The 28 June has seen its fair share of important moments over the years but the date is now marked by Vidovdan, a Serbian national holiday.
St Vitus Day, as it also known, is typically celebrated by a slava or feast, but other annual festivities include the unique but well-established Vidovdan 10km Road Race in Brčko, held this year on 27 June.
Having recently been awarded European Athletics Running for All 5-star status and with IAAF Bronze Road Race Labels already in the bag from 2011 and 2012, Race Director Borislav Đurđević appreciates that pressure also comes with such recognition.
“Of course we are delighted about being awarded 5-star status but at the same time we understand it is a big responsibility to justify the trust we’ve been given.
“We believe that this recognition will influence other organisers from our country and they’ll have a more serious approach to organising future events. Until a couple of years ago there wasn’t a great tradition of road racing in Bosnia and Herzegovina, but today we have some very good races, including marathons and half marathons.
“Standards are very important because they give organisers the guidelines to help them channel their energy in the right direction. Running for All standards are complementary to the standards set by the IAAF for obtaining labels and they now represent a rounded set of rules for all organisers. This is something that’s been missing and now we’re lucky to have a clear picture of what it takes to organise a good quality race” says Đurđević.
Located on Bosnia and Herzegovina’s northern border with Croatia, Brčko lies on the banks of the River Sava and is the administrative seat of the Brčko District. With plenty of shops and restaurants for post-race celebrations, this culturally diverse city is also a gateway to the Adriatic Sea for many European holiday-makers.
Starting and finishing in Brčko’s Veliki Park, the course winds its way through the city centre before heading out towards the river. The second half takes runners further out of town before a right hand turn reveals an almost three kilometre long avenue straight down to the finish.
But there is more than just the 10km main event to satisfy the hordes of spectators that descend on Brčko for this event. A 2km fun run is also held, as well as a number of children’s races which Đurđević says are just as important.
“Vidovdan Road Race is a bit different from others because it has several thousand children participants from all of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the surrounding region.
“Our athletes don’t have much opportunity to participate in great events so it’s very important for us to make it possible for them to do so. That’s why our energy is focused on quality and good results, as well as the promotion of athletics and a healthy lifestyle to children. For now, we are managing to fulfil both goals.”
As Đurđević starts to look forward to the Vidovdan 10km Road Race’s 20th Anniversary next year, his determination to increase the number of female entrants and participation levels in the children’s races is obvious. But it’s last year’s efforts to help the children of Brčko that are really impressive.
“Last year our city was hit by severe flooding and it happened right in the middle of our race, so we decided to make it a humanitarian event and not just a competitive race. The most important thing was that we managed to get enough money to buy school supplies and equipment for all of the children whose homes were ruined by flooding.”
Many parts of Bosnia and Herzegovina were damaged in the floods last year, with major infrastructures destroyed and thousands of people left homeless. Thanks to the solidarity and support shown from all over the world, the country is now back on its feet, but this year’s race will again support the recovery process by funding the reforestation of areas damaged by landslides in the floods.
Ultimately though, participation is the driving force for this event’s future. Đurđević concludes:
“The event is a fantastic festival of athletics with a lot of children involved and a great number of spectators cheering for runners all along the course. We are aware that Bosnia and Herzegovina does not have a great tradition in this sport but we have to do everything in our power to change that and motivate all of those who want to run, to participate in our or any other race. It’s simple, our task is to break this taboo.”
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