Commonwealth Ultra Championships

Posted on September 17, 2009 by

New Commonwealth Championship event for Ultradistance and Mountain Running held in Keswick

Mountain running returning to its spiritual home in Cumbria.

The world’s first organised fell race took place in Grasmere, Cumbria, in 1850.  And almost 160 years later between Thursday, September 17th and Sunday, September 20th, 2009, the first Commonwealth Mountain and Ultra Distance Championships take place in Keswick, Cumbria.

The tradition of fell running, developed especially in Britain and Italy involves starting in a mountain village or town, running to the top of the mountain and returning to the start.

The Commonwealth Mountain and Ultra Distance Championships will include races in this discipline and in the Alpine discipline which involves running to an uphill-point only. Races will start from Fitz Park in the centre of Keswick and ascend the slopes of Latrigg and Skiddaw, the hills overlooking the town.

Over 120 athletes are competing in the championships from the following nations: New Zealand, Australia, Canada, Scotland, England, Wales, Northern Ireland, Malawi, India, Gibraltar, Kenya, Sierra Leone, Zambia and the Isle of Man.

There will also be two ultra distance races during the Championships; a 100k road race and a 24-hour race. The 24-hour race starts at midday on 17th September and takes place entirely within Fitz Park, with runners completing laps of a 1km course around the park. Runners will continue through the night and the following morning, with the finish at midday on Friday, September 18th.

The International Association of Ultra Runners (IAU) and the World Mountain Running Association (WMRA) proposed to stage a joint Commonwealth Championships for ultra distance and mountain running. It was accepted by the Commonwealth Games Federation and was decided that the first such event would take place in Keswick.

Cumbria County Council together with the NWDA organised event funding, alongside national sport governing bodies.

Peter Mearns, executive director of marketing at the NWDA, said: “It is wonderful to see mountain running taking place in its historical home in the fells of Cumbria and the Lake District.
“Cumbria’s stunning landscape lends itself to adventure activities and to these exciting new championships, which the NWDA is pleased to support.
“Some of the world’s finest athletes will be competing in England’s Northwest over the next few days and I would urge people to go see and support them.”

Councillor Tony Markley, Cumbria County Council cabinet member responsible for economic development and regeneration, said: “It is very exciting. The mountain running and ultra-distance events will be a great boost to the local economy, attracting significant numbers of visitors outside the main tourist season. It will raise the profile of Cumbria and the Lake District nationally and beyond as well as promoting a healthy activity locally.”

New Zealand’s contingent includes national mountain running champion Glenn Hughes, who with team-mate James Coubrough will contest both the uphill and up-and-down races. Dougal Thorburn, Michael Wakelin, and Auckland’s Aaron Jackson and Michael Banks will compete in the up-and-down race.

Former world mountain running champion Melissa Moon along with Lara Phillips, Sarah Biss and Anna Frost have been selected for the women’s mountain races, while Val Muskett, Lisa Tamati, Vivian Cheng and Alex McKenzie are New Zealand’s representatives in the 24-hour race.

The Australian Ultra Running Association has a 19-strong team selected to represent Australia at the Commonwealth. Drawing from states across Australia, captain Martin Fryer says that the team will be competing in all disciplines.

Completing the line-up of big Commonwealth teams, Canada will also be fielding a full line-up of athletes for the Championships and report that they are looking forward to competing in the Lake District, the spiritual home of fell running.

Ultra distance running has seen a surge in popularity in recent years and involves running distances longer than a marathon, commonly 100km or 24-hour races.

The four-day event will also feature a variety of amateur and fun running events and cultural activities. The organisers considered other potential venues but chose Keswick because of the ideal natural terrain and the town’s association with mountain running – Keswick hosted the World Mountain Running Masters’ Championship in 2005.

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Clive Allen, Ascent Marketing Communications
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