The inaugural European Athletics Off-Road Running Championships, an innovative continental championship that combines the disciplines of trail and mountain running, will take place in El Paso on the Spanish island of La Palma on 1-3 July 2022.
On Thursday 30 June, four days of events will begin with a mass participation race, the third edition of the La Subida a las Estrellas (The Climb to the Stars), a 3.2km run that will take place under the spectacular night sky of La Palma in the Canary Islands.
On Friday 1 July, the official part of competition program opens with European titles at stake in the mountain running ‘uphill’ races, which will be 6km of gruelling climbing from the foot of the Bejenao mountain to the summit of the Pista de Ferrer, which involves almost 800 metres of ascent up to an altitude of 1600m.
The Bejenao mountain is in the centre of the island itself and the race will pass through some spectacular scenery and also by the island’s famous petroglyphs, designs carved into the rock face by the island's indigenous people that are thought to date back more than millennia.
The following day it will be the turn of trail runners to display their talent, contesting the first-ever official continental title in the discipline, with men’s and women’s race over approximately 45km.
The route of the races takes in the Bejenao mountain, a hard ascent of the Reventón pass, the Cumbre Vieja, the Llano de los Jables and the emblematic Pino de la Virgen with much of the race taking place in the Caldera de Taburiente National Park.
The third and final day on Sunday 3 July will see the competition programme close with ‘up and down’ mountain running races, with men’s and women’s senior and U20 races.
The senior races will be over a circuit of 16.8km, and include approximately 300 metres of climb and descent per 5-6km of the course, while the U20 races will be over 6km.
One of the stars of the the championships is expected to be the Swiss runner Maude Mathys but the big question could be, which event will she contest?
Mathys won the European Mountain Running title three times between 2017-2019 and many would like to see her go for an unprecedented fourth consecutive title in El Paso but this year she has dominated the Golden Trail World Series and won the finale on the nearby island of El Hierro over 37km by five minutes.
If Mathys does opt to go for trail running honours, she could find herself battling with the women who finished immediately behind her in October's World Series finale with the Netherlands' Nienke Brinkman and France's Anais Sabrie finishing second and third respectively.
Although this will be inaugeral European Athletics Off-Road Running Championships, the Local Organising Committee bring with them a wealth of experience having organised many other high-level off road events inclusing the 2000 Spanish Trail Running Championships.
Royal Spanish Athletics Federation President and European Athletics Council member Raúl Chapado commented: “First of all, we want to thank European Athletics for their trust. This is great news for Spanish athletics. This decision, without a doubt, also represents a recognition of the great development work that is being carried out in Spain in this particular athletics discipline in recent years. This is a championship that will serve as a boost and generate renewed energy for our athletes.”
“It is a tribute to excellent organisational team locally, the consistent support of the institutions and a stunning natural environment that has already have made El Paso a trail running paradise, not only nationally, but also internationally. We want to leave a lasting legacy that will help promote the image of El Paso and the island of La Palma.”
The Mayor of El Paso Sergio Rodríguez added: “The choice of this location for these championships represents the culmination of an objective that we set for ourselves years ago. We all saw clearly the potential of the resources that exist in El Paso and La Palma.”