Become a Zagrebian

Mateo: An Unofficial Triathlete

Mateo is a true sports enthusiast, and if you're one, also, he's giving you an opportunity to see Zagreb through his eyes: "Running, cycling, swimming, and mountain climbing. Those are my favorite sports, and Zagreb gives you the opportunities to try your best at all of them."

"Hello, world! My name is Mateo, I'm 25, I'm kind of a sports addict, and Zagreb is my hometown. I was born and raised here, and I hope that someday, this will be my children's town too. I love my home town because it offers so many things that sometimes, I wish a day had more than 24 hours."

Photo Credit: DŠR Aktivan Život

These are the words Mateo used to describe himself in short and introduce himself to you, my dear reader, in this blog post. I met Mateo almost seven years ago, in the first year of University. We studied journalism, and we've hung out ever since. Besides other social gatherings, Mateo and I started to swim regularly in the pool. And, while I'm not much of a sporty guy, the same can't be said about Mateo. Just the other day, when the idea for this topic came to me, we were in a dressing room after one morning swim. With us, there were some guys we see each time we're there. They were talking about a race on Jarun. Listening to their conversation, we concluded they're, in fact, triathletes. For those who don't know, triathlon is a sports competition that usually includes three different disciplines. In most cases, those are swimming, cycling, and running. 

Zagreb through Mateo's eyes

One thing I especially love is the very relaxing feeling of the city. Although most people work, you can always find someone to have coffee with. Yes, we Zagrebians are big fans of drinking coffee, spending time with our friends, and hanging out. Especially in the spring when the terraces of the coffee shops are full most of the day.

Photo Credit: Magazin Trčanje

Mateo is a true sports enthusiast, and if you're one, also, he's giving you an opportunity to see Zagreb through his eyes: "Running, cycling, swimming, and mountain climbing. Those are my favorite sports, and Zagreb gives you the opportunities to try your best at all of them. Sport gives me time for myself, that's when I completely forget about everything and relax but at the same time concentrate on it so I can be better every time I do it. It makes me confident, fulfilled, and energetic. I fell in love with sports about ten years ago. The scenery of the town following you along the way, as you run or cycle, is simply amazing." 

Mateo says it all started at Svetice. A sports complex near the Maksimir Forrest. It was summer, so they went there late in the evening. He was surprised by how many people were still working out at 11 p.m. It didn't take him long to apply for the first official race.

Running through Zagreb

Mateo described his experience of running through Zagreb like this: "I decided to give an opportunity to a formal race. I will never forget it. It was June 2018, cross-race "Volim trčanje. " We ran 15 km along the Sava embankment, and the amount of happiness that I felt when I finished was indescribable. The soothing feeling of water running alongside you, and those small rocks along the path are something special for me."

Photo Credit: DŠR Aktivan Život

The Sava embankment is a very popular running site because of the terrain, length, and because it is traffic-free. Other sites that will Zagreb runners recommend are lakes Jarun and Bundek, parks Maksimir and Dotrščina, and already mentioned athletic track Svetice, and Medvednica mountain for hardcore and trail runners.

"Since that race, I finished about 20 Zagreb races, and each one is special in its own way.", he continued and added: "Great thing about these races is that after each one, people stay and hang out. It is an excellent way to meet people with the same interests and who enjoy sports."

Running, at night and to new heights

If you ask the racers about the most renowned race in Zagreb, most of the time, you'll get the same answer - "Zagrebački noćni cener." It's a special race held at night: "Thousands of people, not only from Zagreb but from all over Croatia and beyond, gather in the city center at 7 p.m. and start their 10 km long adventure. Fans gather next to the track to cheer and support runners to be at their best from start to finish. Only a few sports events can top that atmosphere." This is how Meteo describes his running through the night. 

Photo Credit: DŠR Aktivan Život

One of the most exciting races he mentioned was definitely a race held at Franjo Tuđman airport, and a completely different kind of race: Zagrepčanka 512: "The scene of the crime is one of the Zagreb's tallest buildings "Zagrepčanka" with its 27 floors and 95 meters in height. It is a race of stairs: who will run the 490 steps (25 floors) fastest." When I asked him if it was hard for him to run up one of the tallest buildings in Zagreb, he humorously replied: "If you think this race is hard, you are wrong. It is much harder!"

Photo Credit: DŠR Aktivan Život

To bike or to hike, it's all great for him

Mateo says cycling is his favorite way of transport, but it's more than that. He says that he noticed that there is a growing number of cyclists in the Zagreb streets: "People commute to work by bikes, handle day-to-day obligations, go shopping, or just enjoy the beautiful weather and relax on their two wheels." 

He even uses a bike to go swimming with me in the mornings. While I take the car to work after a morning swim, he sits on his bike, and leaves me in awe every time, because, where do you get the energy? And that's how, at last, we got to the conclusion, he's in fact, an unofficial triathlete.

Photo Credit: Mateo Poplašen

The last on his long list of sports is also hiking, which gives you another perspective on Zagreb. All of it, of course, on the inevitable, Medvednica mountain: "Zagreb is lucky because it has Medvednica mountain almost in the heart of the city. Many mountain huts and paths, beautiful nature and peace make it the most desirable place for weekend field trips and relaxation. During the winter, you can go skiing, and it is phenomenal (yes, you guessed it, I tried it), and if you stay the night in the hotel nearby, that is one perfect weekend getaway if you ask me."

Mateo recommends (in Zagreb)

The thing I failed to mention is how much he enjoys trying all sorts of food, but undoubtedly, his favorite are sweets and cakes. To conclude our mostly sports themed conversation, I asked Mateo what does he do when he's not training. He readily replied: "Zagreb got you covered with many of his restaurants. From healthy fast foods to fine dining restaurants with Michelin stars. For the past few years, Zagreb became a focal point for many street food festivals throughout the year, which get better every year if that's even possible. With a full stomach, you can relax in parks, especially Maksimir park, and enjoy beautiful woods, paths, and meadows."

Photo Credit: Mateo Poplašen

Mateo also confirmed the thing I'm always saying about Zagreb. We never run out of things to do here. (Pun intended). And to conclude this story about Mateo, I leave the mic in his hand:

"So, when you visit Zagreb, do a little sightseeing, have a good meal, visit museums and relax in the parks, but don't be afraid to engage in some running and experience city on a whole different level. See you on a track!"

Header Image Credit:Zagrebački atletski savez

Author: Tibor Trupec