It might come as a surprise to many to discover that Switzerland, with its opulent mountains and quite regular success in the discipline, has never staged the European Mountain Running Championships since the event was inaugurated in 1995 but with the 25th edition of the championships that will change as Zermatt will stage the event on 7 July 2019.
The town lies in the shadow of the famous Matterhorn which will provide an imposing and picturesque backdrop to the event.
This year, as has become customary in odd-numbered years, the competition will be on a predominantly on an uphill course and although Switzerland has not staged any continental competitions in the past, Zermatt itself has staged the 1991 World Trophy and the 2015 World Mountain Running Long Distance Championships as well as races in the WMRA World Cup in the past.
The 2018 edition of the European Mountain Running Championships was held in Skopje, North Macedonia, and won by with Italy’s Bernard Dematteis and Switzerland’s Maude Mathys claiming the individual senior titles on an undulating uphill and downhill course.
However, both defending champions have also won European titles on uphill courses and will not be deterred by what will be a testing and gruelling circuit.
Dematteis won the first of his three gold medals in 2013, when the championships were held in Bulgaria, on an uphill course while Mathys will be going for a hat-trick of titles on home soil – a feat only ever achieved among the women by Austria’s four-time champion Andrea Mayr who won three of her titles between 2013-15 – after first winning in 2017 on an uphill course in Kamnik, Slovenia.
Italy, almost inevitable, will send very strong teams over the border to Zermatt. They are the most successful nation in championship history, winning the men’s team title at 21 of the 23 editions, while the women's team have claimed the team title on 13 occasions.
Individually, Turkey’s Ahmet Arsalan has been the most successful athlete in championship history with six successive gold medals from 2007 to 2012 while Mayr is the most successful athlete on the women’s side with four individual titles.