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Features Hvar Half Marathon

23 September 2013, 2pm

The Croatian island of Hvar is one of the most popular vacation places on the coast of the Adriatic Sea. Located off the Dalmatian coast, Hvar is renowned for its special climate with more hours of sunshine than anywhere else in the region. Its hillsides are covered in pine forests, with vineyards and olive groves, fruit orchards and lavender fields. A maze of beautiful biking, hiking and running routes make it an ideal vacation spot for runners.

A runner’s reward

by Veronika Jurisic

Hvar Half Marathon
Sat 24 August 2013

*The Croatian island of Hvar is one of the most popular vacation places on the coast of the Adriatic Sea. Located off the Dalmatian coast, Hvar is renowned for its special climate with more hours of sunshine than anywhere else in the region. Its hillsides are covered in pine forests, with vineyards and olive groves, fruit orchards and lavender fields. A maze of beautiful biking, hiking and running routes make it an ideal vacation spot for runners.*

Hvar’s location at the centre of Adriatic maritime routes has made the island an important base, with trade routes up and down the Adriatic, across to Italy and throughout the wider Mediterranean. It has been inhabited since Neolithic times. In 384 BC the ancient Greeks founded the colony of Pharos – on the site of today’s Stari Grad – making it one of the oldest towns in Europe.

In medieval times, Hvar was a major naval base in the Venetian Empire, giving it a prosperity that brought in Hvar culture, arts and architecture. In the 16th century the Hvar Rebellion, coastal raids by pirates and attacks from the Ottoman army on the mainland led to interesting fortifications being built on the northern shore of the island. The Austrian Empire brought peace and prosperity: harbours were expanded, quays built, and the fishing and boat-building industries grew. At the same time, the island’s wine exports increased, along with lavender and rosemary production for the French perfume industry.

Today the most important industry on Hvar is tourism. Hvar has a lot to offer to any kind of visitors: high culture (museums, galleries and one of the oldest theatres in Europe), active sport and recreation (biking, hiking and running), nightlife (clubs, cafes), gastronomy (restaurants, authentic cuisine). Hvar has achieved a worldwide reputation for tourism and is consistently listed in the top 10 island destinations.

Since 2011 this magical island has included a half marathon in its rich tourist offering.. The race is held on the old island road that connects Stari Grad and Hvar. The course is extremely beautiful, but also challenging – because in the first half of the race runners must climb to the top of the island, 400m above sea level, before running down the 10km-long descent towards the setting sun.

Geologically Hvar is an east-west ridge of Mesozoic limestone and dolomite, which was part of the mainland until approximately 11,000 years ago. Around that time sea levels rose, filling the valleys that are now the channels between islands. It is the fourth largest of the Adriatic islands (68km long, but only 10.5km at its widest). The highest peak, St Nikola, is 687m.
Hvar town is encircled on its landward side by protective walls, and overlooked by two massive fortresses set into the hills above. The 13th century Venetian fortifications have been expanded in the centuries since. Within the walls the dominant Venetian architectural style has a distinct local flavour in materials and workmanship. Much of the old town survives intact, in both layout and architecture. Visitors still can experience the atmosphere of an old Mediterranean town.

At the heart of the town lies the Pjaca (Piazza) – the largest town square in Dalmatia. This is where the half marathon finishes. The surrounding buildings include the Bishop’s Palace, the Arsenal and the Governor’s Palace, date from the 15th–17th centuries.
It is a great running experience to descend over the last few kilometres of the race into the sunset and on to finish in this famous old square, full of cheering tourists, music, restaurants and holiday atmosphere.

Every year around 200 participants, from more than 20 different countries and from almost all continents, make it to the finish line in the central square in Hvar. Runners come from Australia, Canada, Brazil, USA, Hong Kong, and many other far-flung places. For their efforts in the difficult conditions on a hot summer‘s afternoon, runners are rewarded with breathaking views from the hill, a souvenir T-shirt, a delicious dinner and above all – an unforgettable experience.

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