Zagreb Marathon combines performance with culture

Many athletes search the planet for special races, but Croatia’s capital city of Zagreb is home to both a major marathon and perhaps the most unusual walking tour you will come across on your city-break adventures.

While many are aware of Croatian artist Ivan Kozaric’s well-loved sculpture Prizemljeno Sunce, or the Grounded Sun, far fewer have noticed the rest of the scaled down solar system, hidden in plain sight across the city. While the closest planet is a mere 75m away from the Grounded Sun, it would take a journey ten times that to find Pluto hidden in a pedestrian underpass on the outskirts of the city.

However, if you would prefer to discover Zagreb by running rather than walking, why not take on the Zagreb Marathon, which has recently been certified as a 3-star Quality Road Race by European Athletics. President of the Organising Committee, Marko Jakopović, voices the team’s delight in receiving 3-Star certification.

“To be certified as a 3-Star Race by European Athletics is an important confirmation of quality and Zagreb Marathon is very proud of it. We as organisers are happy that our work over the years has been recognised with the Quality Road Race Mark. We also hope that this status will help runners recognise Zagreb Marathon as one of the best marathons in the region.”

The 2014 edition of the marathon was a notable occasion, with a record number of participants lining up in the city’s main square. With a total of over 14,000 athletes across the 5km, half-marathon and marathon, it was a step forward in both quantity and quality.

A new course record of 2:14:11 was set in the men’s race by Luke Kibet of Kenya. Together with the women’s record of 2:34:57 set a few years’ previously, the course is known for its flat route and fast times. The marathon route covers the city centre from one end to the other, with two laps of a very straight, out-and-back course, both starting and finishing in Ban Josip Jelačić Square.

However, the flat course isn’t the only appeal of this marathon; the cultural charm of the city is also a great draw, as Jakopović describes:

“Lately Zagreb is becoming a more and more interesting tourist destination. At the same time running is becoming more popular throughout the city. The combination of these two things should be reason enough to enjoy Zagreb Marathon.”

And he isn’t ready to let the 22-strong Organising Committee rest on its laurels any time soon. With more participants than ever coming from across Europe for this year’s race, as well as more prize money and better media coverage, the 2015 event held on 11 October is set to impress.

“Of course, we will try to get even better with time. Our goal is to achieve the highest level of quality - not just in the number of participants but also in their satisfaction with all aspects of the race. It won't be easy but we are ready to work even harder to achieve a 5-Star rating in the years to come.”

With such vision for the future of this event, it seems beyond doubt that the Zagreb Marathon will go from strength to strength.

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