Mate Hegyhati

Travel blog entry: meet the awesome Zagreb Runners

I know, I haven't posted anything recently, so here is a quick personal update before leaving the city. 

Due to a work related CEEPUS Freemover project, I got to spend a week in the capital of Croatia, Zagreb. Obviously, it was not a question for debate, whether I bring along my running gear or not, just the selection of the shoe.

I planned to run around the city from the beginning, and get over with the sightseeing part that way, but it was only the very last moment before my travel, that the idea came from my inner voice: "Hm.. wouldn't it be awesome if I could join a team  there or even go to a race?"

Google is a good friend, and I've quickly found out, that I am a couple of week early for a half marathon in Zagreb, and I didn't manage to find any other races nearby. Well, next time I'll think ahead. What about running groups? I kept finding old articles about a Nike run club in Zagreb, and finally managed to find the facebook page of the now independent Zagreb Runners. The latest post was promising, and I even got a response, so yay!

But, that was on Wednesday, and I was already here on Tuesday, so I went out for a schmooze run in the evening. The riverside was really nice (I have never been to the Sava before), and well lit, though the track was full of puddles due to the rainy weather, but it was ok. I even managed to find a nice park, and got back home without asking for the help of any maps.

(Just a quick comment here. As a kid, I remember learning "Duna, Tisza, Dráva, Száva, törjön ki a lábad szára" which translates to something like "Danube, Tisza, Drava, Sava, may / let's hope that Your shin detach from Your body." Putting apart that this is not the best thing to think about while running there, no matter how hard I tried, I could not recall, where this say is from. So Hungarian readers, enlighten me in the comments please!)

Anyhow, Wednesday come, and I was still not sure about where to find the mystical meeting place, Boonika. Google maps showed me a location, but there was nothing peculiar in the street view: 

I also found an art exhibition place with this name, but that must be a dead end. But what the heck, the worst thing that can happen to me is that I run alone again, so let's just go. And thus I did. When I was running around the corner indicated above, there was nobody on the street except for a guy just stepping out of his car. As I passed by, I had a very direct (and undisguised) look at his shoes. Running shoes, yes! After exchanging a few words, I was in one of the basement exhibition rooms of the Boonika (yeah, apparently that was a good lead), filled with jolly runners. 

The atmosphere was amazing, runners getting ready for the training, teasing each other (though I didn't understand a word of it, but it was obvious: a level of friendship that just gets stronger by several elfish remarks). The welcome was also warm: when we got out of the building, Domi (the main organizer, so to speak) announced that it will be an international run, and asked me to say a few words about me. Which I did, but eventually I was talked down by everybody laughingly asking about my pace :-D Then we split into groups, and started running. I always had somebody to talk to in English during the run, so it was a lot of fun, and I got to know a lot about their running club, the 442 crew (You should really check this out, this is something exemplary), Zagreb, etc. 

Anyhow, we had a really nice 5min/km run around the Jarun lake, and... then... how else to put it... They share the same thoughts about the after the ideal run routine as we do in Veszprem. Namely: stretching, chatting, and beer :-) Oh, and don't forget about Pongo!

Before I left, the guys mentioned me, that there will be a 10k race on Sunday, and although the registration closed the day before, they have a member that unfortunately got sick, and can give me His bib. Let's just say that, I did not expect Wednesday to end so well :-)

Thursday and Saturday was resting, but on Friday I teased the mountain Medvenica, that is visible from the riverside too. Getting to the top, Sljeme would have taken 32km and I haven't had lights with me, so I just barely went to the edge of the forestry area, but I could still see some very nice areas. Next time I will definitely run to the top! 

And eventually, Sunday came. 10 am, and the runners from the club are gathering at a coffee / pub. A lot of them, and to my surprise many of them remembered me, and greet me with a smile! I got my bib and decided to run together with Anja and Igor (top picture), as they planned a nice 5min pace, that sounded perfect for that day. The race was simply awesome, Igor did a PB, and everyone was in a great mood. 

Moreover, Sven was so kind to give me His shirt, so I'll go back to Hungary with these goodies now:

But there is one more thing that I MUST mention. The cheering team. It was simply fantastic. Several runners from the team, who were not participating in the race put up something spectacular. Not just for the team members, but for everybody. Confetti, loudspeaker, high5, everything. I can't thank enough for the girls and guys who were there. You are the best!

As a goodbye, I went yesterday evening to Boonika again, and had an other nice run with the guys (well, girls this time). We said our goodbyes, but I'm sure, that not for long. I have never expected this trip to be such a boom from the running point of view. Thank You, Zagreb Runners, see You soon in Zagreb, Veszprém, or wherever we meet!

What else can I say, dear reader... if You happen to visit Zagreb, don't miss these guys, go run with them. They are utmost friendly, cheerful, etc. And I haven't even yet said a word about the girls there :-) 

And as always: Thanks for reading! Sharing, comments and +1s are always appreciated. You can follow the blog on Google+Twitter, and Facebook.

Mate Hegyhati

About Mate Hegyhati

Amateur fun runner, geek, hiker.