Dubrovnik Half Marathon
Report by Paul Ackerley
As we were driving away from the Fountains Parkrun one day in January, one of us said, “Organising a half marathon must be a great way for a place to bring in some additional tourism revenue”, to which the other replied “Yes, so where would be a nice place to run one?” I thought for a moment … “Dubrovnik would be my choice…”.
Got home, Googled “Dubrovnik half marathon” … there it was, 28 April … Facebook Messenger kicked in … “There is one in Dubrovnik – 28 April … do you fancy it?”. By the Saturday afternoon, Sarah Woffinden (not yet a Ripon Runner, but regular at Fountains) and I were both booked on to it.
I took the leisurely route to Dubrovnik, Flying to Split and then travelling by ferries stopping off along the Croatian islands; Sarah flew in the evening before the race.
‘Old Town’ Dubrovnik is a beautiful place, and like Fountains, one of the 1,092 UNESCO Word Heritage Sites. We were joined by 998 other runners from 45 other countries. We had also bagged an Airbnb about 30 yards from the Start / Finish line, so travel on the morning of the race wasn’t too complicated!
The race starts on Stradun, the old town’s historic main thoroughfare – and a place I have many a fond memory of sitting and drinking coffee. It was magical to start the race there, and to run out of the city walls, and then finish by running down through the Pile Gate and back on to Stradun. The intervening 11 – 12 miles were mainly along the Adriatic coast, although there is a mountain to cross to get in / out of the old town … well, it felt like a mountain on the way back, it’s about a 60 metre gain over half a mile.
Collection of numbers, shirts, goodie bag was the day before (when there is also a race around the city walls), so you need to be there the day before. The race was really well organised (almost as good as the Fountains Parkrun), with about a dozen water / fruit / isotonic drink stops staffed by
what must have been about 90% of Dubrovnik’s 10 – 16 year olds. There were bands at various points and as one of the sponsors was a brewery, it was (cruelly) offering free half-litres of craft beer at miles 2 and 11.5 (at the bottom of the previously mentioned mountain) … It was a really enjoyable race to take part in, although a sunny 18 – 20 degrees was a little warm for us both, and the thought of diving into the sea crossed my mind more than once. It was my first competitive half marathon (coincidentally a year to the day after my first ever run of over 2 miles, when I did my first Parkrun) and Sarah’s first in 6 years, so we would have welcomed it being a little cooler. But there was a good spread of sustenance at the end, which was welcome not least due to the excessive weight of the medal that was thrust over my head. There was also an after-event party to which all competitors were invited, with the lure of a free beer and sandwich, although we gave that a miss.
At the start, I was chatting with an American guy who had done over 50 half marathons and it was his first outside the US – he said he couldn’t think of anywhere more special outside of the US to run one; and an Irish person was telling Sarah that they were a returnee as the race was such good value
– and that point is worthy of note. As an entrant on a basic package, we got free access to all the Dubrovnik museums, the walls and public transport for a week together with numerous discounts – which would cost a tourist around £40 – the entry fee for the HM as only £32 (and that was without the early bird discount), so it’s a great way to see the old town, too.
I’ll be there again next year, and I suspect Sarah will be too. If you fancy it, and want any other information, please let me know.
As a foot note, on the way to Parkrun the following Saturday we decided we needed to be less impetuous … 8 hours later we were both booked on to the Arctic Circle / Polar Half Marathon …. but you will need to wait until next January for that report …