A little history about Mountain Running

Kilian Jornet Burgada, a man who has mastered this sport (witness the videos), speaks to the living mountain running legend, Bruno Gozzelino. Mountain running began many centuries ago and exist in the mists of myth and legend… one such legend being substantiated with historical records of mountain running events going back to 1068 when a Scottish king is recorded as choosing his messenger from many applicants by having them race to the top of the nearest mountain and back!

Mountain running is not climbing – it is, first and foremost, running. It comes within the field of athletics, but it is, obviously, not run in a stadium! In fact, in 2003 and with the help of the IAAF (International Association of Athletics Federation) Athletics was redefined as follows: “Athletics is: track and field, road running, race walking, cross country running and mountain running.”

The minutes of the IAAF Congress  clarify the situation: “Mountain Running is a constantly developing and growing discipline, both by the number of athletes and the quality of performances. In many regions of the world where there is no track in the neighbourhood, the practice of mountain running represents the first approach to athletics, therefore the definition of athletics would be more complete if this term was mentioned. Since last year (2002) there has been an official European Championship in mountain running.”

Back to the videos and the extraordinary cloven-hoofed Kílian Jornet Burgada. Born in 1987, Kílian is a Catalan ski mountaineer, a long-distance runner, mountain biker and duathlete – a combination of mountain running and mountain biking. He is a three time champion of the Skyrunner World Series from 2007–09, becoming the youngest athlete to win this honour. He has been recognised as an ‘elite athlete’ since 2004 and in 2005 he set a new course record of 2:30:57 for the race to the 4,015 metre summit of the Dôme de Neige des Écrins. One of his many achievements in his short career was in 2010 when he set a world record on Mount Kilimanjaro  for an ascent – 5:23:50 and  a combined ascent/ descent in a time of 7:14:00. In 2011 he has already set a course record on The North Face 100, Blue Mountains, Australia.

More on Kílian later… but back to the formation of the mountain running association.

In 1985, the WMRA (World Mountain Running Association) and the ICMR (International Committee for Mountain Running) organised an annual international competition with the first event being held in San Vigilio Marebbe, Italy.

The original format was to have two senior men’s races, one short “up & down” and one longer “uphill only” race. The senior women’s and junior men’s races were also “up & down”, this being the tradition in the two originating countries, Italy and Great Britain. However in 1993 a dispute arose as a result of the Alpine Countries tradition of staging uphill-only races. A famous compromise was reached at the annual Congress meeting in Gap (France) where everyone agreed to a World Trophy format in which the World Trophy race would be uphill-only one year, and up-&-down the following year.

The race gains popularity every year. In 1985, 11 countries were represented; in 2008 that had risen to 38.

In 2010 more then 400 of the world’s best mountain runners converged on Slovenia where the annual Championships were held in the beautiful Kamnik Alps. More then 39 countries took part in the event. The men’s race, a 12km, 1,295m ascent, with 149 contestants, was won by the outstanding Eritrean Samson Gashazgi in a time of 56:25 minutes. Teklay Weldemariam was second and last year’s champion Geoffrey Kusuro, from Uganda, finished third.

There were 69 contestants in the women’s race which was 8.5 km long with a 1,035 ascent. The first three places went to the favourites: Austrian long-distance runner, Andrea Mayr, born 1979, was first with the time 49:30, second was Valentina Belotti from Italy and third – Martina Straehl from Switzerland.

The Italians won the team event with Switzerland and Russia in 2nd and 3rd place.

You can see the route for yourselves here:

Bruno Gozzelino, still very much involved with the sport and as president of the WMRA, was there to see the runners come in. This was the first time Slovenia had hosted the event and they were delighted with its success. “‘Excellent! Everything is as it should be, the results are amazing. The contestants were really satisfied with the course which was clearly marked so that nobody got lost in the fog. I’m really sorry that due to the fog the competitors could not see this beautiful mountain and the Kamnik Alps behind,” said Dušan Papež, president of the Papež mountain runners club and organiser of the event. His family were amongst 400 volunteers that made this day so successful.

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