Meet the Heroes of Croatia 365: Iva Hafner of Run Croatia

Total Croatia News

Croatian tourism has many inspirational individuals executing their ideas and dreams with little or no official support. In the latest in our series on December 23, 2016, Meet the Heroes of Croatia 365, meet Iva Hafner, one of the co-founders of Run Croatia. Fresh from the success of last weekend’s inagural Zagreb Advent Run, Iva talks a little about her ideas to turn Croatia into a quality running destination. 

1. Advent in Zagreb is proving very popular, and you decided to make your own contribution, a 10km organised run. Tell us about the idea and the preparation.

When we started the Run Croatia project in October 2015, we wanted to know Croatia better through running and through connecting with the running community, local race organizers and tourism offices. We realized that there are 10km races happening throughout the country, but it’s not always easy to find them on the internet. The quality of such race events in terms of organization, promotion and sponsoring has been done on a basic local level ever since. This is where we offer partnership and support to get the race event organized and promoted on a high level. Soon after, the idea was born to form „10 x10 Run Croatia League“ with the goal to run 10km races in 10 destinations. This way runners can collect points with the chance to win attractive prizes, and they can travel every month to another destination, preferably through our car sharing partner BlaBlaCar, to see parts of Croatia from a dynamic perspective.

Zagreb was scheduled as the final 10km race in the League and it happened to be during the popular Advent time. In Europe almost every capital has a Christmas Run, so we hope that Run Croatia’s Advent Run will become a tradition too ,and that next year we can organize the race in the city center.

2. Croatian bureaucracy is famous for making things difficult – how hard was it to organise?

We know Zagreb as a run-friendly city with a growing number of runners. It’s also well known that mayor Bandić is a regular runner too. Our initial aim was to organize a fun advent-inspired race close to the happenings in the center, however this year we were transferred to lake Bundek with no stated reason. After our first successful Advent Run we’re excited to work more closely with the Zagreb Tourism Board and City of Zagreb to draft a race which can eventually become a tradition in the heart of the city. 

3. Over 300 registered runners from 15 countries is a great achievement. How did you manage it?

This was our first race in Zagreb, and we’re very happy about the interest, especially among the expat community and tourists. This means that participants are motivated to run even in the coldest weather, and to join the race from as far away as India or Mexico. We wouldn’t manage this big event without our volunteers, who are the lifeblood in every race organization, and the sponsors who have recognized the importance of such an event. 

4. You have started a website, Run Croatia. Tell us a little about it, and what you hope to achieve?

For the start our website offers race event information and inspiring blog stories from the world of running. Next year we’ll upgrade the content with adding destinations and offering the possibility for runners to get better informed about the running routes. Our second website is definitely Facebook where we see a lot of interaction in the community, and Instagram is getting really interesting to tell stories and attract runners from afar.

5. Croatia is not known as a major running destination – why do you think it should be?

Running as uncomplicated healthy excercise has become a lifestyle like travel. In Europe there are approximately 50.million runners who run regularly in every weather condition, and who like to explore new races, routes and destinations. Croatia is not on the world running map yet – the Zagreb Marathon is not well-known and little effort has been done by the relavent authorities to recognize the economic power behind such big race events and the readiness to build the image and brand destinations as god-given for a „runcation“ type of holiday. Croatia with its trails, roads and paths offers unparalleled scenery for runners, making it possible to run them all-year round due to its favorable climate.

6. You are also behind an initiative to improve Croatia’s year-round tourism. Can you tell us a little about that, and also about the potential of Croatian tourism away from the beach?

We live in times of ubiquitous connectivity in a more and more collaborative society which asks questions why certain things have been always done the same way, and how can we organize our everyday lives and our future in a smart way without hitting the wall. Our resources are not limitless, as well as the growth in number of tourists in hot-spots during the high season. Through my network of tourism professionals I recognized the need to connect more and learn from each other about the ideas and initiatives so we formed a closed group on facebook for the start. We are a group of people who puts efforts into realization of the national 365-tourism strategy (adopted in 2014) with the aim to overcome the strong seasonality and to boost spending out of season.

„Runcation“ as an active type of holiday has the potential to answer how to spread tourism streams more evenly throughout the year in all parts of the country. Croatia offers perfect conditions for development of sports tourism and health tourism, which are the fastest growing trends in the travel industry, on a year round basis. If you are a motivated tourism professional with ideas and energy to contribute, you are welcome to join our closed Facebook group, which now has over 300 members. 

7. And finally, what plans for Run Croatia in 2017?

We will definitely keep on running;) From our first year in operation we have learned a lot from our runners, from the market field and the race organizers which can help us grow and improve our events. We are happy about the increasing interest from the tourism boards and landmark hotels to work together on gradually building a „runcation“ destination image through our expertise. Also we’re excited to work with specialized travel agencies in active holidays and international running clubs on developing joint programs to get Croatia finally on the world running map!

You can learn more about Run Croatia here


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