Written by WMRA Council Member Tomo Šarf for the local organizing committee (LOC).
On Saturday, 8 July the best European mountain runners will test their strength in Kamnik/Slovenia at the 16th annual European Mountain Running Championships. A record number of 240 runners from 27 countries will compete this prestigious competition with the finish on 1660m high Velika Planina
There are 3 courses provided for four different age and gender related and categories. Men will start in the valley and the course is 12,5km long with 1250m elevation gain. Women and junior men will run the upper 8,5km of the men’s course with 800m elevation gain and junior women will run the last 4,5 kilometres of the men’s course with almost 400m elevation gain.
In both junior’s categories the favourites are always unpredictable – new runners are coming and the most experienced are moving to the seniors categories every year.
In the men’s division there are several top runners on the start list, who were on the podium of the World and European Championships recently. Italy will send the best climbers and save the best descenders for the World championships, that will be held just 3 weeks later in their Premana and Alex Baldaccini is probably their strongest weapon; he finished 3. in 2015 and 2. in 2013 on a similar course. British Douglas was close to the podium in the last years, but never succeeded to enter top 3. In 2015 Norway, oa similar uphill race, surprised winning both gold medals in the men’s races – this year Bugge and AArvik are both competing in a seniors race. Ahmet Arslan from Turkey is the most successful runner at the WCh, winning 6 gold medals in 2007 – 2012. In 2010 on Velika planina he finished 7th as the best European runner. In 2016 he came back and finished on the podium at the World Championships. French is always sending a team with some excellent individuals who can also finish close to the podium.
In the ladies division the situation is more clear. Anything else than gold for Andea Mayr would be a surprise. In her career she collected 10 gold’s at the World and European Championships, including the one in 2010 on Velika Planina. Valentina finished with bronze at Velika Planina in 2010, after that she collected several silver medals and is a specialist for this kind of courses. Suisse Maude Mathys finished always very close to the podium in 2012-13-14 and looks extremely motivated this year. There are also som other strong runners on the start, like Alice Gaggi, “Campionessa del mondo” 2013, Schorna Pavla, also always on the top positions; Dvergsdal from Norway – silver medallist from Madeira.
The venue is well known to the international mountain running family – in 2010 hosted the World Championships and the runners described the this course as one of the most challenging and beautiful due to the nice landscape. Kamnik traditionally hosts also one of the World Cup races – the Grintovec race, the extreme 10km race with almost 2000m elevation gain. All those races are organized by the enthusiastic Papež team.