Max King (USA) wins the 27th World Mountain Running Championships, 2011 (WMRA) © Copyright
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USA double, as eleven nations take medals at the 27th World Mountain Running Championships

Tirana, AlbaniaMax King and Kasie Enman took the men’s and women’s titles respectively at the 27th World Mountain Running Championships which were held on Sunday (11).


The Albanian organisers were impressive with their marketing and hospitality. The beach resort of Durres provided the ‘athletes village’ and offered cool accommodation in the oppressive heat that many struggled with on race day. Many athletes will reflect on their wonderful experiences with a particularly welcoming host city of Tirana and the volunteer ambassadors that provided an enriching initiation to Albania.


A fabulous welcome from the Albanian President and Minister of Sport was backed up with five hours of live television coverage. Their welcome preceded a professional and entertaining opening ceremony.  The elite mountain runners from across the world were treated to an insight into the culture of Albania and the impressive landscapes it has to offer, which included having the highest average altitude in Europe - a fitting perfect for the sport of mountain running!


Race day saw the full demands of Mountain Running on display as many struggled in the hot and humid conditions on a varied and technically demanding course.


Senior Men’s Race (13.1km, 750m ascent/descent)


The early fierce pace was set by the Ugandan team as they surged up the first circuit. It was an experienced contingent as Martin Torotitch had taken silver in 2008 and James Kibet the bronze in 2009, but it was the younger Ugandan Thomas Ayeko who pushed on for most of the race.


Always close behind were European legend Ahmet Arslan (TUR) and Max King (USA), and the Italian team also packed well but preferred a more steady start in the hot Albanian forest area. As the race progressed the Italian team moved up the field as the Ugandans’ started to suffer and slow in the incessant midday heat. It was heat exhaustion that got the better of the prominent leader Ayeko as he ground to a halt less than 1000m from the finish surrendering to the challenging nature of the course combined with the hot cauldron within the forest paths.


In the end it was 31-year-old, Max King (USA), who finished fastest to win from five-times European champion, Ahmet Arslan (TUR). Italian twins, Martin and Bernard De Matteis finished 3rd and 4th with Marco De Gasperi backing them up in 5th and Gabriele Abate in 15th, showing Italian strength as they repeated their many previous team victories. Turkey were the silver medal winners with France taking the team bronze award.


Senior Women’s Race (8.8km, 500m ascent/descent)


The race was expected to be closely contested and it was the USA that again took top honours with Kasie Enman impressing with a 1 minute and 8 second victory.


After trying to make the American team for the past five years all of Kasie’s dreams came true on this poignant date of September 11th. Kasie became a first time Mum in 2010. Her family were at the event to cheer her to victory. Two of the pre-race favourites took silver and bronze. Russia’s Elena Rukhlyada and European Champion, Marie-Laure Dumerques from France joined Kasie on the podium for silver and bronze respectively. Italy again showed their strength in depth with positions 7,8 and 9 to take the team gold (24 points), Czech Republic took silver (30 points) and Great Britain and Northern Ireland took the bronze team award.


Junior Men’s Race (8.8km, 500m ascent/descent)


The race saw a fast and furious start particularly by the Turkish team as them attempted to dominate with 4 runners in the top 6 after the first climb. Always to the fore was Saul Padua Rodriguez (COL) as he bided his time on the first lap. On completing the second circuit Rodriguez was forcing the pace and looked to be heading to victory, but the dusty descent saw Turkey’s Adem Karagoz pull away for a comfortable victory. Turkey dominated the team contest with an impressive 12 points to Poland’s 22 with Italy taking the bronze medals with 32 points.  


Junior Women’s Race (4.5km, 250m ascent/descent)


Slovenian Lea Einfalt impressed as she took the World title and led her team-mates to bronze team medals. Turkey and Romanian also made the podium for individual medallists with Cesminaz Yilmaz taking silver and Denisa Ionela Dragomir for Romania’s only individual medal.  Turkey impressed with their team strength with 2nd and 4th places to take the Gold medal team award.


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In attendance at the Championships was Otto Klappert (Germany) as the IAAF Delegate and the whole WMRA Council with new Secretary, Bashir Hussain (Great Britain), who had just been appointed during the WMRA Council meeting in Duress, one day before the Championships.


The 28th WMRA Congress was also held and a lot of important decisions were taken: updating of Constitution and of the World Mountain Running Championships rules, scheduling of the most important races in the calendar 2012 and 2013 and other aspects for improving the sportwere discussed by Delegates from over 30 nations.


These Championships were the first world sport event ever organized in Albania and this reason is easily to understand that some aspects were difficult, but LOC – fully supported by National Government – tried to do the best and certainly all the participants present have returned home from a memorable Championships


Bashir Hussain (WMRA)