaroslav Stork-Žofka of AC Sparta, whose best result 4:40 lasted until 1946. It was the first triumph of the legendary Josef Doležal and his performance of 4:23:40 was the first of his three world records, which he exclusively achieved in "Poděbrady", reducing time to 4:16:06 (1954). From 1949 to 1955 he added unequalled seven wins in a row. The four-hour limit was then withstanding for nearly a quarter of a century, until the Mexican Raúl González beat the record in 1978 with 3:41:20. Only Pavol Szikora (from Czechoslovakia) managed to get close to the record on a classic track ten years later when his result was 3:46:52.
In April 1997 the small town on the Elbe River enjoyed a big sports event - a thousand participants and their escorts, personal presence of the former IAAF president Nebiolo Prima ... All this thanks to the organization of the 18th edition of the World Cup. The race walkers performed their excellent results, the best in that year: Jefferson Perez (Ecuador) race walked the 20 km track in 1:18:24 and Jesús Ángel García (Spain) made 50 km in 3:39:54.
In 2017, Poděbrady hosted the European Race Walking Cup, and in May 2021 & 2023, the best race walkers of the Old Continent came to Central Bohemia to compete within the European Athletics Team Championships, a competition which will be held by Poděbrady also in 2023 and 2025.
Poděbrady Walking is included in the World Athletics Race Walking Gold category for next year and will celebrite 92nd anniversary.