Ahmet Arslan on the way to victory on Smarna gora (A. Fevzer) © Copyright
After Turkish organisers in Bursa were forced to cancel this year’s planned final of the World Mountain Running Association (WMRA) Grand Prix circuit, the Smarna gora race organisers stepped in to offer their help to the WMRA and accepted to host this top class international mountain running event again. Despite the late change of the date and the different nature of the course many top runners are expected on the slopes of Smarna gora.
In the autumn and fall season of 1979 running enthusiasts from Ljubljana, Slovenia’s capital, decided to organise a race to the top of one of the most popular mountains in Slovenia at Šmarna gora. Nobody envisaged that it would become such a massive event with worldwide popularity. The WMRA Grand Prix champions of the world will again be crowned on Saturday (6) at this magnificent mountain peak.
In the early 1990s the event was the first national championships in the new nation of Slovenia and later that decade, World champion Lucio Fregona (ITA) made the Šmarna gora race an internationally recognised event. After the millennium, the Šmarna gora race became one of the founding members of the WMRA Grand Prix and since than it has been the final Grand Prix event on ten occasions.
In the last 33 years many world medallists have tested the demanding course that takes the runners 360 metres uphill to the first summit followed by 300 metres of technical descent before a 300 metres uphill haul to the finish. The best men need something more than 40 minutes to complete the 10-kilometre long course.
This Saturday the best mountain runners will again meet to test their strength, speed and skills. This will be the first meeting after the World Championships and many will strive to climb the famous podium at Šmarna Gora.
This will be a tall order. The top female runners will include World Championship second place finisher Valentina Belotti (just married Manzi, ITA) and Mateja Kosovelj (SLO) who took sixth place. Stevie Kremer (USA), the World long distance challenge winner, will also try to make the podium. Slovenia’s Lea Eifalt, the World Junior Championships bronze medallist, is expected to feature at some stage of this wonderful festival of mountain running in Slovenia.
In the men’s event, European six times champion Ahmet Arslan of Turkey, returns to defend his Šmarna Gora titles from 2010 and 2011. A strong Eritrean team will test the Smarna gora course for the first time; Teklay Azeria, 3-times World silver medallist champion and Grand Prix current leader will do his best to improve the Arslan’s course record, and his fellow Tekle Yossief, 2010 World Junior champion (Kamnik-Slovenia), will try to repeat his successful run on Slovenian soil. Mitja Kosovelj of Slovenia will be well placed to offer a strong challenge knowing the course in detail. David Schneider (SUI) will test his recovery on Smarna gora.
Other world class male mountain runners on show include the always strong Italian and British national team members: Gabriel Abate, Alex Baldaccini, Emanuelle Manzi, Orlando Edwards, Gary Priestley and many others.
Tomo Sarf (WMRA) for the IAAF
1999 Galfione on track