At the ITRA’s instigation, on the idea of François D’Haene, Thomas Lorblanchet and Nathalie Mauclair (representative of the runners at ITRA’s Steering Committee), a meeting took place on Thursday 11th of June to talk about French and international issues of trailrunning.
We invited many actors that we wanted representative of our sport: elite runners / amateurs (17 people invited), big races organisations, other more modest (25 organisations invited) , sport brands (3 brands invited), the French Federation of Athletics, the French association of Skyrunning and some media. 25 people could attend the meeting in Lyon to share their views.
This meeting was meant to follow on from the round table organised by Trails Endurance Mag in March about the future of trailrunning. It showed that the attendants had mostly a common vision of our sport and it seemed interesting to continue these thoughts within an expanded group, representative of different views. This is the main wish of ITRA at the international level: to gather actors from different backgrounds, who want to work for the development of their sport.
The aim of this meeting was:
The agenda was:
After a first round table with the possibility given to all the attendants their expectations about a meeting like this one, Michel Poletti, president of ITRA, briefly explained the role of ITRA close to the international organizations like IAAF and IAU.
First debate about the definition of trailrunning
At the request of IAAF (International Association of Athletics Federations), ITRA wrote the article 252 of competition rules, defining trailrunning. It will be made official in Beijing for the Congress in next August and will enable trailrunning to become officially a discipline of international athletics. This definition of the discipline, proposed in tandem with the members of ITRA and the group of athletes represented by François D’Haene, is very important because it is the milestone of our sport and contributes to its visibility but it may also be exclusive.
For example there is a lot of historic races in the United States that have loops or need to respect a specific distance (50 or 100 Miles). What can be seen as absurd in Europe is perfectly normal in the country with the greatest number of trail runners. So when a discipline is defined should it be made global to take into account a big number of races or should it be more precise to exclude races that look not conform to the wanted evolution of the sport? What is at stake is to find a definition that will concern all the actors and contribute to a better readability of our sport.
The closeness with athletics
Some attendants of the meeting delivered the message of little organisations and runners worried after the declarations of the president of the FFA, about taxation of races for example. Michel Huertas, vice president of the federation in charge of out stadium races, could answer and say that it was unthinkable to tax races and to force runners to be members of the federation. The European law would not allow that anyway. Questions came up about the ability to organise a race without affiliated. Same thing, it is unthinkable and illegal to set such a system of obligation.
Given that the trailrunning is an economically healthy activity what will the federation be useful for? Dialogue was constructive between people of the federation, the worries of the little races, the contradiction between member athletes and not member athletes of the federation. The main question is about the projects the federation has for trailrunning, for the management of child activity, training of instructors. Today the performance office of the federation handles trailrunning seriously, clubs are active in the most part of territorial committees. There is still work to do, for example about health of trailers. But the out stadium commission is working on it.
Many athletes taking part in this year’s edition were attending the meeting. Were also present the organisers (Stéphane Agnoli and Cyril Cointre for the Maxi-Race ; Michel Huertas for the FFA). There were discussions about the recent controversies, like the mass start and the selection modalities. All the attendants could express different points of view. Other themes were also discussed like the frequency and the environment of these championships.
The main view is to admit that trail world championships, if well organised and respectful of the values of our sport, can be a superb showcase for the discipline. But they should not encroach upon the existing tours. The idea of organising it every two years would permit to focus on other competitions during the off-season. The selection of French athletes is perfectible but can be seen as an example that should be imitated in other countries.
The length and passion of debates prevented us to talk about the last two themes we had envisaged.
A last round of table allowed enlisting all the subjects it should be interesting to treat in debates like this one or working groups:
Prize money, management of elite athletes by organisers, place of brand and club teams in the institutional framework, the mandatory equipment, doping, semi self-sufficiency, environment, trail ethic charter, quotation of races, price of races.
A big thanks to all the attendants of the meeting for your availability and your listening. A summary of the debates has been written and sent to all the actors interested in this process. The setting of working groups will follow this meeting.
It is important to understand that all the trail actors interested in this kind of exchanges can contact us to know the role they can play.