In September of last year, when 33-year-old Naida from Sarajevo saw her sister’s friends’ Facebook photos of their participation in the Sarajevo Half Marathon, she felt thrilled that a group of young people who had only recently joined jogging classes could already do such an amazing thing: “I remember seeing their pictures on Facebook during and after the run, their red sweaty faces, and happiness and feelings of victory and accomplishment and I remember thinking to myself – this must be an amazing feeling. Those pictures stuck in my mind.”
The group was trained by the Klix School of Running, founded in 2013 by Sarajevo’s “Marathon” citizens’ association to promote healthy lifestyles. After several years of successfully organising races in B&H, association members found that they were asked questions on how to train, run, and prepare for such races, and that is how it all started. Runners are brought together through athletics by training together to run a half marathon.
But until this spring, Naida never imagined she could do the same. “My sister and her friends were constantly talking about it. They were motivating people around to join them, talking about all the benefits, they quit smoking, they looked amazing, even after a bad day at home or at work, they would be shining after training. To me, it was like a clan, like a sect. I couldn’t understand what the thrill was.”
However, after some days of persuasion from her sister, friends, and colleagues, she decided to become a member of the Klix School of Running and give running a try.
At her first training session, when she could barely run for 10 minutes, she felt the positive vibe and the energy at the school and told herself that she could do it. “This is my personal challenge and above all, I am not alone in this, there are tons of wonderful people and trainers, people I don’t even know, who are there for me and with me,” Naida adds.
She is now one of more than 100 runners who plan to run the demanding route of more than 21 kilometres at the Sarajevo Half Marathon this September.
The School is currently training its fourth generation of running enthusiasts. Sarajevo’s amateur and recreational runners meet every week in the popular “Wilson’s Lane” walking district in the centre of the city and learn basic rules of running with their coaches.
Like other coaches, thirty-two-year-old Jelena Hadziosmanovic is not a professional athlete but has an athlete’s soul and ample running experience. Jelena, who was studying photography and is working in communications, has been passionate about sports for years. Last year, besides doing yoga, pilates, kung fu, and other forms of exercise, she decided to start to train for the 2015 half marathon in her home town.
“It sounded like a good enough challenge since I suppose that up until then I had never run more than 5 to 7 kilometres in my life. I had a specific program which I zealously followed, and successfully ran my first half marathon in Sarajevo in under two hours, after which I simply fell in love with races and running in general,” Jelena explains. During her training, she has run the same routes as the runners at the Running School. “More or less that is how we met, became friends, and later became colleagues in the school,” she adds.
The newest member of the team, Jelena truly enjoys her role as a trainer and a motivator: “The best reward and something I love the most about being a trainer is seeing how people change from one session to another. They change not only physically in the way they run longer and faster, but they change mentally as well. I love seeing them enjoy the process and their smiles after each session, even if it was really hard for them and they struggled to finish – that’s almost priceless.“
With the slogan “the most positive story in the city”, the Klix Running School attracts more and more young people who join lessons to socialize and be healthier. Still, the majority of young Bosnians and Herzegovinians have rather unhealthy habits which can lead to health problems, obesity, and a general feeling of dissatisfaction. “I am one of those people, we smoke, we drink, we’d rather sit in a bar for hours and the people we see who are engaged in a sport are still not cool,” says Naida.
Jelena confirms adding that nowadays young people everywhere in the world tend to spend more time in front of computers, walk less and spend less time outside in nature or playing sports, and thus there is a rise in obesity as well.
“But I am becoming less of that person, because with running – whether you want it or not – your body is rejecting cigarettes and unhealthy lifestyles. More importantly you feel good about yourself. You achieve self-esteem. Because you prove to yourself, training session after training session, that it doesn’t matter whether you are tall or short, big or tiny, older or younger, you can do it. We can all do it,” Naida adds.