Sports events are something of a national preoccupation in Croatia. Most eyes in the country will be fixed to the TV screens when the national teams compete in football, handball, basketball and waterpolo. But, for a very large number of Croatians, it's simply not enough to just be a spectator, especially not with long summers always just on the horizon and when you have thousands of kilometres of beautiful beaches demanding your near-naked attendance. Of course, any time is right to start getting into shape, but Croatians make a concerted effort to do so in autumn, winter and early spring, before it becomes too hot for strenuous exercise. And they're extremely welcoming to visitors and foreign nationals who want to join in. From the parks and neighbourhoods of Zagreb to the beautifully varied landscape of rural and coastal Istria and the flat terrain of Slavonia and Srijem, perfect for cycling and road races, here are some of the best events of the year in which you can.
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Great sports, health and fitness events to help you get in shape for summer
Istria is full of breathtaking coastal towns and beautiful villages inland, some of which sit prettily atop hills. One of the most blissfully sedate is Brtonigla. However, that changes with the arrival of the Brtonigla Adventure Trek, which sees ramblers, hikers, walkers and runners set out into the pristine countryside surrounding the village for an exploration of the great outdoors in all its winter beauty. The river Mirna, Učka mountain, the vineyards and olive groves of the locale and, of course, the Adriatic sea, make for a spectacular backdrop to the trek and, perhaps best of all, the event coincides with the village's Chocolate and Wine Festival, so you can treat yourself after all the exertion. There is no designated route, as part of the event's offer is one of orientation, but each competitor will receive a map detailing the organised stop-off points along the way and the orientation aspect is very simple.
7th annual edition of this bicycle race of the Giant MTB League of Istria and Kvarner. There are multiple categories, set by age and sex, welcoming entrants from every demographic. The race for children starts at midday and has a unique route. The main race starts at 12.26pm. Race registration fees of 50 kuna - 70 kuna include a hot meal served afterwards. For racers wanting to compete in the whole league, there is a 20 kuna surcharge, with the number you are issued with being valid for the whole season.
Zagreb Love Run is a 5km road race around Lake Jarun in western Zagreb. A purpose-built space for such recreation, its lakeside surroundings are dotted with sports facilities and public areas, cafes bars and clubs. In the middle of the water, there are manmade islands and it's a thoroughly nice place for some winter exercise and socializing. A wide variety of runner demographic, and of varying levels of ability, are welcomed each year and competitors can enter the race solo, in mixed couples or in same-sex couples. Applications are open until capacity is filled and the cost of entering is 120 kuna and can be made at www.zagreblove.run/sign in
Start your race from the Stella Maris Resort and go through the nearby town of Umag. When convenient (careful not to trip over) enjoy a glance up towards the stars and remind yourself you belong to the universe while breathing the clear Istrian sea air. 2.5, 5 or 10 kilometres, the choice is yours. And don't forget you’re free to stay on for the pasta party back at Stella Maris afterwards.
Rock Trail Festival is a three-trail trek race in epic countryside which lies in the shadow of the Velebit mountain. The trekking will be followed by a craft beer event which welcomes several great breweries, with an attached music programme, this year featuring rock band Gustafi.
Našice's Lake Lapovac will roll out the red carpet for cyclists during this year's XCO Lapovac 2020. On June 7th, the intersection of spring and summer will see the lake in full bloom, with wild plants and flowers blossoming and birdsongs echoing across the waters. Participants of the cross country biking event will break a sweat while marvelling at nature's best side.
A specialist event, but one at which spectators are most welcome and may well be amazed. Check out the real Robin Hoods of today at this archery championship, organised in the Zelena resort by the Croatian Archery Association.
The lovely town of Čakovec in Međimurje County is a proven location for sports and recreation. This year, in the district which famously hosts the Zrinski Half Marathon and annual town race, they introduce the very first 10 kilometres night run. Taking place at the very start of summer, catching the very first summer breezes of the year in such lovely surroundings will make you want to stick around to unwind afterwards.
This cross country biking race will be held in striking Slatina, a Slavonian town at the intersection of Papuk Mountain's foothills, and the Drava's riverbanks.
Not just a race, but also a festival of a healthy lifestyle, culture and fun, as organizers are keen to point out. This two-day event offers participants free visits to the museum, free public transport connections and city tours. But the races are the focal point and from Ante Starčević square, the categories aim to attract beginners (5 km), pros (21.1. km half marathon) and relay racers (three laps of 7 kilometres).
Papuk is the largest mountain in the Slavonia region in eastern Croatia, a rare sight in these flat plains which were once a sea bed. It lies near the city of Požega and this summer race explores the mountain and the terrain around the town.
Organised by an amateur sports group who all share a love of rock n' roll music, this running event offers options of one mile, three miles or ten kilometres, with prizes for winners and runners-up coming in the form of beer tokens!
Trekking event through the beautiful, mountainous Risnjak National Park in Kvarner, with 16 kilometre and 30 kilometre options available.
Third edition of Slavonia Run, a speed-focussed race across a flat route.
Break out of your end-of-August lull with a cross country biking race in Slavonia's town of Orahovica, which sits under the region's largest and arguably most beautiful mountain, Papuk.RECOMMENDED: More great sports events in Croatia where you can join in
The 21st Sinj Half Marathon takes you through the pretty interior of Dalmatia. There are categories for all ages of male, female and group entries and cash prizes for the winners. Starting fee is 150 kuna which includes a lunch served at midday.
Rastoke is perhaps Croatia's prettiest village, sat atop rivers and streams which gush down mild rapids and with every property still of a traditional nature. The wild surroundings of the village are just as pretty. There are a 32 km long trail, an intermediate at 15 km and the recreational trail at 7 km, welcoming trekkers of varying ability and ambition.
Catch your first glimpses of fall foliage while getting active at this cross country cycling event at Slavonski Brod's lovely Lake Petnja.
An attractive road race, held at night, in and around the pictureque city of Zadar. On this, its sixth annual occurrence, you can choose between three routes depending on your ability and ambition; 2.5km, 5km or 10 km. Racing starts at 9pm and you must register in advance.
8th annual edition of this trail event taking place in the beautiful mountain terrain of Učka Nature Park in the Kvarner region. There are routes to suit several different levels of ambition and ability including 42 kilometres, 31 kilometres and 16 kilometres. Info & registration: www.kvarnertrails.com
Trail races through the countryside in south-west Karlovac County. You can choose from one of two races; Kosjenka is 13.5 km long, with a gradient of 600m, which runs over the Stošac, or a more challenging race across the Klek named Regoč, which is 33 km long and has a gradient of 1600m. There's a 1.5 km Tintilinić race to welcome the youngest participants too.
The tragic death of St. Euphemia, who is believed to have been eaten by lions, has inspired many Christian believers worldwide, particularly residents of the pretty seaside town of Rovinj for whom Euphemia is the official saint of the town. This diving event pays its respects to the Saint in the underwater landscape off Banjol island, just next to the town, where a statue of Rovinj's protector is situated in the depths. The statue is a replica, deliberately placed in the waters of Banjol to commemorate both the day of Rovinj and its Saint.
Four international football teams enter this tournament, testing youngsters who may aspire to turn professional. The tournament takes place ahead of autumn qualifying matches for league football and places an accent on Rovinj as a beautiful place both to play and prepare for forthcoming matches.
With a full-length marathon (starting at 5pm), but also a half marathon and a relay race (both starting at 6pm), plus a five-kilometre race (8pm start) and a 10-kilometre (8:30 pm start), this event aims to appeal to runners of every demographic, ability and ambition. You can all join in. With a starting point in front of Pula amphitheatre, the route takes you all around historic Pula and its Roman remnants, leaving you at the finish line of the Arena entrance. There's no better way to combine sightseeing of the ancient Roman city with healthy recreation.
The third edition of the Mazator trail race, taking place in the wild countryside around Slavonski Brod.
The landscape of Metajna canyon resembles planet Mars, with the exception of the soothing sea air which breezes through the site. The Challenger trail stretches through 23 kilometres of marked trail and mountain routes. For those who want to be active, but not exceed their ability, there's a 14-kilometre Active route which will also supply a solid dose of Serotonin. There's also a Light route for beginners. All races will start from the Metajna riva and following the race there will be an entertainment program at Novalja's Bazilika square from 7pm.RECOMMENDED: More great sports events in Croatia where you can join in
Molo Longo pier, built in 1888, expanded during the 20th century and exclusively reserved for custom workers and port personnel only until it was open for public in 2009. Such decision was spot on as it evolve into a beloved city's promenade whose 1707 meters length also serves as a location for various entertaining and recreational events. The Molo Longo Run is clearly one such event. Two laps, 6 kilometres in total offers a great chance for a bit of a workout during your 2020 cultural uprising.
International boating regatta around the beautiful island of Pag.
Annual charity running race in honour of youngster Terry Fox, who lost his leg to cancer. To raise money for medical treatment, in 1980 he went on a race across Canada, which he called the 'Marathon of Hope'. He ran for 143 days at 42 kilometres a day, but unfortunately, he was unable to finish because the illness returned and took his life at the age of 22. His family decided to continue the tradition and launched a campaign to raise money for cancer, which takes place every year in Canadian cities, organized by Canadian embassies and in 67 countries around the world, including this one in Croatia.
Host to this year's XCO Stara Drava cross country cycling race, Donji Miholjac sits on the Drava river at the Croatian-Hungarian border and makes for a beautiful backdrop for biking.
A half marathon road race through the picturesque island of Lošinj, in full sight of the Adriatic sea.
A series of cycling events taking place throughout south Istria. Kicking off with an event on Saturday 2 May at Fažana waterfront (the starting point is the car park in front of the Badel building), the series continues with Marčana (Tuesday 12 May), Šišan (town square, Wednesday 13 May), Vodnjan (Park kažuna, Saturday 16 May) before taking a break in the hot summer months and then returning on Sunday 27 September for an event in Šijanska forest.
At over 20 years old, Homo si teć is the largest street race for runners in Croatia. More than 17, 000 runners of all ages and abilities now take part in the race and, like the city's famous Carnival, such is its popularity that the bulk of the city centre becomes pedestrianised for the duration of the event. Spectators line the route as runners pass along Rijeka's most famous streets like Korzo, with the race containing not only the traditional citizens’ race but also the Rijeka half marathon, the Hendi Cup and the Ciciban Cup. A great music and entertainment programme accompanies the event, with partying on the streets and around the city centre continuing long into the night. The race's title is a term not in standard Croatian, but in the coastal Čakavski dialect.
Trail races through the spectacular nature of Kvarner taking in the Hahlići & Pakleno peaksRaces come in 18 kilometres and 12 kilometres in length.
This three river trail traverses the terrain of southern Velebit plus the canyons of the rivers Krupa and Zrmanja. The mountainous landscape is spectacular, with deep river valleys, rushing waters and caves a part of the backdrop.
Make the beginning of autumn awesome with a cross-country bike race in small-town Slavonia. Situated on the crossroads of Croatia's Posavina and Podravina regions, XCO Kalvarija's host town Pakrac is notable for the pretty Pakra River which winds through it. The town sits on a vast and verdant hill, and will provide cyclists with the picture-perfect racing backdrop.
Zagreb Marathon was started in 1992, and the number of participants has increased 15 times over the years. Now it is the most massive racing event in the country, gathering over 1000 participants in. In total, 28 countries were represented at the last Zagreb Marathon. Snaking around the historic city centre and its impressive Austro-Hungarian architecture, it is one of the fastest marathon trails in the world. The total altitude difference of the entire route is a negligible 5 metres and the elongated direction of the entire route, without almost any slowing turns, allows this constant pace. For a very low entry fee (from 150 kuna), all participants receive, a participant's T-shirt, a nice finisher's medal and lunch after the competition. In the last few years, there were also 10k races added to the 21k and 42k.
A weekend-long gourmet and bicycling weekend around beautiful Istria. The region has incredible scenery, both inland and coastal, plus some of the best food, wine and delicacies to be found in Croatia. The weekend package includes accommodation, all meals at the gourmet stops along the cycling routes, professional accompanying guides and route support and maps with the option of renting bicycles and e-bikes available, but separate to the main package price. Participants must wear bicycle helmets. In a rare case of bad weather, the event will take place the following week.RECOMMENDED: More great sports events in Croatia where you can join in
Požega, called the pearl of the "Golden Valley" (a Roman nickname given to the lovely surrounding region in ancient times), is the idyllic location of this year's XCO Šicana.
Get your running shoes, wetsuits and bikes ready and join what is arguably the world's most stunning triathlon course. Running along the beautiful coastline and through the medieval streets of Korčula, the triathalon features three seperate sections for entrants with a range of abilities and ambition; Middle-distance triathlon (1.9 km swim / 90 km bike / 21.1 km run); Sprint length triathlon (750 m swim / 20 km bike / 5 km run); Sprint Triathlon - Relay pairs (750 m swim / 20 kim bike / 5 km run). There's also a 5 kilomtre charity-fundraising street race, plus the weather is amazing at this time of year and there are few tourists. After all the exertion, you can feast of amazing Dalmatian cuisine and some of the finest Croatian wines which are made on this very island.
The beautiful Kvarner island of Krk is host for this trail race event with both Dubašnica 14-kilometre and Malinska 24-kilometre options. Taking you through narrow routes close to the sea, small coves and hidden beaches, gravel paths and ancient roads, lush and wild island vegetation and with a temperature backdrop that's comfortably still warm, but not too hot for exertion. It's a great way to get healthy and experience this island, with the routes being of an easily manageable gradient.
Cener is the only street race that runs through the centre of Zagreb, and the track includes city attractions such as Ban Jelačić Square, Ilica, Britanski trg ... Fans are also invited to come loud and cheerfully to support the competitors at the fan checkpoints.
Named after one of Croatia's most-famous aristocratic families, this is surely a noble quest for runners. A 21.5 kilometre half marathon or a lighter, 5-kilometre citizen race both offer a great way to work on your condition, from Zrinsko-Frankopanska street all the way to the Trg Republike. The five-kilometre race is also a national championship for firefighters which adds an additional edge of competitive excitement to the day's story.
10th edition of this trekking race around Papuk Nature Park, which also serves as Round 12 within the 2020 Trekking League. The Challenger route (trek & trail) is between 25-28 kilometres in length, with an Active route (trail) at 19 kilometres.
A labyrinth of tree-lined paths and trails through the forests of Kastav, Loz and Luzhin, these two trail races do not hold excessively demanding lengths and climbs. The 365-metre high peak above the Kvarner is a great choice for the end of the season, hanging out with friends and enjoying the holidays, with seasonal cooked wine and fritule one of the best ways to relax after the exertion. The Mačkov vrh (Cat's Peak) route is 17 kilometres long while the Cari route is an easier 10 kilometres.