Summary of annual WMRA meetings

Written by Nancy Hobbs, Executive Director, American Trail Running Association

The annual winter meetings of the World Mountain Running Association (WMRA), an association under International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) patronage, whose membership in 2014 included 43 dues-paying nations, concluded in Monaco, today, Sunday, January 25, highlighted by lively discussion among its council members.

Representing Slovenia, Germany, USA, Italy, France, Turkey, Poland and Bulgaria, but more importantly the sport of mountain running internationally, WMRA’s eight-member council covered an aggressive agenda in three days of meetings.

The agenda was packed with a myriad of topics from contracts to promotion, and included a recap of 2014 events as well as a focus to the future of the sport. In addition to the full council meetings, several working groups met. In these sessions, finances and budget were addressed, as were regulations for the various WMRA-supported competitions.

A thorough assessment of the regulations for competitions to include the WMRA International Youth Cup, the WMRA World Long Distance Mountain Running Championships, the WMRA/WMA World Masters Mountain Running Championships, and the signature WMRA World Mountain Running Championships began in September after the most recent WMRA Congress meetings held at Casette di Massa, Italy. Numerous updates were made to the documents, which will seek final approval electronically by the WMRA Council in the coming weeks.

Details of the World Cup, a series of independently organized events, which started in 1999 as the WMRA Grand Prix, are still under review with a new program on tap for the coming year including events in Europe and potentially one event in the United States.

From a separate anti-doping meeting, it was deemed that the sport of mountain running has a positive trend – in a good way. This is the result of statistics gleaned from three years of tests and data collected specific to mountain running. In 2014, all doping control tests were negative from WMRA mountain running competitions. This is not to say that anti-doping will take a back stage in this niche area of athletics, but rather remain as an important aspect of the sport with continued testing and analysis of data.

After a recap of a successful 2014 event calendar, the Council reviewed a report from technical delegate Tomo Sarf who visited Betws Y Coed, Wales, 2015 host of both the masters and the world mountain championships. The back-to-back events on the weekends of September 12 and 19 respectively, will include a full week of mountain running activities. Planned as part of the program are coaching seminars, which the WMRA has agreed to partner with the local organizing committee to promote and support.

In addition to previously awarded competitions for 2015, including venues in Switzerland for the Long Distance with the Zermatt Marathon, and Bulgaria for the Youth Cup, the Council confirmed at this weekend’s meeting in Monaco, Podbrdo, Slovenia to host the 13th WMRA World Long Distance Mountain Running Championships on June 18, 2016. A bid from the Czech Republic to host the 11th WMRA International Youth Cup in 2016 was considered and, pending course evaluation and approval, the bid will be confirmed.

The World Mountain Running Championship in 2016 will be hosted by Bulgaria which was approved by the WMRA Congress in September 2014. The event will be held on an uphill course in Sapareva on September 4. On hand at the meetings in Monaco to discuss the event was Bulgarian Federation President Dobromir Karamarinov who, along with Bulgarian WMRA council member Galia Puhaleva gave a report about plans for the event.

Looking ahead to 2017, there is interest from Sesto Pusteria, Italy, to host the 33rd World Mountain Running Championships which will be run on a course with both uphill and downhill terrain (whereas in even-numbered years, the course for this event is a mostly uphill route). For the Youth Cup, there was interest from Austria and Slovenia. The WMRA/WMA Masters Mountain Running Championships received declaration of interest from Slovakia, Slovenia, and Spain.

In an effort to provide a better social media platform, the Council discussed an overhaul of the website with the hopes of better integration with its Facebook and Twitter channels. In 2014, there were 81,680 unique visitors to the WMRA website with the biggest traffic in the month of September which is the time of the World Mountain Running Championships. Statistics for the Facebook page, which debuted in January 2014, has nearly 2800 followers. Twitter, which also debuted last year @WMRAMountainRun presently has more than 500 followers.

Another avenue of promotion is the annual newsletter, of which nearly 2,000 will be produced and distributed by spring in hard copy fashion. A .pdf version will also live on the WMRA website.

During a joint session with the International Association of Ultrarunners (IAU), led by the IAAF’s General Secretary Essar Gabriel, a connection between mountain, ultra, and trail running was discussed. As such, there has been a decision by the IAAF that this niche area of sport – trail running – is indeed a branch of athletics. In 2015, a definition of trail running will be developed, with the potential of a new rule to be considered by the IAAF Council and Congress during their meetings in April and August respectively. If accepted, this new rule would be part of the IAAF Competition Rule Book. A task force has been created, chaired by David Bedford, IAAF Road Running Commission Chairman.

A new partnership between the U.S.-based Council for Responsible Sport and Athletics For A Better World powered by IAAF was discussed. This global effort is designed to stimulate social and environmental responsibility programs at competitions of all levels from fun runs to world championships. The WMRA pledged its commitment to this effort.

The next meeting of the WMRA Council is scheduled in Betws Y Coed for September 17, two days prior to the mountain championships. The WMRA Congress meeting will follow on September 18.