Athletes from around the world will parade through Ambleside to launch a weekend festival of mountain running next summer.
The streets will see flags from more than 15 different countries carried by youngsters arriving to take part in the International Under 18 Mountain Running Cup, the organisers are hoping.
And along with the world’s premier competition for young runners, to be staged in England for the first time, Ambleside will also host an uphill time trial race to the summit of Wansfell, and an open race over the championship course.
The youth event has been a stepping stone for under-18 fell and mountain runners to race internationally since 2006. Olympic triathletes Alistair and Jonny Brownlee are among those who have started their international racing careers at this championship, and for the last 12 years teams from across the world have converged annually at mountain locations in Italy, France, Ireland, Bulgaria and Czech Republic to compete for the trophy.
The event flag was handed over to Ambleside AC’s Duncan Richards, chair of the organising committee, by Jonathan Wyatt, president of the World Mountain Running Association, after this summer’s race in Susa in Italy. A fundraising push is now needed to finalise the plans; the organisers are close to their £30,000 target but need a little more help.
The races will start in the town’s Rothay Park and cover marked courses on Loughrigg fell. The athletes will be accommodated at Ambleside YHA over the weekend, with a few youngsters staying at Windermere and Coniston YHA hostels on the first night.
Ambleside AC has had to raise all the funding to stage the event, including the cost of accommodating 150 athletes and officials, and they are nearing their target. The championship is supported by a number of leading companies including Epic Events, Inov8, Pete Bland Sports, and Kong Adventure. There have also been contributions from AFWM wealth management and the Ambleside Masons.
“This is a fantastic accolade for our local club and will bring the international spotlight on Ambleside,” said Duncan.
“This event is all about developing and inspiring young people, be it international athletes, local athletes, local schools, clubs and communities.”
Duncan, who has been the England team manager at the last six Youth Cups, added: “I have seen the benefit such an experience can bring to young athletes, the confidence born from the shared experience of international competition.”
On the same day, (June 20) the FRA English Junior Championships will take place in the morning, followed by the international races, and then an open race for all runners over the championship course. “So Ambleside will be full of junior fell runners who can support England teams and be inspired by world class young athletes racing over Loughrigg.”
On the Friday night, after the athletes’ parade and the opening ceremony, there will be an open, uphill-only time trial event on Wansfell, starting from Ambleside town centre.
The world’s top tri-athlete Alistair Brownlee, who came 4th in the event in Italy in 2005, said: “The Youth Cup holds many special memories for me. It’s a fantastic event that motivated me to carry on and continue in sport. It will be really special to bring it to Ambleside.”
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