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IAAF announces new partnership with mountain- and trail-running organizations

The new partnership between IAAF, ITRA and WMRA seems designed to bring greater standardization to trail- and mountain-running, a development that sparks skepticism in some members of the trail running community

World Mountain Running Championships
Canadian Mountain Running Team 2017. Photo: Pascal Gray

At a press conference in Chamonix, France in advance of this weekend’s running of UTMB, the IAAF announced a new partnership with ITRA and WMRA, working alongside the IAU. And if all of that sounds like gobbledegook, here’s an attempt at a translation: the world governing body for track and field is partnering with trail- and mountain-running organizations to bring more standardization to trail and mountain running, and to bring all types of running under one umbrella.

The IAAF also announced that the trail running and mountain running world championships would be combined into the IAAF Trail and Mountain Running World Championships, to take place every two years starting in 2021. 

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2018 Zegama Trail Marathon in Spain. Photo: Instagram

IAAF president Sebastien Coe’s comments on the subject seem to imply that the partnership will result in more fluidity between road racing and trail running. “We look forward to offering new opportunities for distance runners to compete in the spectacular settings and on the challenging courses that traditional mountain and trail events offer.” 

Kilian Jornet
Photo via Kilian Jornet/Instagram.

Not everyone in the trail running community is on board with this development. There has always been a rogue element to trail running, which is a big part of its appeal. Trail runners love to celebrate their freedom from the road or track, and some trail runners who started their running careers as road or track runners say they would never go back. 

Kilian Jornet
Photo: Philipp Reiter

Moreover, as Canadian ultrarunner Adam Campbell points out, trail runners are generally skeptical of big organizations and how much benefit they bring to the individual consumer. “I don’t think it will change anything in the short term for individual trail runners,” says Campbell. “It may mean increased costs for race organizers, but it’s really too early to tell what the impact will be.”

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Campbell speculates the move may be intended to pave the way for trail and/or mountain running’s entry into the Olympics, though the Olympics do not tend to favour events that take more than two hours to complete.