Lucy Murigi takes the honours at the 2019 Smarna Gora Mountain Race (© Marco Gulberti/WMRA)
The Smarna Gora Mountain Running Race was named the "the greatest mountain race" in a global poll conducted by the World Mountain Running Association (WMRA).
The annual event held just outside of the Slovenian capital Ljubljana was selected from a field of 22 races over the course of several rounds in a three-week poll conducted via the WMRA website. The final, which began on 6 July, came down to Smarna Gora and Argentina's K42 race.
"Its long history, the calibre of runners it has attracted over the years, its welcoming atmosphere and the fact that it remains close to its roots as a pure, unspoilt mountain race all contributed to its popularity," a statement on the WMRA website said.
The Smarna Gora race celebrated its 40th anniversary last year, the last 18 of those serving as the WMRA World Cup final.
"We are completely aware that Smarna gora cannot be compared to the beautiful scenery of the Drei Zinnen or Grossglockner, to the extremes of Sierre Zinal, to the mass participation of some other races, or to the budget of the others," said Tomo Sarf, one of the race organisers.
"Smarna gora is not even a mountain, with 669m it is just a hill, the trails are narrow and space on the summit is very limited, so we can simply not organise a mass event. But it is the most visited peak in Slovenia, in a county where mountaineering and hiking and recently mountain running are a kind of national sport."
This year's race is set for Saturday 10 October - and for now is planned to go ahead. Organisers are extending it into a two-day event beginning on Friday afternoon with a Smarna gora Record ascent, a race to the top of the hill taking the shortest or fastest route. It's a traditional race, held for more than 20 years. The men's record in 11:08, set by Petro Mamu. "We are really interested if it is possible to finish the course in less than 11 minutes," organisers said.
The Best race contest began with 22 entrants, 10 long distance races and 12 classic distance races. The entries:
Long distance - Mount Fuji Ascent, Sierre Zinal, Three Peaks Race, Kepler Challenge 60k, Mount Kinabalu International Climbathon, Giir Di Mont, Canfranc Canfranc, Jungfrau Marathon, Pikes Peak Marathon, K42 Argentina.
Classic distance - La Montee Grand Ballon, Snowdon International, Hochfelln Berglauf, Smarna Gora, Challenge Stellin, Kitzbuhel Hornlauf, Skala Opp, Drei Zinnen, Mount Washington Road Race, Grossglockner Berglauf, Schlickeralm Lauf, Trofeo Vanoni.
Bob Ramsak and WMRA for World Athletics