Iva Hafner

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Q. Tell us a little bit about who you are and what you do for a living?

I grew up in Zagreb during communist times with a conviction that one day I’ll explore my boundaries through traveling even to remotest places, and ultimately become a world citizen. After the Yugoslav war and my highschool graduation I left for Munich to spend a year as au-pair in a family to improve my German, gain independency and life experience. 
There I fell in love, began my tourism management studies and decided to find a way how to organize my life in a new country. 20 years later after having had assignments in Paris, Opatija and Mumbai I got settled in Vienna with my husband. I like the proximity to Zagreb so I can regularly visit my family and develop business in the tourism sector. After 8 years of great corporate experience I felt I was ready for change, to take a break, and focus more on my needs, fitness and health. 
 So I went on a spiritual journey trek through India and Nepal. There I discovered yoga and meditation practice, which I now teach and keep on practicing. I’ve always been a recreational runner. About a year ago together with my brother and a friend we started runcroatia.com project with the aim to promote Croatia as an attractive destination for runners 365 days a year. We organize race events and running camps in stunning locations all over the country. Gradually we’re building a runners’ community by offering them exchange and destination tips through a virtual platform. 
Q. How do you balance your exercise regime and your professional life?

There may be a day or two when I skip my yoga practice or run, like when I’m traveling or when there’s some hectic going on around me. During such days I always evoke excercises in my mind, and already look forward to take active time for myself soon after. 

Q. When and why did you start running?

My family has always led an active lifestyle mostly through hiking, running, skiing or tennis. So from early on our father took a role of a running coach and trained with my brother and me mostly speed intervals. During our schooling we became fastest runners in our class respectively. When I turned 13 I took a more serious course with training track and field for about 2 years. And I loved it. 
Later on I moved to Munich, Germany for my studies and I always ran even more when it was critical to pass the exams. During my corporate career I tried to keep up with a busy frequent flyer schedule and start running before the meetings. That was quite challenging, and I couldn’t keep myself during these times as much as motivated and disciplined as I wished. 

Q. What motivates you to go out there, when you do not feel like it?

Checking in regularly with my brother, Berislav Sokac, who has finished all World Major Marathons (New York, Chicago, Boston, Berlin, London, Tokyo) in 2 years as a 13th human in the world who did it. He keeps me motivating to go out and run under every weather condition. Also what motivates me is to be part of a fundraise challenge and run and train for a good cause. 

Q. What is the longest distance you have ran?


Q. What gives you the confidence to run in the streets?

I feel very safe running alone in the streets, during the night too. But I do avoid parks when it gets too dark and abandoned. I especially love to run in the morning, when the city starts to wake up, and be part of this moving scenery. 

Q. What do you think about the lack of exercise among the youth?

In my environment I perceive the youth as quite active, and hungry for sports experience. Definitely there is always a room to improve and it’s worth putting efforts to get everyone on board to spend more time in (outdoor-) activities and less in front of devices. 
The excercise culture starts at home with parents as role-models, and supportive parents who will motivate their kids to move more and stay active. 

Q. What was your best running experience?

The best may be the most extraordinary one! I ran my first half-marathon in Pyongyang last April together with my husband, my brother and a friend. When we announced that we’ll run in North Korea, the hell broke out in our circles. Everyone was super worried, if we’ll ever come back due to gloomy media reports. It was hard to train and focus during that time, and to shut off the voices around. Still we kept believing in our mission to run without borders together with other 1500 runners. 
It was the third year in a row that Pyongyang opened the streets for foreigners. It’s only possible during the marathon to get a sense of spontaneous human interaction, a sense of freedom without having a 24/7 guide next to you. There were many moving moments during the race which ultimately gave me hope for human race. Despite our differences we can learn to overcome them. Marathon in all its facettes is such a great ambassador of values, positive and inspiring energy, which can create powerful shifts in society. 

Q. What was your worst running experience?

I haven’t hit the wall yet, and I can’t imagine what could be the worst running experience like.
Q. How do you push through the pain?

I keep my body flexible and strong through yoga practice. I rarely feel any pain after longer runs. Through meditation I cultivate a positive mind which can carry me further than my legs.

Q. What advice can you give somebody who wants to start running?

It all starts with a single step. Learn how to listen to your body, and be aware of your limits. Your body will tell you when it’s time to set yourself higher goals and move beyond. Be contented with the best you can deliver today.

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