Today is the day – you are in Croatia, signed up for a race and race day has finally come! No need to add to the pre-race jitters by worrying about what to expect between the start and the finish line. Croatian races follow the standard format so expect your basic nutrition, pacing, and health needs to be met along the course.
By Lisa Nemec
After a short word from the organizer or moderator, the start gun will fire signaling the beginning of the race. In this regard, the Croatian race is just like any other race. You can expect some runners in the top half to go out a bit too fast while some runners in the bottom half to start more conservatively. Many races begin on narrow streets, so there is the possibility for crowding at the beginning. This tends to string out by the one-kilometer mark.
Many races place the start and finish in the same area, so the start is filled with uplifting music and cheers from the spectators.
It is common to have every kilometer marked along a road race, so you can check to see if you are running according to plan. You can also see if your GPS watch is giving correct splits. However, it is uncommon to have official timers during half marathons and marathons at essential intervals such as at the 5km, 10km, 15km, etc. The official timer is usually always located only at the finish.
Pacers and the Race Course
Bigger races offer official pacers to help people who are trying to reach specific goal times. Like in any bigger race, these pacers will be wearing something that will make them stand out so the runners will be able to notice them with ease. If pacers are available, the race organizer will notify participants through their website.
If you are lucky enough to be leading a race, a lot of races have bicyclists chaperoning the leading male and female runner.
Road races tend to be well marked and have police officers or volunteers at the turns making it easy to stay on the course without any problems.
The courses are never thoroughly barricaded. If there are barricades between the runners and the spectators, it will only be in critical places such as the start and finish as well as areas that can cause crowding. This makes it easy for spectators to cross the road when there are no runners.
Music/Entertainment on the Course
Unlikely many big marathons, it is still uncommon to find music and entertainment along the course in half marathons and marathons, but this is slowly changing in bigger races. There is usually music at the finish line to give runners that last boost for their sprint finish, but any entertainment along the course is up to the spectators.
There is one group called Zagreb Runners who have started a tradition of making signs and cheering on all the runners as they pass. Their signs are motivating and funny. While passing by them, they may even make you smile or hand out high-fives!
Like with any race, water is provided along the course by the organizer at specified aide stations. Each race is different, so it is best to look at a course map to see the location of all the aid stations.
These stations can also provide nutrition for participants in longer races. It is common to have banana slices or other types of fruit. Sugar cubes and iso drinks can be available at longer road races, while longer trail races can even provide a full meal!
A medical tent is located at the finish line area. In longer races, there are no medical tents along the course. Bigger races have an ambulance on call ready to answer any emergency on the course. If you get hurt or if you do not feel well during the race, try to ask a spectator, volunteer or participant running with their smartphone if they would kindly help you out. Just remember the number 194! This is the Croatian number for emergencies. Call this number, and medical attention will be on its way shortly.
The best part of the race is the finish. You made it! Congratulations! Most races have very enthusiastic speakers, so even if you do not understand the language, you can feel the excitement. Now it is time to relax, enjoy and celebrate!
It is common to get a finishers’ medal on all bigger races in Croatia, and some of those are a piece of art.