Valsir World Cup Preview 2022 Part 12: Šmarna Gora Race
On the first day of October we have one of mountain running's true classics. "Small hill, small race, strong competition."
Standing on the outskirts of the Slovenian capital of Ljubljana, Šmarna Gora may be the least intimidating venue on the World Cup this year; the higher of its two rounded summits, Grmada, is just 676m above sea level and less than 400m above the city below. Yet for over 40 years the Šmarna Gora Race has hosted some of the most fiercely competitive racing in the sport.
With high quality fields and nail-biting finales, the race is a firm favourite among athletes and fans alike and in 2020 was voted the Greatest Mountain Race of All Time in a WMRA poll. Its inclusion in the 2022 Valsir Mountain Running World Cup marks the race's 20th appearance in the series.
Since 1991 the Šmarna Gora weekend has featured two races, the main Šmarna Gora Race on the Saturday preceded on the Friday by Šmarna Gora Record. A mad dash of 1.85km and 360m+, it takes the most direct route from the start in Tacen to the top of the hill. In 2020 Filimon Abraham became the first runner to break the 11 minute barrier, running 10:59 to take the win by 3 seconds from Sylvain Cachard, the 2 fastest times ever. The women's record is longer standing, Mateja Kosovelj's time of 13:18 being the fastest mark since 2006.
With that short tune-up out of the way, it's time for The Šmarna Gora Race. At 10k with 710m+ and 350m-, the course is a blend of tough climbs, fast running and technical trails. The summit of Grmada is reached first, just after the 4 kilometre mark, before a 2 kilometre descent brings the runners back down to begin the final climb, spiraling anti-clockwise around the mountain to finish outside the Gostilna Ledinek inn at the summit.
Unsurprisingly the Greatest Mountain Race has attracted some of the greatest mountain runners and the course records are very strong. Andrea Mayr holds the record for the women, 47:50 set in 2017 in the fastest of her 6 wins. The men's record is from 2012, when Alex Baldaccini edged out Azerya Teklay in a photo finish, both athletes recording 41:32.
There are interesting incentives for any runner with an eye on those course records; €250 plus €10 for every second under the old record. So for the men, €270 for 41:30, €320 for 41:25 and so on. Runners who do not win but are also under the previous course record are also eligible for €10/second.
The race website also features a search engine with full results of both the Record and Šmarna Gora races, searchable by year, nationality, gender, position. It's a gold mine for anyone wanting to go deep into the history of the race!
As always, recent results are also available on the World Mountain Running Ranking.
Ljubljana has direct rail links to a number of major cities including Munich, Zürich and Vienna, and you can fly direct to Ljubljana Jože Pučnik Airport from most major European airports.