My choice is a new 100 miles ultra-trail race held - for the very first time in October 2016 - all along the Dalmatian coastline. There could be no other name for this race than “Dalmacija Ultra Trail”! In fact it’s not just one race but four separate trail races with the longest one starting from Omis, a little seaside village, and finishing there again after doing a big loop of 161.4 kilometers. On my way back to Greece, after the “100 Miles of Istria”, I was very fortunate to travel along the Dalmatian coastline and be amazed by the scenery there surrounding me, not to mention that many times I thought that I was already in Greece due to the combination of sea and mountains! Needless to say that it was almost inevitable, for me, to contact the organizing team of D.U.T in order to find out more about their race.
Long story short, we have a special guest, here in Advendure, who is willing to reveal to us, all the aspects of this unique, oncoming event.
Mr. Dragomir Covic, race director of “Dalmacija Ultra Trail”, we are very pleased that you are joining us in this exclusive interview!
[Advendure]: It is very common, yet necessary, to ask you how did all start. Are you behind this promising project or is there a group of people, perhaps a bunch of “crazy” trail runners, trying to create something new? Are you an ultra-trail runner? We would like to know more.
[Dragomir Covic]: When I talk about trail running in our area I always start with the year 2009 when just few of us got involved in this sport. Even though in Dalmatian region the races occur from 2005, almost no one of the locals cared back then, not even for the race that was occurring in our own area. In 2009, two brothers from Omiš, Ante and Ivica Pešić, and myself applied for the classic CRO trekking trail run, Mosor Grebbening, which we won in both categories. Back then people laughed at us for running on the mountains, but, little by little in the years that came, more and more people joined, resulting in Dalmatia becoming the fastest growing trail region in Croatia.
Association from village of Gata, which I am a member of, in 2011 took over the organization of the mentioned race Mosor Grebbening and the same year our friends in Jesenice organized the first Jesenice trekking. As the number of the racers from our area grew from year to year, the friendly association Imber from Omiš, organized the first Imbertrek in 2013, while in 2015 under the area of Split and Solin club Strka was founded and in the last year it has organized a few trail events. This development of the events in 2015 brought us to the conclusion that it is time that critical mass of people in the area of Dalmatia should organize something big like Dalmacija Ultra Trail. We have founded the Association Dalmacija Trails all together and entered this remarkable project.
[Advendure]: Let’s talk with numbers! Could you tell us more about the technical specifications of the 100 mile race? According your opinion, what is the hardest point of the race that all runners should take notice? What is the reason for that?
[Dragomir Covic]: The race of 100 miles is 161,4km long, consisting of 5960m of climbs. Although the mountain terrain in the area where the race is occurring is known as technically the most challenging terrain for races in Croatia (i.e. rocks, rocks and some more rocks), the race's route was put together in a way that you do not take these most difficult terrains, meaning mountain tops, saddles and reefs. I can't underline the hardest point of the race, because basically there is none. Although the highest top on thesurrounding mountains goes over 1300 m, because of the mentioned terrain, the highest point of the race is one mountain home standing on 880m. Regardless the fact that the race excludes big heights, and because of the very various terrain, with a lot of mountains, rivers, valleys .., all within the small area, we have managed to gather almost 6000 meters of climbs.
[Advendure]: It would be expected for a big ultra-trail race, in such a place, miles and miles by the sea, to be in the heart of summer. Yet, you chose the 21st of October as the starting date of “D.U.T.”. Is there a particular reason for your choice? Does it have to do anything with the tourism, for example better accommodation prices for the athletes, more vacancies etc.?
[Dragomir Covic]: Because of the weather conditions and high temperatures it would be impossible to organize the race during the tourist season, therefore we were left with a choice of pre-season or post-season. Having the trail league in our area in pre-season (with the races that are organized by associations and clubs that organize DUT) and having in that period in Croatia two big trail events: 100 miles of Istria and Velebit Ultra trail, the only possible date was in October, which is also the most beautiful month in Dalmatia. The choice of the date fits into the development strategy of Croatian tourism (Hrvatska 365), and additionally in that period the accommodation is fairly cheaper for the racers compared to the heart of the season.
[Advendure]: Tell us, please, a few things about the 100 miles course. Will the athletes be running on roads, dirt roads or will they follow single track paths for most of the time?
[Dragomir Covic]: During the race the competitors will run through all types of the terrain. From roads, dirt roads, single tracks, old roads... The pavement parts we couldn't avoid, because of the simple reason that the D.U.T is a specific race. Namely, the area which the DUT runs through is full of historical, cultural, natural and touristic sights, which the great partis in the vicinity of urban areas. In most cases where the race runs through, we had to run across the roads. Running next to the old forts, dozens of small churches, through old roman cities, the most beautiful lookouts in the area, localities where the history of Dalmatia and Croatia was written, the competitors will have a chance to participate in something yet unheard off in the history of trail racing.
[Advendure]: Dalmatia has quite a few National Parks besides its summer resorts. Does the race go through any of these Parks? Which are the best spots that it crosses?
[Dragomir Covic]: The race doesn't go through any National park, but it partially goes through Nature park Biokovo, which is the highest and the most imposing mountain in this part of Croatia. In Nature park Biokovo, running the single tracks, we go through two beautiful valleys and a saddle from which there is a beautiful sight of the Adriatic sea and coastal towns underneath mountain Biokovo.
[Advendure]: In your first attempt to organize such an event I am sure there were times that you had to draw your own paths, creating something from the beginning, and I do not only mean curving the land. How hard was that? Tell us why. Was there any help from local authorities, agents or sponsors?
[Dragomir Covic]: Not really. Namely, Dalmatia is famous for its rocky terrain. Our ancestors, in order to communicate but as well in the purpose of cultivating soil suitable for farming, back in the days connected this area with the roads, investing thousands of hours and days of hard work. It is true that with new times and plenty of modern roads, great deal of those old roads stays neglected and out of use, but still plenty in good shape and functioning. With the combination of the ones still in use and few which needed to be brought back in shape, we put together the trail that goes through the most attractive localities in the DUT area. When tracing the trails we recorded more than 300km to get approximately 200km used for DUT. It is important to mention and that 10 local associations and units of local government are very helpful when it comes to preparing the trails and organizing the race itself.
[Advendure]: Since “Dalmacija Ultra Trail” is a new race, why did you decide to organize three other trail races, 22 / 57 / 110 kilometers, at the same time? Don’t you think that you could offer more to the runners instead by avoiding that? Might not have been better if you focus on one race and then add the others later?
We began with the idea of organizing three races (60 / 110 / 165 km). However after certain time, we came to a conclusion that since there are no trail races in our area during the autumn, as said before they are held in the pre-season, and since plenty of local contestants are interested but not fit for the ultra trail, we additionally decided to organize 20km trail. With 20km we are giving opportunity to local contestants to participate. However, they won't be our only contestants, as according to the received applications, we will host contestants from other areas, including foreign countries.
[Advendure]: Recently I ran the “100 Miles of Istria” and I was very satisfied with the services of the race, including hospitality, accommodation, athlete’s race pack, aid-stations and marking of the trails. It is not my intention to compare the two races but should we expect something similar from you? Would you like to tell us a few things about that?
[Dragomir Covic]: The race 100 Miles Istria for us is a guiding star in terms of project's organization. Istria race is the race that in short period of time practically reached the organizational maximum in this type of trail racing. DUT organizers will work hard to come near their standards, even though we all know it won't be an easy task. Certainly, the most important job for us is the demarcation of the trails where there shouldn't be any mistakes. I would like to mention one detail regarding the race's checkpoints. Namely, all the checkpoints are planned to be placed in the sturdy construction; mainly cooperative houses in the places where the race is passing by. This means that there are no tents and possible bad weather conditions during the breaks; even though we strongly believe that at the time of the race weather conditions won’t be bad at all.
[Advendure]: Could you tell us more about your future plans? Does “Dalmacija Ultra Trail” intend to be a candidate for the Ultra Trail World Tour calendar or do you want to keep a low profile?
[Dragomir Covic]: In this moment, and considering we still have the race to organize in front of us, we don't think about it. We go day by day, year by year. It is on us to try to host the contestants from all over the world in the best possible way, to show them Dalmatian hospitality, rich cultural and historical heritage, customs, traditional gastronomy... and hope that with hard work this project will grow year by year and become important factor in promoting Dalmatian and Croatian tourism. We believe that we are heading in the right direction. At the moment we don't think about where DUT will stand in the next couple of years from now.
[Advendure]: Your race video teaser won, last May, the “Mention Award” at the Tour-film Riga Festival for Eco-Tourism! During his run, on the video, the athlete encounters a lot of strange happenings, even escapes from an ancient Roman soldier! Could you describe us this whole idea? Will the participants have to face swordsmen too?
[Dragomir Covic]: We are all very proud on promo video, first of all because we managed to, within couple of minutes, show the race's trail in a different way. Runner in the video is passing by the mentioned attractive locations, but while doing so, ends up in a series of interesting situations. He encounters Dalmatian accapella group while they are singing, runs away from the roman soldier, interrupts the „Uskok“ fight, helps to select the Poljica duke, encounters a person with disabilities on the wheelchair accessible trail, farmers, raftering person, climbers, other runners.... Most of the video material for other trail races was filmed during the races or exclusively shows the runner running through the nature. This video is something completely new, and as such was recognized by Trailrunner Magazine, the bestselling world trail magazine, which, thanks to this video, announced the DUT race. Of course, I would like to seize the opportunity to thank director of the movie, Ivan Peric, who really did a fantastic job during the film making, encouraging everyone to brainstorm and share ideas, out of which plenty were accepted and used in the movie. Will the contestants be faced with some of the movie scenes during the actual race, it is to be seen.
[Advendure]: I like trail running but what I enjoy the most is combining my vacation with trail running and I suppose that this rule applies for all runners too. So, what would you suggest us to do, except blistering our feet on the trails, while visiting Dalmatia?
[Dragomir Covic]: Dalmatia is by far the most perspective Croatian region when it comes to outdoors tourism, with Omiš and surroundings as the most perspective area within the region. That said, we can recommend rafting, canyoning, kayaking, zip line in Cetina canyon, spectacular canoeing, hiking in the nearby mountains, climbing the steep rocks with hundreds of directions, cycling through beautiful nature... And at the same time one can enjoy historical sites like Split historical centre, Solin and ancient Salona, Klis, Kaštel fortresses, Poljica churches, Omiš fortress, Gubavica waterfall in Zadvarje and beautiful Brela and Baska Voda Riviera.
[Advendure]: Before striking twice in Croatia, I would like to thank Mr. Dragomir Covic for the time he spent to answer all of our questions. Mr. Covic, thank you very much and wish you all the best!
[Dragomir Covic]: Greetings to all readers and see you in October for the 1st Dalmatia Ultra Trail!