Bieg Piastów - beautiful history
In the mid-70s many Poles could not even travel freely abroad. So they had no idea what the free world looks like; the free world where people enjoy life, for example, organizing road trips across Europe and cross-country skiing. But when the political curtain lifted slightly in the 70s, the news from the world began to come to Poland. People in our country began to dream about things that in the democratic world were normal and common.
There are no great things that would not begin with big dreams! When in 1975 Bieg Piastów was invented, it was supposed to be the Polish version of the great mass races in Sweden and Germany. Today we can say: yes, it worked! But the way to reach the goal was long and it was not a bed of roses.
Then in Jelenia Góra the idea of organizing Bieg Piastów first appeared. People started to act very soon and in 1976 the first edition was organized. It was small and trial-like but it is still remembered and brings sentimental feelings. Stanisław Michoń won the first edition, which was attended by 518 people. The attendance in this race was rescued by students encouraged to start by their teachers and trainers.
Bieg Piastów was accepted by the authorities, which was then necessary to develop. But it was also liked by all participants who loved it from the first edition. Yes, people were encouraged to start in all the socialist, state-owned enterprises, in schools too. This fact certainly had an impact on the attendance increasing from year to year, but no one could make people smile and enjoy staying at Jakuszycka Glade, which from the beginning is the scene of Bieg Piastów. This was always a competition full of enthusiasm, joy and friendship.
In 1979, the first race for 50 km took place. At all distances competed around 7 thousand of people, which to this day is considered to be a record attendance. During the hard 80s, difficult time of martial law and even later, there were up to three times less participants. The organizers still complained about the lack of money to prepare the competition, but the tradition of Bieg Piastów outlived. It gained more followers and countless legends; it became a witness of many adventures, and beginning of long-term friendship and love.
In late 80s and early 90s, when Poland became a free, democratic country, most Poles had to learn to use freedom. Accustomed to job security, some people got lost in the new system. Bieg Piastów faced a similar problem, as it was previously funded by the state.
But it was lucky, very lucky! In the new, very difficult times, Julian Gozdowski, the co-founder of the first edition of the race, took care of it. This former official became known a brilliant lobbyist and promoter of cross-country skiing. With his extraordinary talents in business, he saw, what others were afraid even to dream about.
And he saw Bieg Piastów as great and independent race, building its strength on the basis of sponsors and supporting institutions, as well as on the right to the land where it is held. When others begged the state for grants for their events, Julian Gozdowski talked with private companies in Poland and around the world, earning money for Bieg Piastów.
No wonder that with such a manager and leader, Bieg Piastów got away not only from different Polish competitions, but the country in general. When our country timidly knocked on the door of the European Union, Bieg Piastów had already entered the Euroloppet in 1995! For many years it felt comfortable there and then at the end of the next decade it was ready to enter the next level: Wordloppet.
After 40 years from its debut, the attendance during Bieg Piastów is ten times higher than in the first edition. It is attended by contestants from about 30 countries from five continents. Jakuszyce has became an arena known not only from Bieg Piastów, but also from organizing The World Cup twice, as well as the possibility of cross-country skiing throughout the winter.
Soon, cross-country skiing center in Jakuszyce, known for its routes, is going to be modernized to be able to organize the World Cup and the World Championships. Some people are worried about the future of Bieg Piastów.
We answer: keep calm, Bieg Piastów will not die or lose its open, friendly character. For Bieg Piastów is not just a place, a record in the calendar, results or organizers.