Andrea Mayr on her way to victory in Bludenz (Organisers) © Copyright
Preview Ljubljana, Slovenia

Mayr faces defending champion Gaggi at Smarna Gora in Ljubljana

The international Smarna Gora Mountain Running Race remains one of the highlights of the mountain-running season, and on Saturday (4) it will double up as the final competition in the World Mountain Running Association (WMRA) World Cup.

In the autumn of 1979, running enthusiasts from the Slovenian capital decided to organise a race to the top of Smarna Gora, one of the most popular mountains in the country. No one at the time envisaged that it would become such a massive event with worldwide popularity.

In the early 1990s the event was the first national championships in the new state of Slovenia. Later that decade, world champion Lucio Fregona of Italy made the Smarna Gora race an internationally recognised event.

After the millennium, it became one of the founding races of the WMRA Grand Prix and since then it has hosted the Grand Prix final on 12 occasions.

In the past 34 years many medallists from the World Mountain Running Championships have been tested on the demanding course that takes runners 360m uphill to the first summit, followed by 300m of technical descent before a 300m climb to the finish.

This Saturday, the best mountain runners will again meet to test their strength, speed and skills. This will be the first official WMRA meeting after the World Championships and many will be keen to climb the famous podium at Smarna Gora.

This will be a tall order, as the top female runners will include current world and European champion Andrea Mayr of Austria, 2013 world champion and defending Smarna Gora champion Alice Gaggi of Italy, and Slovenia’s European silver medallist and defending Grand Prix winner Mateja Kosovelj, who also holds the course record.

Britain’s Sarah Tunstall and Italy’s Antonella Confortola will also be vying for a podium finish.

In the men’s event, Eritrea’s 2012 world champion Petro mamo will take to the Smarna Gora course for the first time. The current leader of World Cup series will do his best to keep his top position.

Italy’s Alex Baldaccini returns to the Smarna Gora race in the hope of regaining his title from two years ago. Six-time world champion and Smarna Gora course record-holder Jonathan Wyatt has been in great form this season.

Slovenia’s Mitja Kosovelj is well positioned to offer a strong challenge as he knows the course well, while Switzerland’s David Schneider is also making a return. In total, five of the top eight men in the current World Cup rankings will be present.

Tomo Sarf (WMRA) for the IAAF