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30th birthday does deserve some respect that not many fathers of events and events themselves see. At the Run itself the history of Slovene and also World mountain running has been written. Therefore we will walk through the history of Run and all happenings connected in any manner with the Run.
All in all, the Run itself was on the turning point – Miha was retiring after 36 years of work on Šmarna Gora, Tomo had rounded his 50 years of life by running the 30th run and had tired a bit...
Besides that in the autumn 2010 we were facing a new challenge – cooperation by organising the first World cup in mountain running in Slovenia – after European Cup 2001 it was the biggest mountain running event in Slovenia.
The team of Tekaški klub Šmarna Gora Alliance will take over and is in preparation to take over the baton. It was time to let things to a younger generation, full of fresh ideas.
The slopes of Šmarna gora have for decades served the Ljubljana people as range for getting into physical shape. It all began in 1979. It was a time of development of mass sport-recreational events. Cross-country skiing, road-cycling, mountaineering and running in particular were the most popular sports to many who have started this way to be physically active!
Among those – the torturers of their bodies – as some have named them, there was a rumour about the incredible times about 10 minutes needed to climb the top of our Gora. The words were turned into action and we got a new race. The shortest path was not interesting, that is why we chose less frequented and longer version – the circular Mladinska trail.
It all started in the ancient, rainy fall of 1979, a week before the game the saddle had a quarter meter of snow and we shoveled the track through the meadow on Saddle, the thaw a day before the race took the fallen snow and by the track there were only white marks of our determination.
A day before the race I came to Gora to ask the innkeeper Miha if he agrees with making a finish of some race in front of the inn, and I already had some tea material in my rucksack (elderflowers, honey, lemons). November 18th in the morning, long before the race where were setting up the registration desk under the overhang at Gostilna Grad, a tall young man in tight jeans and black leather shoes with the PVC bag from which one could se »adidas shoes« and insecurely asked about some run.
In three hours I hang the first gold medal of Šmarna Gora run around his neck. Lado URH was together with his brother Ivan one of the pioneers of the Slovene mountain running. There was no big competition among women on the first run – the first winner of the track and the only participant was Terezija GEČ. In the next years the run got popular, especially among the recreational runners and other sportspeople who took advantage of running the slopes for preparation for their further competitive achievements. In the next year the highest step was interchanged between skirunners, Olympic Athlete, neighbours from my beloved Dolomites of Polhov Gradec – Bojan Cvajnar and Jani Kršinar. Among women - the Slovene running recreational scene was lead by Helena ŽIGON, today a 81??-year old runner, who won in 1982 and 1983 – and she walked the path on the Run even 30 years later.
The year 1984 was a black hole in the history of the Run – the absence due to »national service« has had its effect also on Šmarna gora. In the autumn of the same year the World Association for Mountain running was established which was in the following years tightly connected to Šmarna gora. A year later the first world cup in mountain running was organised. The first place of the Run was taken by a person, whose name has been inscribed in the history of Slovene mountain run with golden letters. Franci TERAŽ has lead the way in the first year, brought the mountain running as the competitive sport discipline from the neighbouring Italy to Slovenia, organised the first international race in his home valley Vrata under Triglav, organised participation on the first world cups, where he himself participated 18 times!
In the year 1986 Marija TROBEC joined the winner - a competitor who in the period of 1986 – 2000 with 15 representative participation on World Cups and European Cups became a trademark of Slovenian women mountain running. In late 1980's the sport recreational scene in Slovene was lead by two well-known 'iron' men, who have won on Šmarna gora, of course. Lojze OBLAK and Jože ROGELJ. In the women competition in this period Veronika BOHINC and Nataša NAKRST were the best. By this the first period of the Run has ended, when the track was about 4 kilometres long, this means without the loop over Grmada. The first year the start was »at the stair«, later on the margin of the parking area at the bridge over Sava. Also the first ascent has changed – the first year the track from Spodnja kuhinja lead directly on the right to the Tacen chapel, then a curve over Zatrep was added – this is the plain under Grmada.
The years 1991 and 1992 were not crucial only for Slovenia, but also for the run. As the challenge of the fastest ascent despite the ten year history of the run was still open, in 1991 we decided to organise the spring RECORD – namely wherever, just as fast as possible from Tacen to Šmarna gora. The borders were set by recognised athletes - Roman HOJAK and 13 times representative athlete in mountain runs Anica ŽIVKO.
Only a week after the Record the war began and all the events that followed it did not allow the organisation of the autumn run. The RECORD has always been different from previous Runs – the organisation was on a higher level – being timed electronically, organised equipment transport, inclusion of police school and the number of participants doubled. In this period a group was organised in the Athletic Association of Slovenia or better The Section for Mountain running. This group had a goal to organise mountain runs in Slovenia and the Šmarna gora event was clearly noticed. Due to high level of organisation the Run was offered to National Cup in 1992. To get closer to the measures that were already set by the recognised world associaton for mountain runs, we have extended the track with a loop over Grmada. As the new track was – and still is – quite complicated in orientation – we have marked all the intersections with wooden direction arrows. However, Šmarna gora is being visited by all sorts of good-for-nothings, the 25 arrows did not last for more than 2 years (the arrow at the Chapel on the northern gorge). Later on it was found and preserved – so that today it can be seen in the »Showcase of Run«.
If we get back to the run and the winners – the first prolonged way was a bit shorter than today. From the Spodnja Kuhinja it lead directly left towards Grmada, a year later we have extended it with the loop from Spodnja kuhinja on the right towards Tacen chapel and then left diagonally to Grmada. It is interesting that the winner of this open national cup was first Non-Slovenian to participate on the Run. Drago PARIPOVIČ got a prize - a colour TV set that he could bring to his home Croatia due to the customs restrictions. In the women competition the highest position in this period was taken by one of our best long-distance runner; this was her first win on the Run, later on he won three more times, which makes her the most successful among women – Silva VIVOD.
In the late autumn of 1992, exactly 13 years after the first Run, Šmarna gora witnessed writing the history of Slovene mountain running. On the meeting that was summoned on the initiative of Šmarna gora organisers the foundations of development of Slovene mountain running as known today was laid.
In 1993 we have added the child categories and gave them the last 2,5 kilometres of the track. On the long track Franci TERAŽ took the lead – this was also the last Slovene men's win on the Run until ... – we will come to this later. On the short track the first milestone among girls was set by Petra MAJDIČ, who later became our snow queen. She was also the first among junior girls a year before on the long track. Petra was born in the same year as our run was born. The run got its recognition across the borders of Slovenia.
The years of 1994 – 97 were marked by Italian Lucio FREGONA, who is the most successful runner of Šmarna gora as he had won four times. In the year 1995 in Edinburgh he even became the world champion. In 1994 Helena JAVORNIK – the legend of Slovenian Athletics – won among women. In the following year the first place among women was interchanged between Anica ŽIVKO and Silva VIVOD, among girls Petra Majdič and Ines and Tina Hižar that have brought much joy to us with our first medals on the World Cups. In late 1990's the run was regularly visited by the team of runners from Slovakia and in 1998 the first place was taken by Marcel MATANIN.
The years 1999 and 2000 were marked by the runner who is one of the best runners in the history of world mountain running on the tracks that go up and down. Marco DEGASPERI can pride himself on five World Champion titles, one World Junior Champion, one European Champion title and two wins and two second places (2001 and 2003) on Šmarna gora. In 1999 Ines HIŽAR became the new Junior World Vice-champion.
In 2001 Emanulle MANZI took the winning position and repeated his success for two times – in March and April 2002 and in 2006, when 'kiwi' who is known all over the mountain running world won again. He has six World Champion titles out of which he likes the one from 2005 in the discipline up-down that he ran in his home Wellington the most. The seventh title was 'bitten off' by the wild village dog in Turkey. He has set records in almost all traditional runs over the whole world, including our Grintovec and Šmarna gora, in that time he successfully participated also at the Olympic marathon adventure: Jonathan WYATT!
The years from 1999 to 2003 were the years when the Šmarna gora Run was the World Cup after the World Cup. That is the reason why the run has got another name »mountain running Zurich«. On first three places the medal winners of the last world cups have interchanged: Gegasperi, Wyatt, Manzi and Fregona, once in 1999 the third place was taken by Jože ČEH and a year later by a local, today a young father Boštjan NOVAK.
In 2005 and 2007 the fastest among men were Robert KRUPICKA and Andrzej DLUGOSZ - both needed quite some participations to be able to reach to the highest position. Among women in 2005 after five wins in her age group and after several medals on World Cups only a 17-year-old Mateja KOSOVELJ achieved the absolute win. She repeated the success a year later. In 2008 she ran on the principle »VENI-VIDI-VICI-SET THE RECORD OF THE TRACK«, one of the most successful mountain runners of the last period, the five times medal winner from World and European cups Andrea MAYR. The year 2008 will be unforgivable also for the runner who after 15 years won again for Slovenia. He got recognised in 2003 with the title of Junior World Champion. Mitja KOSOVELJ had an incredible series of good results on Šmarna gora: In years 1997-99 he performed three times in the boys category – the first time he was a runner-up, then two times a winner, this followed by 4 wins in junior category and four performances in the member category: 2nd, 4th and 5th and 3rd place and, finally a win in 2008. The year when the Run celebrated its 30th anniversary – the fastest were the debutant Andrea Mayr and Antonio Toninelli.
There is one more story connected to Šmarna gora. In 2002 he finished the Run on the 5th place, an Australian runner, whose e-mail address was: empire-kid@... Paul CRAKE got this nickname in years 1999-2003 with five wins on the most famous race up the stairs to the Empire State building in USA. Already at that time he mentioned me, that his sports career goal was the participation on the biggest cycling race: Tour de France. He soon switched to cycling and raced for many professional teams. In 2004 he called attention to himself by excellent driving on one of the most prestigious mountain passes – Grossglockner – shoulder-to-shoulder he passed together with a Slovene cyclist. In the autumn of 2006 by training in New Zealand a thrust of wind literally blew him off the road, and he suffered a serious back injury that put him in a wheelchair. Right before the accident he met a girl whom he married in 2009 on August 1st. His bestman was Marco Degasperi, among the wedding guests there were friends like Emanuele Manzi and Jonathan Wyatt, all of them legends of Šmarna gora. Parallelly the story of Šmarna gora was happening – the Run was born out of a wish to discover who is the fastest among runners – so in 2001 Šmarna gora CHALLENGE was born as we challenged the mountain bikers who reaches our Gora first by taking the road from Zavrh. Among the chosen best 'bikers' only Jure GOLČER was as good as the runners. In three performances he won two times and set the record of the track. Then he took up street cycling and had his last hurrah under Glossglocker where together with Paul Crake he defeated the whole Austrian phalange. In summer of 2009 he was forced to stop during the racing season due to an accidental fall and fracture of his collarbone.
These are the heroes of the 30-year-old tradition of Šmarna gora run. As every medal has two sides, so does every sport event. The numerous volunteers have for 30 years taken care of organisation so that everything was running smoothly. Among them we would like to name the few who helped us for all 30 years. They are small in number, but their hearts are big. Frane MEDVED, Alenka ŠARF and Joži LEDINEK are part of this 30-year-old story. Of course, there would be no run without competitors of both sexes, different nationalities, religions, beliefs...
To all of you we gave this birthday cake.
Šmarna gora, October 3rd, 2009
Written by: Tomo Šarf