A passion for half marathons is the bond between the sister cities:
Monterey, California + Dubrovnik, Croatia



The sister-city relationship between the City of Monterey and Dubrovnik started in 2005 to help Dubrovnik develop community-supported events and volunteerism through sports and cultural activities. As a result, the Dubrovnik Half Marathon, 2K Run The Wall, 5K and Kids’ Day were born and are thriving today.

Two amazing coastal cities with a common vision

The walled city of old Dubrovnik, with ancient buildings and antique artifacts, is Croatia’s century-old jewel on the Mediterranean coast. One of the major destinations for Adriatic-bound travelers, the city abounds in visitors during the four-month summer season.

Monterey, California, is one of the highest acclaimed coastal destinations in the United States and a dynamic community steeped in historical landmarks and cultural events, along with top attractions such as the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Monterey attracts runners, cyclists, golfers, car enthusiasts and scuba divers year-around from around the world, with many major events focusing on these sports. The Big Sur International Marathon (BSIM) has been rated as a top marathon in the world with an elite course that takes you “running on the edge of the western world.”

In support of the partner resolutions to extend the tourism season through sports and cultural activities for the City of Dubrovnik, the cities embarked on a project to have the City of Dubrovnik host a half marathon running event in the off season in April. A half marathon would provide a perfect sporting event opportunity and the City of Monterey and their partners have the knowledge to support such an undertaking. Dubrovnik already had the ideal backdrop and the infrastructure in place, it just needed an organization model to follow.

Sister-city collaboration set the planning in motion

Planning for this project started back in 2005. Former City Manager Fred Meurer enlisted the help of former Big Sur Marathon Race Director Wally Kastner. In February 2007, the City of Monterey brought a delegation to Dubrovnik to scout out potential routes and start the planning process. Initially the team was thinking of hosting a full marathon.

This initial visit was very successful, but there was much more to plan. With many other projects in the works, it took a few years for this idea to gain momentum, but in 2010 when the Mayor of Dubrovnik, Andro Vlahusic, was visiting Monterey, the idea picked up more steam and planning the specifics began.

A Dubrovnik delegation visited Monterey for the 2013 Big Sur International Marathon in April and the 2014 Big Sur Half Marathon on Monterey Bay in November to get an insider’s view of all that takes place to coordinate such an event, including all associated pre- and post-race events. After seeing the enormous undertaking of the 2013 marathon, they decided it was better to start with a half marathon.

In-between their two visits to see both the BSIM marathon and half marathon events, the City of Monterey sent another team of experts to Dubrovnik to propose the half marathon route, evaluate various intersections to provide good traffic control, and determine the community impact to the residents and surrounding businesses.

It takes hundreds of people to work at these races to make them successful. This was another key element the sister city relationship shared. The Big Sur Marathon Foundation encourages hundreds of youth volunteers each year. These are definitely community-supported events. Volunteerism was fairly unknown in Dubrovnik, and even more so to employ youth volunteers. The Dubrovnik team got to see first-hand how to encourage youths to volunteer and have fun doing it. It made it much more of a local community event that way as well, and volunteers were the only way to get all the pieces done.

Monterey offers big sister advice to Dubrovnik

Former City Manager Fred Meurer was the catalyst for the collaboration that allowed this project to materialize. He gathered a group to tutor the Dubrovnik team in every aspect of hosting a large running event. City of Monterey staff included in this group:

  • Monterey Mayor Clyde Roberson and City Council, City Manager Mike McCarthy—supported the visits from Dubrovnik delegation by meeting with them, having them present at Council meetings. Councilmember Libby Downey visited Dubrovnik on the February 2007 trip.
  • Rich Deal and Andrea Renny, Traffic Engineering Office – helped with route, traffic control, community impact and safety
  • Planner Elizabeth Caraker, Communications Assistant Laurie Huelga, and her husband, Alessio – supported the event by running the half marathon, helping organize and work at the BSIM Half Marathon expo booth in Nov, 2015 to promote the 2nd annual Dubrovnik Half Marathon on May 1, 2016. They also developed the Monterey Team shirt. Alessio was an official photographer for the event.
  • Big Sur Marathon Foundation – Initially with the former director, Wally Kastner, and now with support of the current director, Doug Thurston, the collaboration continues and grows to make a more direct connection as a sister city event for 2016 and beyond.
  • Janine Chiccourrat, Manager of the Portola Hotel and Spa in Monterey – Provided expertise in tying the hotels into the planning for purposes of hosting and staging pre and post-race and developing a race rate package. Provided hotel discounts for visiting Dubrovnik delegation.
  • Next Events Productions – In a three-year contract to provide consulting services, with two more years to go. At that point, the Dubrovnik Half Marathon will be able to independently run the event. They want to further bond and brand the event as Sister City Races with the City of Monterey and the Big Sur Marathon Foundation.
  • City of Dubrovnik – Mayor and Council; City Manager Igor Deranjar; Head of the Department of Education, Sports, Social Welfare and Civil Society for the City of Dubrovnik Miho Katicic; Dubrovnik Race Director Alen Boskovic; Media relations Marina Majic.
  • Croatian Fraternal Union of America in Watsonville, CA – This non-profit helped fund the collaboration for this project and will continue to forge the bonds already strong between the cities of Monterey and Dubrovnik.

The sister-city relationship will be felt for generations

The inaugural Dubrovnik Half Marathon took place on May 10, 2015, with a Kids’ Run and 2K Run The Wall on May 9. Nearly 500 participants gathered from far and wide representing nearly 40 countries to partake in the multi-day festivities, with 480 volunteers making it happen.

The goal of diversifying tourism in non-summer months as a source of local well-being and expanding the city’s economic base has been realized with this annual event. The half marathon opened up a whole different type of tourism for Dubrovnik. It is relatively easy for people throughout Europe to travel as was evidenced in attracting runners from almost 40 countries.

This project has bonded Monterey and Dubrovnik closer than ever. In an article dated, March 6, 2016, the Race Director Alen Boskovic was interviewed about the 2nd annual Dubrovnik Half Marathon on May 1, 2016. In it he explains how the idea of a Dubrovnik Half Marathon was born. “The very beginnings of a half marathon in Dubrovnik are closely connected to Dubrovnik’s sister in California, Monterey. Fred Meurer, the former Monterey City Manager, and Wally Kastner, the former race director of the Big Sur Marathon in Monterey, gave the idea to make a similar event to the marathon in Monterey marathon.

The collaboration has been excellent for both communities. We are not only representing our cities in this project, but we are spending time with our friends. The inaugural event created such an atmosphere of camaraderie – people from so many countries bonding with one another through the sport of running. To see the Kids’ Run and the 2K Run The Wall, the participants, the crowds gathered to watch, the parents, the siblings, cousins and friends, in the walled city of old Dubrovnik – it was mesmerizing. It made the staff from the city of Monterey so proud to be involved and that the sister city relationship a catalyst.

Not only has the City of Dubrovnik learned how to bring a world-class sporting event home, they have learned so much about how to bring in their local community to help and participate; most notably their youth and teens. They provide an opportunity for their youth to learn new skills, interact with a larger, more diverse community, and raise awareness for staying active and healthy. Dubrovnik has a rich cultural history in team sports like water polo. This event encouraged interest from locals, both adults and youth, to get involved in individual sports.

For Dubrovnik, the impact will be felt through current generations and for generations. For Monterey, the pride knowing we helped them succeed, as well as the enormous amount learned just by being a part of the process will also leave a lasting impression of just how valuable sister city relationships can be. The cities are bonded as sisters; the people are bonded as friends.