This weekend sees the European Mountain Running Championships being held in Arco, Italy. In the post below, Great Britain internationals Ben Mounsey and Emmie Collinge preview the action. Ben and Emmie are also taking over the inov-8 Instagram and Twitter accounts to bring you behind-the-scenes photos and videos from the championships.
A sport that doesn’t always get the attention it deserves
You might think you’re familiar with mountain running, that all it involves is lacing up and heading out, but there’s another competitive side to it that goes largely undetected.
Take this weekend for example. It’s the European Mountain Running Championships, which are being held in Arco, Italy, at the head of Lake Garda. Falling under the radar of most athletics fans, mountain running doesn’t always get the due attention that it deserves. But year-on-year the standard of the discipline is rising, with many of its top athletes clocking fast times on the road and track to go alongside their mountain running feats.
With each mountain running race comes varying terrain and gradients, which can often make it difficult to predict a winner. The European Mountain Running Championship course switches between purely uphill and up-and-down depending on the year, which obviously plays to different people’s strengths.
Ever-changing gradients and a wide variety of terrains
Here in Arco it’s an up-and-down route with a mixture of terrain. For the men’s race it’s a 12.5km three-lap route that climbs through the elegant streets of the town before arriving at the castle of Arco, one of the most beautiful medieval fortresses in the Italian Alps. What’s most interesting about this course is the diversity of the all terrain – with everything from concrete steps, man-made wooden stairs that scale the castle wall, rock slabs, grassy banks and tight switchbacks. This means that the eventual winner will be the most ‘complete’ athlete; the type that can cope with the ever-changing gradients and a wide variety of challenging terrains.
There are four races in total held as part of the championships:
Senior men: 12.5km, 750 metres of climbing, 2 small laps, 1 big lap
Senior women: 8.5km, 500 metres of climbing, 1 small lap, 1 big lap
Junior boys: 8.5km, 500 metres of climbing, 1 small lap, 1 big lap
Junior girls: 4km, 250 metres of climbing, 1 medium lap
The competition for medal places will, as always, be fierce, with home nation Italy set to provide some of the main protagonists. Athletes from Great Britain and France in particular should give them a stern test.
European Mountain Running Championships – Senior Men
After dominating the 2015 World Mountain Running Championships, the clear favourites for the win will be the Italians, fielding the Dematteis twins, Xavier Chevier and Cesare Maestre. Strong both on and off road, Chevier clocked 63 minutes for the half-marathon earlier this year in Rome and looks likely to challenge for the win.
The Italians will, however, face stiff competition from Great Britain’s Andy Douglas, who placed 6th at the World Mountain Running Championships last year and won the 2015 Mountain Running World Cup. The Frenchman Julien Rancon is coming into the event showing good form, after some strong race results last month, while Switzerland’s David Schneider, Turkey’s Ahmet Arslan and Jan Janu, from the Czech Republic, are others who will likely be at the sharp end.
There will of course be several others looking to make their mark too. There will be a need for speed, but the race is likely to be won or lost on the final climb up to the castle, which comes straight after a brutally steep descent.
European Mountain Running Championships – Senior Women
The Italians are going to face another strong fielding from Great Britain, who proved their dominance at the World Mountain Running Championships last year with team gold. Their team for Arco features two new athletes to the scene, one being Norway-based Rebecca Hilland, whose recent 2:39 at London Marathon should be enough to turn a few heads, and the other is 23-year-old Heidi Dent, who is the current UK Inter-County Fell Running Champion. They’re joined by Italy-based Emmie Collinge and Sarah Tunstall, who finished second and fourth respectively at last year’s World Championships.
However, their pursuit of team gold could be halted by Italy’s Alice Gaggi, Sara Bottarelli, Antonella Confortola and Valentina Belotti. France’s Christel Dewalle, the current Vertical Km world record holder, will be testing herself on a course that’s markedly different from her usual steeper, skyrunning terrain so it’ll be interesting to see how this tour de force fares.
European Mountain Running Championships – Junior Men
Reigning junior world champion Davide Magnini, from Italy, ran well at the Italian championships this year and will have his eyes on the top step of the podium. Whether he’ll be joined by the rest of the Italian team will be interesting as Turkey are known for fielding a very strong junior team. Expect Great Britain to feature prominently in the team competition as well.
European Mountain Running Championships – Junior Women
Despite it being such a short and quick course, its steep and technical nature will make for a fascinating race. Great Britain’s Heidi Davies has matured well through the junior ranks and her experience should really pay off in a race like this. America’s Allie Ostrander dominated last year’s World Championship race in this category, but obviously won’t be competing on European soil, so this leaves it wide open.
* More posts by Ben: Fell Running: Simple, Pure And Without Arrogance
* More posts by Emmie: 800m Of Hell: The Valltelina Vertical Tube Race
* Discover more about the World Mountain Running Association