New initiatives on tap for the World Mountain Running Association in 2018: Wyatt leads Council with action-oriented style.
Newly minted World Mountain Running Association (WMRA) president Jonathan Wyatt (New Zealand), led the seven-member council in its first meeting of the new year on January 13-14, in Monaco, home of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF). The location of the meeting cements the positive relationship mountain running has with the world governing body for athletics. IAAF liaison to the council, Alessio Punzi, said in his address to the council, “We feel there should be more proximity between IAAF and mountain running. These events are great. They look great on TV. They are fun to watch, fun to participate in.”
The assets within the mountain running portfolio – encompassing youth to masters – lend themselves to a clear path to generate revenue through sponsorships as well as media interest. “We need a product that we can sell sponsorships for and promotes the sport of athletics,” said Punzi. “We are really hungry for new products.”
This was a positive message for the council and much of the discussion and decision-making during the meeting was in support of growth, marketing, and new ideas.
Significant outcomes of the meeting are highlighted below.
Prize money to be introduced at the 2018 World Mountain Running Championships:
Individual podium finishers will share in a prize purse, equally distributed among the top three men and women. This will mark the first time in the history of the WMRA that prize money will be awarded at this signature event. For the top 3 men & women, the 2018 World Mountain Running prize purse will be 1st place $1500 USD, 2nd place $1000 USD and 3rd place $500 USD.
Athlete ranking system to be introduced:
Presently no criterion exists to determine the world’s best mountain runners. The WMRA has addressed this through council member Giorgio Bianchi (Italy), who brought a pilot ranking system to the meeting for review and discussion. The council unanimously supported this initiative for the upcoming season. The ranking system will include WMRA World Cup events, Continental Championships, and World Championships (both tradition and long distance), with points assessed on the basis of finish position at the various events. This World Mountain Running Ranking List will provide a service for race organizers to track and assess performances, and will be positive for promotion, and recognition of athletes. The ranking will be published on the WMRA website and shared through the electronic newsletter and social media. The program will not initially include awards, or prize money. As council member Tomo Sarf (Slovenia), stated, “The ranking is not to determine the ‘best’ athlete, but the most successful athlete.”
Refreshed World Cup to be announced soon:
In an effort to showcase top mountain races on the international calendar, the WMRA has sights to include events with a long tradition and deep history in the sport. The series will be comprised of five to six races. Prize money will be awarded equally to men and women ten deep with details coming soon on the format. And, in an effort to achieve more media exposure for the events and series, a professional agency will be retained to publish articles, conduct interviews, an take high-quality imagery.
Athlete’s Commission to be formed:
With a focus on the athlete experience, feedback will be sought from an advisory group of 8-10 international mountain runners. Council member Sarah Rowell is the liaison and point person for this program. Interested athletes should contact Rowell at email@example.com.
Commitment to gender equality for youth athletes:
Several changes were approved for the WMRA International Youth Cup including a name change to WMRA International U18 Cup. This change marks an effort to more closely mirror the category of competitor outlined by the IAAF. As in the past for youth, race participants in the U18 Cup must be ages 16 and 17 in the year of competition. Additionally, in an effort for gender equality, boys and girls will run the same course distance starting in 2018. The distance will be 4 to 5 kilometers. Finally, for those teams traveling from off-continent nations, the grant will be 200 euro per scoring athlete. The travel grant for all other nations will remain at 100 euro per scoring athlete.
Other items addressed included the 2018-19 calendar, international rules for mountain and trail running, annual newsletter production, anti-doping, engagement of federations, website and social media, regulations, delegates to events, and the addition of a final council member.
Fresh ideas were welcomed by the council and demonstrate enthusiasm and optimism for the future of our sport. The council will next meet in person at the World Mountain Running Championships in Andorra this September.