We’ve decided it’s time to start interviewing elite athletes in English. The aim behind these interviews is to become internationally interesting and bring aspects of the lives of these elite athletes to people who like sport.
We started our plan a few weeks ago and we sent out a couple of interview questions to a few Croatian elite level athletes. One of the first is Janez Maroević.
Janez is a long distance runner who successfully represents Croatia. He is from the beautiful island of Hvar.
We sent him the questions and said that if he didn’t feel comfortable about answering any of the questions, he didn’t have to. Thankfully, because he’s a great guy, he answered them all with wonderful answers!
LONG DISTANCE RUNNING
Long-distance running, or endurance running, is a form of continuous running over distances of at least three kilometres (1.86 miles). Physiologically, it is largely aerobic in nature and requires stamina as well as mental strength.
In the sport of athletics, long-distance events are defined as races covering three kilometres (1.86 miles) and above. The three most common types are track running, road running and cross country running, all of which are defined by their terrain – all-weather tracks, roads and natural terrain, respectively.
Typical long-distance track races range from 3000 metres to 10,000 metres (6.2 miles), cross country races usually cover 5 to 12 km (3 to 7½ miles), while road races can be significantly longer, reaching 100 kilometres (60 miles) and beyond. In collegiate cross country races in the United States, men race 8000 or 10000 meters, depending on their division, whereas women race 6000 meters.
The Summer Olympics features three long-distance running events: the 5000 metres, 10,000 metres and marathon (42.195 kilometres, or 26 miles and 385 yards). Since the late 1980s, Kenyans, Moroccans and Ethiopians have dominated in major international long-distance competitions.
Sportinterview: Tell us something about you and your career?
Janez: I am a marathon runner from Stari Grad on the island Hvar who started to train running 1989. In 1992 I became a professional runner. From the beginning I ran 3.000 m, 5.000 m, 10.000 m on the track, some road races and halfmarathons too, and 1996 I ran my first marathon of 42.195 m or 26.2. miles.
I started to run in a small and a little closed community where no one ever ran before me and my parents and me have experienced many inconveniences because of that. But I didn’t quit, it did me even stronger and it was my extra motivation to succeed in this sport. As the quote goes: “The greatest pleasure in life is doing what people say you can not do” or as the movie The Marathon Runner (Croatian TV, 2004) begins: “On the island Hvar everybody swims, plays soccer or waterpolo, only one man runs, alone, against the flow.” That thing, or as we say in Dalmatia “dišpet”, was the biggest motivation and the greatest „doping“ I could have!
My personal bests are: 5.000 m: 15:02 (track), 10.000 m: 31:25 (track), Halfmarathon: 1:09:10, Maraton: 2:27:04. In my career I was a member of the following athletic clubs: ASK – Split, Sveti Duje – Split, Hrvatski Sokol – Osijek and Sinj – Sinj, but most of my workouts in the past 27 years I was doing on my island, practicing completely alone, in very bad conditions and without any logistics. My coaches, mostly through the phone, were prof. Mate Omazić from Split and Jozo Delaš from Sinj and I am thankful to them for all my results.
My another great love and passion, in some moments maybe even bigger than running (LOL), was the Faros Marathon and the open water swimming (OWS). 1990, I entered in the organizational structures of the OWS. First as a Secretary, and from 1997 to 2014 I was the General Secretary and had one of the most important role in the organization of the Faros Marathon, one of the world’s most prestigious open water swimming events and an Honour Organisation of the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame (Class 2012).
2001, I was one of the founder of the Croatian Long Distance Swimming Federation and from 2001 to 2014 the General Secretary of the Federation and a member of the Assembly and the Executive Board. Also, I was just a couple of months 2015 in Faros and the Federation, because they called me to save things. But after I gave the biggest contribution to the successful organization of the jubilee 40th Faros Marathon, instead of the award I got fired…
I gave to Faros the best years of my life, I gave to Faros all what I have; all my love and passion and huge energy (20 years without any salary), but unfortunately at one moment Faros and the Federation became the „hostages“ of one man who worked and thought he is like a pharaoh and there was no place for me there anymore. After my dismissal many bad things happened in Faros who lost a lot on his image and reputation. Although I experienced many insults and disappointments from a person who took a lot of benefits of all of my hard work and my passion to Faros, Faros will forever stay my greatest love, no matter what, and nobody ever will change it! I still believe that I’ll come back there someday again… But if it never happens, no problem, I will start with some new project in the OWS, but not necessarily here in Stari Grad. The project that is currently most attracted to me is Oceanman and I am thinking to buy a licence for Croatia for this very popular global OWS circuit. I spent almost 25 years in the organizational structures of the OWS and, except running, it is the best what I know to do…
By profession I am a Master of Economics, but Marathon is my philosophy of life and my life motto is: Life is not a sprint, it is a Marathon!
Sportinterview: What running accomplishment are you most proud of?
Janez: I am an old school and it was always a special honor to me to win the National Championship, because I think it is the greatest achievement which an athlete can do in his country. Especially if you were a champion in the “Royal Discipline Of The Queen Of Sports” – The Marathon (42.195 m). I was 6 times National champion in marathon running, also I won 26 medals at National Championships in different disciplines, from 5K to the marathon, and more of 130 races in Croatia and abroad, including Fort Lauderdale Marathon 2014 and 10K in Abu Dhabi 2015.
From 2003 to today (maybe earlier, but I couldn’t find the data for 2002) I am still holding second and third fastest marathon result of all Croats (2:27:04 and 2:27:43). I was the runner who was the more interested in the result, rather than for the number of wins, because my opinion always was that in serious running the only criterion of success is just result.
If I have to choose one thing in the OWS I am most proud of it was the organization of the Faros Marathon 2013. I had the best team which I ever had and it was perfection in every way that will never happen again. Although, probably the greatest compliment and proof of my quality work during all these years is great respect of the OWS community, especially of the swimmers from all over the world. Or as one swimmer wrote me a couple of months ago when I tell her that I am not longer in Faros in any role: „Faros will always be your baby and we swimmers always will connect Faros with Janez“. That’s priceless to me and I am so very thankful to all the swimmers for their great support! Only they keep my faith that I will come back someday again. I do not need anything more, I don’t need to set up memorial boards or busts for myself that people appreciate my work.
2004, Croatian National Television filmed the movie Marathoner about my life and sports career, especially focusing how I started to train marathon running and how I have achieved such good results in the town which is one of the world’s most famous center of marathon swimming and where (as on my island too) no one before me has even train this sport, because all young people and kids were doing swimming, playing soccer or waterpolo. Also and how I as a marathon runner became one of the most important people in the organization of the Faros Marathon and the Croatian OWS Federation.
Sportinterview: How do you celebrate your victories once the competition is over?
Janez: I buy myself something nice, a dinner or some little gift (LOL). In my life I always most enjoyed the little things.
Sportinterview: Who is the best athlete you have ever faced?
Janez: I have faced and met many great athletes around the world, but an athlete who left the greatest impression to me in the last years, not only as an athlete but also as a person, and whose life story is so inspirational is Meb Keflezighi.
Sportinterview: What do you find is your biggest obstacles and how do you manage these?
Janez: At this point my biggest obstacle are my age (44,5) and I’m trying to adapt to this. It means that I train a lot less than when I was younger, because my body can not recover as it was 10 or 15 years ago. It’s not easy to accept to me because my head still wants more and stronger, but my body does not listen it… I feel that I still have enough power and energy, but my musculature especially my lower back and my tendons are in some parts quite worn out and damaged. Or as one physiotherapist told me a few months ago: “You are like Ferrari engine in the Fiat car body“ (LOL). This comparison is a bit excessive, but at least sounds good (LOL)
Sportinterview: What is your greatest memory from athletics and swimming?
Janez: I have a lot of great memories from running and it is not easy to say which is the greatest of them. But if I have to choose one race, then it was my first marathon – fist 42.195 m race ever – the National Championship 1996 (May 4) in Sinj. I was only 23 and that day I didn’t only run my first marathon ever – I also won my first title of the National champion with 2:30:56. This race changed my life and I will never forget that day, the day when I fell in love with marathon running which has become my way of life and my life philosophy. That first time, that first marathon it was really the most beautiful!
In the open water swimming I was especially honored that I was a representative at the 2012 Global Open Water Swimming Conference and the 2012 International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony in Long Beach, California (September 21–22) and accepted the Honour Organisation Award on behalf of the Faros Marathon and the Croatian OWS Federation.
Sportinterview: What do you like to do on your days off?
Janez: When I trained like a pro I was resting and getting ready for tomorrow’s workout which usually was quite strong after a day off. But now it is different, I don’t train so much, or I don’t train as much as I would like, so every week I don’t have a day off (LOL). Running is my lifestyle now and it will stay forever, so I „need“ to run every day (LOL)
Sportinterview: What is the first race you remember?
Janez: It was the National Championship in cross-country running for the younger seniors (8.000 m), in the spring 1993 in Medulin where I won my first medal at the Nationals (bronze–individuals and gold–teams).
Sportinterview: What is your favourite food?
Janez: Grilled chicken with vegetables.
Sportinterview: In general, how do you keep your diet varied, and do you ever get bored with eating for your sport? Do you have any nutrition tips for runners?
Janez: I was born and lived on the island and I grew up on healthy food from my field and garden. From my experience I think that Mediterranean nutrition is the healthiest for the people in general, not only for athletes. I never ate too much heavy or processed meat in my life and I rarely ate any other meat except chicken. But every person is an individual for himself and what is good to me it doesn’t have to be so good for someone else… But I personally think that many runners pay too much attention to sports nutrition today (this is a result of the marketing of large companies). For example, believe it or not, I never used gel during my marathon races… I also think that runners (here I don’t think on top pro runners) are also overwhelmed with various miracles of modern technique such as running applications, posting and counting likes on facebook and instagram, etc. and that they unnecessarily spend their emotions and energy on these things. In my time we didn’t have anything of this, but we had results that last forever as a proof of what we were doing.
Sportinterview: Who did you admire growing up?
Janez: I admired to my parents who were very honest people and really hard workers. In the sport I had only one role model – it was legendary Abebe Bikila. His life story which I watched on TV in 1991 inspired me to become a marathon runner.
Sportinterview: If there was one thing about the sport that you could change, what would it be?
Janez: I well know that for even bigger things in sport, but also in my life, I had to leave my island and probably my country too, but I loved so much the place where I was born and I wasn’t strong enough for it. I had a couple of offers when I won my first National Championship in marathon and now 21 years later I am really sorry that I didn’t accept it. Individual athletes in Croatia are mostly left alone to their parents, although the situation is much better in recent years, but it is so far from the US and other developed countries.
Sportinterview: How does your training routine look like today?
Janez: Last couple of years I have a lot of troubles with injuries and am just happy that I can run every day without pain and therapies. Running is such a beautiful sport, but I personally think that professional running is, if I may say, a little “brutal” for the human body and the worst thing for a runner is to be injured. Unfortunately after long years of training injuries are very common and increasingly difficult, especially if you trained alone, in bad conditions and without any logistics. You (your body) will “pay” it before or later. But when I add everything up, I think that I pulled the maximum out of my body and did much more than anyone could imagine when I started to run.
I have planned a couple of marathons in the fall and this summer I will try to do long runs twice per month combined with weekly intervals or fartlek. My maximum now is cca 110 km per week if I am healthy and injury free, plus exercises for my lower back and strengthening of my muscles, stretching and swimming.
Sportinterview: How do your this season plans look like?
Janez: I am at the end of my competitive running career because, as I said, my body is pretty worn out after 27 years of pro running and almost 130.000 km. Often troubles with injuries are „killing me“ last months and years. Now I just have one goal, I want to complete the Abbott World Marathon Majors for my own satisfaction and my schedule for this year is: Berlin Marathon (Sept 24), Chicago Marathon (Oct 8), NYC Marathon (Nov 5). Three marathons in only six weeks will be a big challenge for my body and I just hope I will be able to complete these races…