This past Saturday, the World Mountain Running Association (WMRA) held its 37th annual congress meeting over a video conference. Normally this gathering of athletics federation representatives meets in person at the annual World Mountain Running Championships. Unfortunately, because the world championships originally scheduled to take place earlier this month in Lanzarote, Spain was cancelled, the meeting was held over video conference. The nearly 40 participants included the WMRA council, honorary council members, World Athletics representation and 26 national athletics federation delegates, all of whom were welcomed by WMRA president Jonathan Wyatt.
Even in challenging times amid the worldwide coronavirus pandemic, the WMRA has made significant strides in several key areas. This progress was presented during the virtual meeting and included a new strategic plan, collaboration, an athlete ranking, competition planning, and social media.
Council member Sarah Rowell presented the WMRA 5-year strategy with a revised mission statement which reads: To grow and promote running in the mountains as a core part of the athletics family while respecting and maintaining its uniqueness, benefiting from it being a simple, easily accessible entry point into the sport. That vision includes having more people from all backgrounds positively benefiting from running in the mountains in an environmentally responsible way. Much of the budgetary consideration for 2021 and beyond will reflect this plan as the council works to fulfill its mission.
The WMRA has been closely linked with World Athletics (WA) since its inception and over the past few years the relationship has evolved as myriad changes have taken place within the two organizations. Off road running is indeed a focus of WA and the WMRA falls into this discipline area. The WMRA, along with the International Trail Running Association (ITRA), and the International Association of Ultrarunners (IAU), have worked closely with WA over the past two years to organize details for hosting the inaugural World Mountain and Trail Running Championships in 2021.
Although this is a new direction for the championships program, the partnerships between these organizations are sure to result in a successful event that will provide new opportunities for athletes, provide additional interest to brands, and create worldwide attention on our sport. It is anticipated that the venue, competition program, and specific dates for the combined championships will be announced within two weeks, and that funding details will be provided to federations in the first half of January.
Mountain Running Athlete Ranking
Perhaps the topic with the most buzz and interest was the athlete ranking project. This has been a two-year undertaking to come up with a viable model to present to the world and includes event lists, athlete rankings, searchable content, and easily digestible data. This ranking will be useful for event organizers who wish to learn more about top athletes and their results, attractive to brands who are looking to expand their athlete pool, exciting for fans of the sport to follow results, and engaging for athletes to see how they stack up on a worldwide stage.
About the athlete ranking, Germany’s delegate Matthias Reick said, “The world ranking tool is looking great. It will help us to identify our national athletes and give the sport more credibility in comparison to the stadia and road athletics.” Added Malta’s Gerald Grech, “Mountain Running yearly world ranking is a brilliant idea and (a) great motivator for all runners.”
Rollout of the Mountain Running World Ranking is planned for early January 2021.
Clearly 2020 was a unique year with fewer events, but those that were staged enabled athletes, brands, and fans to enjoy the mountain running experience. Looking to 2021, the WMRA World Cup was just announced and according to Wyatt, “This is our number one link to the commercial side of mountain and trail running and it allows the WMRA to stay relevant.”
The World Cup will be staged from June through October and will be hosted by eight countries with 16 races in three categories – long mountain run, classic mountain run, and short uphill. In addition, events in the WMRA calendar cover youth to masters.
The 2021 International U18 Mountain Running Cup will be held on July 24 in Ambleside, England, while the 2021 WMRA/WMA World Masters Mountain Running Championships will be held in Telfes, Austria on September 4-5. Already on the calendar for 2022 is the World Masters which will be staged in Glen of Aherlow, Co. Tipperary, Ireland from September 10-11. There is interest from two nations to host the 2022 U18, one from Chambéry, France, and the other from Saluzzo, Italy.
WMRA will continue to promote activities through Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and to share news at www.wmra.info. More will be invested to further the reach of posts and to create additional compelling content for distribution on the WMRA website and through articles and resources.
Editor’s Note: American Trail Running Association founder and executive director Nancy Hobbs is council member and treasurer of the WMRA. ATRA’s Richard Bolt is a member of USATF’s MUT Council and is the USA delegate to the WMRA and WMRA Congress.