The running festival in the Soča Valley attracted a record 2.500 runners from Friday to Sunday. In addition to promoting active outdoor living, the festival emphasizes sustainability. Alongside the Parafestival organized by the Sonček Association, the event included outdoor activities for those who usually don’t have the opportunity. Participants raised funds to help with last year’s flood relief in the Soča Valley. The eleventh Soča Outdoor Festival, a celebration of running and other outdoor sports, concluded on the idyllic confluence of the Soča and Tolminka rivers on the last day of June. With a major schedule change, races took place on Saturday and Sunday, attracting 2.500 runners from 25 countries. Local participants comprised 55% of the attendees, followed by runners from Croatia (29%), Italy, and Hungary. Notably, this event is the only one in Slovenia with an almost equal gender ratio (50:50).

More runners, better atmosphere“After last year’s excellent attendance with 2.000 participants and a phenomenal, festival-like atmosphere, we saw no obstacles in welcoming even more runners to Tolmin. Throughout the finish across Tolminka, the runners were accompanied by loud cheering fans the whole time,” said Sara Mavrič, the event organizer. “Therefore, we extended the races to two days, with longer races on Saturday and shorter ones on Sunday. This also addressed participant feedback from surveys that highlighted occasional congestion on the trails due to overlapping routes.”Vertical race: a thousand meters of elevation in five kilometers
This year’s novelty was the Oshee Vertical on Friday, an uphill race where 54 runners covered nearly 880 meters of elevation over five kilometers. The finish line, bathed in the golden evening sunlight, was at Kolovrat, an open-air museum with stunning views of the Julian Alps on one side and the Gulf of Trieste on the other. Luka Tavčar was the fastest, reaching Kolovrat through the fortified World War I trenches just below the summit in 48 minutes and 7 seconds. Among the women, Agata Majewska from Hungary triumphed with a time of 56 minutes and 3 seconds.

Hot competition in the 25-, 35-, and 50-kilometer races
Saturday was reserved for longer runs. In the I Feel Slovenia 50 km royal challenge, which also led over idyllic alpine pastures under Krn, over 1.000 meters above sea level (the starting point at Sotočje is at only 170 meters above sea level), Klemen Štular won with a time of 5 hours and 20 minutes. The fastest woman was Nora Juhasz from Hungary (5:50:23). In the Ford 35 km race with 1.303 meters of elevation, Uroš Kožar finished first (3:07:15), and the fastest woman was Katarina Pišotek (3:28:04). The shortest Saturday race was the Triglav 25 km with 849 meters of elevation. The fastest on the course along both banks of the Soča River, over Mengore and Kozlov rob with Tolmin Castle, were Nejc Uršič (2:19:23) and Nina Gubanc (2:33:06).


Sunday for shorter distances in ideal conditions
Sunday was the time for shorter, yet the most popular races of 15, 10, and 5 kilometers. As the temperature dropped by about five degrees Celsius and clouds slowly began to cover the sky over western Slovenia, the conditions for running were simply ideal. “The five-kilometer run is this year’s novelty. We found that 10 kilometers in nature, with some ascents and descents, is too challenging for beginners. The ‘five-k’ distance, however, is something that almost anyone can complete,” said Jan Klavora, one of the festival’s founders. “With this, we aim to encourage beginners, younger runners, and families to lead an active life. It’s not just about running at our event; for many people, registering for the Soča Outdoor Festival means months of training motivation.” In the ABBA Nutrition 5 km run, among 198 competitors, Luka Manfreda (19 minutes and 39 seconds) and Julija Brus (20:37) were the fastest. In the ‘ten-k’ race, Continental 10 km, among 617 participants, Gergő Simák (1:02:08) and Anja Mandeljc (1:00:59) took the honors. In the most popular race, the Adidas Terrex 15 km, Miha Ličef (1:04:09) and Tajda Tornič (1:21:04) crossed the finish line first.



How sustainable can a sports event be?
Once again, this year, the organizing team has strived to leave as little negative and as many positive impacts as possible from the event. With fully digital registrations, a ban on single-use cups at refreshment stations, promotion of public transport use and ride-sharing, and the involvement of local vendors, the I Feel Slovenia Soča Outdoor Festival remains a sustainable event. Jana Apih, overseeing the event’s sustainability: “Without a specific environmental impact, it won’t work. People still prefer coming to Tolmin by car; there’s a lot of food and drink packaging that runners expect along the route. On the other hand, people have completely accepted the need to carry their own cups and our team doesn’t tolerate empty plastic bottles being thrown on the ground. We cherish this place and its nature so much that we want to leave it untouched. The location, this magical confluence of two rivers, is essential for the relaxed atmosphere and well-being of both participants and our team.”

Extending the races to two days also contributed to reducing the impact on the running trails around Tolmin, accommodating participants’ wishes to alleviate congestion in the busiest areas. Peter Dakskobler, responsible for obtaining permits and marking the routes, is most pleased that the sports festival is not only for guests and foreigners but has also been embraced by locals: “Locals still enjoy running on our – their trails; several local companies involve their employees. Today, awards were presented by Mayor Alen Červ, and Deputy Mayor Tomaž Štenkler ran the ‘ten-k’. This means a lot to us because, on one hand, we bring active visitors to the valley, while the festival remains ours, local.”

I FEEL SLOVENIA SOČA OUTDOOR FESTIVAL 2024 RESULTS:

I Feel Slovenia 50km

Women:
1. JUHASZ Nora (HUN) – 5:50:23
2. ARANY Enikő (HUN) – 6:24:19
3. SIMEK BILIC Mirjana (CRO) – 6:36:41

Men:
1. ŠTULAR Klemen (SLO) – 5:20:00
2. NIORD Julien (FRA) – 5:26:46
3. NIDORFER Matej (SLO) – 5:34:50

Ford 35km

Women:
1. PIŠOTEK Katarina (SLO) – 3:28:04
2. FRIEBEL Cindy (SLO) – 3:38:35
3. PEČKO Darja (SLO) – 3:42:27

Men:
1. KOŽAR Uroš (SLO) – 3:07:15
2. SKITEK Tadej (SLO) – 3:09:53
3. LETOJNE Matej (SLO) – 3:10:01

Triglav 25km

Women:
1. GUBANC Nina (SLO) – 2:33:06
2. AMERŠEK Kim (SLO) – 2:59:43
3. HOČEVAR Katja (SLO) – 3:00:20

Men:
1. URŠIČ Nejc (SLO) – 2:19:23
2. GRBIĆ Dino (SLO) – 2:22:59
3. OBLAK Tomaž (SLO) – 2:24:31

Adidas Terrex 15km

Women:
1. TORNIČ Tajda (SLO) – 1:21:04
2. TURČIN Mojca (SLO) – 1:23:39
3. POGAČAR Petra (SLO) – 1:24:42

Men:
1. LIČEF Miha (SLO) – 1:04:09
2. FLAJNIK Bine (SLO) – 1:06:22
3. AMBROSINI Mattia (ITA) – 1:08:03

Continental 10km

Women:
1. MANDELJC Anja (SLO) – 1:00:59
2. GASHI Edita (SLO) – 1:05:47
3. GRABBE Marie (GER) – 1:06:31

Men:

1. SIMÁK Gregó (HUN) – 1:02:08
2. VOGRINEC Boris (SLO) – 1:03:46
3. ŠTOR Alan (SLO) – 1:04:12

Abba Nutrition 5km

Women:
1. BRUS Julija (SLO) – 0:20:37
2. ŠTREMFELJ Lara (SLO) – 0:24:12
3. BLAZNIK Naja (SLO) – 0:24:22

Men:
1. MANFREDA Luka (SLO) – 0:19:39
2. BAŠELJ Tim (SLO) – 0:20:24
3. KUTIN Anže (SLO) – 0:21:11