With less than a month left to register for the Dubrovnik Half Marathon the Dubrovnik Times caught up with the race director Alen Boskovic. Last year was the first time that Dubrovnik has organised such an event and it was an overnight success. With runners from all five continents in the first race the race organisers, with Alen at the helm; have their work cut out to move a step further. With the crystal clear Adriatic Sea, the stunning historic architecture and the guaranteed sunshine runners in the second Dubrovnik Half Marathon will have plenty of things to keep their minds off their aching limbs. Boskovic has a sporting background, he was a professional water polo player and represented Croatia at the Olympics, but the move behind the scenes to organising has proved to be a whole new challenge, a new chapter in his life.
How was the idea of a half marathon in Dubrovnik first born?
The very beginnings of a half marathon in Dubrovnik are closely connected to Dubrovnik's sister in California, Monterey. Fred Muir, the former Monterey City Manager, and Wally Kaster, the race director of the Big Sur Marathon in Monterey, gave the idea to make a similar event to the marathon in Monterey in around 2005. I took a few years for this idea to blossom, but in 2010 when the Mayor of Dubrovnik, Andro Vlahusic, was visiting Monterey the idea picked up more steam. We agreed that the team from Monterey would help with their “know how.” Unfortunately Kaster had some health problems at that time so he couldn’t travel frequently to Dubrovnik, so following their recommendations we teamed up with the Next Events production team, a team that promotes the Portland marathon.
Run the Walls held challenges for the organisers
How did you become involved with the marathon and eventually find yourself in the race director’s chair?
When the idea of the marathon was growing the members of the American board came to visit Dubrovnik in 2013 and wanted to get the Dubrovnik Running Club involved in the project, this was my first involvement. In my role as the General Secretary of the Dubrovnik Sport Association we were asked to provide support for the marathon. I was asked by Miho Katicic, the Dubrovnik councillor for education, sport and social welfare, to be part of the team and join in the event.
The first time you heard the idea of a marathon in Dubrovnik what were your reactions?
I have to admit that I thought it was impossible. Firstly we didn’t have a culture of running in the city; we tend to play more team sports than individual sports. I thought it would be hard to get the amount of people needed to organise a marathon. I remember at one of my first meetings with Kaster, who has years of experience in putting these races on, that he explained the number of people that were needed behind the scenes. I couldn’t imagine just how much logistics were needed. It became clear that we needed hundreds of volunteers to make the race run smoothly, I had some doubts that we could raise that number of people. The whole culture of volunteering is still relatively new in Croatia. However one event changed my mind and opened my eyes to new possibilities. There was a huge gathering of all of the Catholic youth from all over the world in 2014, a meeting that included thousands and thousands of people, and this was organised mainly through the assistance of volunteers. This gave me the idea, and the hope, that we could also raise the volunteers we required.
Alen Boskovic in the media spotlight
How many volunteers were present on the day of the half marathon in Dubrovnik?
On the race day we had more than 300 people, all the way along the track and throughout the Old City of Dubrovnik. And if you count the lead up to the race and all the other extra events we managed to collect more than 480 volunteers. This was one of the biggest successes of the marathon. I have to take this opportunity to thank everyone who gave up their free time to help, and an extra special thanks to the members of the Catholic youth association. We hope that we will get even more volunteers this year and have already started our “volunteer campaign,” in schools and clubs.
You have described the Dubrovnik half marathon as “more than a race,” why do you think the half marathon is so important for the city?
We have a few goals that are attached to the marathon. Firstly we want to motivate more people in Dubrovnik to run, whether professionally or just for fun; we want more people to be active runners. Secondly to get more young people involved in the event, either as runners or as volunteers. The youth of today is our future and we need to do everything we can to help them. And last but not least, Dubrovnik is a tourist destination and it is important for the city that in May we have a world event that brings attention and tourists to the city. Don’t forget that this race opens up another type of tourism for Dubrovnik.
Even though last year was the first year of the marathon you still managed to attract many international athletes to Dubrovnik.
Yes, in the first year of the race we managed to bring athletes from all five continents to Dubrovnik, another great success. We had 350 runners last year from 36 different nations attending the Dubrovnik half marathon. For example we had runners from China, the US, New Zealand, the UK, India, Hong Kong, Australia, Brazil, Canada, to name just a few. It was great to have these international runners in Dubrovnik, to show them how beautiful our city is and to introduce them to all our traditions and cultures. We opened the door to international running in Dubrovnik. We offered all the runners a whole package of offers, such as free public transport, free entrance onto the city walls and into the museums, in order to show them all that Dubrovnik is more than just a sand, sea and summer destination.
From playing sport to organising sporting events has meant a sharp learning curve
Although the Half Marathon was the main event you also organised three other races, one of which was a race around the Old City Walls. How difficult was it to put on a race around the walls?
It was a challenge. The walls have many steps, low walls and above all they are relatively narrow. I walked around the walls twice before the race with the manager of the walls to find out the best way to protect our runners. The city walls have many sharp turns and don’t forget that they are built on cliffs thirty metres above the sea. So we organised more than thirty volunteers to be present at particular places around the walls to warn runners of any dangers. We put a lot of time and planning into the race around the walls, but I believe it was all worth it. We are blessed in Dubrovnik to live in such a spectacular city.
Although you were a professional water polo player you don’t have a background in either running or business. And yet in spite of this you won the award as director of the year after your first marathon.
Nobody was more surprised than me when I won this prestigious award at the director’s college event in Portland last year. I don’t know how I can start to describe how I felt. Yes, I was a professional sportsman but I was never really involved in the organising of sporting events. In many ways this is a new chapter in my life and I am very passionate about it. It was really inspiring to create something so successful, to see so many people helping and all the hard work that was put in. I am emotionally involved in the Dubrovnik half marathon.
Get your running shoes on and sign up for the race!
Date: May 1st 2016
The highlight of Du Motion – Dubrovnik Runners Days is the Half Marathon Race. Both the start and finish are on the Stradun, Dubrovnik’s most famous street and continues outside the old city walls into the picturesque countryside.
Find more details on the race and how to register HERE
The Dubrovnik Times is proud to be an official media sponsor of the 2016 Dubrovnik Half Marathon.