Sports Gazette

by sports journalism students at St Mary's University, London

Thinking of running the San Silvestre this year?

Posted on 31 December 2019 by Maitane Alana Place
Larrabasterra, a small coastal town near Bilbao (Spain) celebrates its third edition.
Larrabasterra, a small coastal town near Bilbao (Spain) celebrates its third edition.

On 31st December over 1000 cities in Spain and other parts of the world gather millions of people to run a charity race to raise money for diverse causes.

The origin of this event dates back to 1925 when a Brazilian journalist, inspired by a French night race on 1st January, started his own race in Sao Paolo in order to celebrate the ending of the year. He named it after Silvestre, who became Pope in 314AD and was known in Rome for his humbleness, and died on the 31st of December of 337AD.

It was a local race until 1945 when Casper Líbero, the journalist, invited international athletes to take part. In 1975 women were allowed to run, thanks to the United Nations and the International Women’s Year. The original San Silvestre is celebrated on the 31st, but different cities move the date between the 29th and New Year’s Eve.

In the case of Spain, the oldest San Silvestre was celebrated in Galdakao in 1961, a town next to Bilbao, though it was not very successful. The second oldest race has been celebrated in Madrid since 1964, with a triumphal ending in Vallecas, Rayo Vallecano’s football stadium.

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Even though the initial race was overnight, the popularity has grown so much that the event now takes place in the morning or afternoon. It’s not a marathon either: only a maximum of 15km in order to make yourself hungry for the enormous amount of food at supper time.

People, invaded by the Christmas spirit, are also encouraged to dress up and the best fancy dress is also awarded. In recent years, a Mini edition has started for those keen children wanting to emulate their parents… or not.

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A curiosity about San Silvestre races is that before Spain, other countries like Portugal, Angola or Chile also celebrated it too.

What do you think? Are you up to a fun race before dinner?