Czech Republic boasts a strong mountain running program on the worldwide stage having hosted the 1997 World Mountain Running Trophy, the 2006 European Mountain Running Championships, and for the third time this year, the WMRA-WMA Masters Mountain Running Championships, which will be held in Janske Lazne on Saturday, August 31.
This historic run of championship designations can be credited in large part to Karel Skliba who, with three other mountain runners in 1982, was able to leave then communist-ruled Czechoslovakia to go abroad for the first time. The foursome went to the famous Sierre-Zinal mountain race in Switzerland. “It was special for us,” said Skliba through a translator, “We thought we would not be able to get abroad for another 20 years, so we started a mountain running program in our country.”
Skliba arranged with eleven friends across the country to start a Czech National Mountain Running Cup in 1983. This year marks the 28th running of the Cup which now boasts 34 races, six of which are up/down courses while the others, like the initial 11, are strictly uphill courses.
When the Czech borders opened in 1990, Skliba traveled to Telfes for the World Mountain Running Trophy and took a team from the Czech Republic to compete for the first time. “In all of Easter Europe they didn’t know much about uphill running, so of the Eastern European countries, the Czech were the best,” said Skliba.
Since that Trophy race in 1990, Skliba attended every World Trophy through 2009 when the title changed to championships and has subsequently attended each championship since 2009.
It was at the 1995 event in Edinburgh, Skliba submitted a successful bid to host the 1997 World Mountain Running Trophy in Male Svatonovice.
And in 1997, at the first Masters World Mountain Running Championships in Kitzbuehel, Skliba bid to host the event in Janske Lazne the following year and went on to bid again to host in 2008, with Dolni Morava as the venue.
Although the 63-year-old Skliba has a love and dedication to and for sport – both running and cycling – he works full-time as director of Maraton Stav, a construction company based near his home in Upice which is located approximately 20 kilometers from Janske Lazne.
In spite of a heavy workload, Skliba has been able to continue his avocation for sport and is race director for this year’s championships. Part of his duties included designing the course which Skliba has done along with a friend from the area.
Skliba says the route is a bit different than that of 1998, and includes some pavement at the start, forested pathways, grassy meadows and approximately 650 meters of climbing over the 8.6-kilometer course to a high point just under 1300 meters. “The record (from bottom to top), is by a Czech runner in 34 minutes, but that time was on a different course,” said Skliba who doesn’t know what the winning time will be for this course, but did say, “A 60-year-old runner made it in 57 minutes.”
Competitors representing 25 countries among the 503 entries will vie for individual and team medals on race day. The entrants include seven from the United States, including 1993 World Mountain Trophy silver-medalist Dave Dunham who will race in the 45-49 age group. A complete start list is available at this link.
Race weekend kicks off on Thursday, August 29, with accreditation, followed by a ceremony and parade on Friday evening. Races start with the 75-79 year age group at 11:00 a.m., and conclude with the 35-39 age group at 1:40 p.m. The closing ceremony gets underway at 5:00 p.m.
Asked why he chose to host the event at Janske Lazne – at the Cerna Hora ski area, Skliba says, “Because we are home here and we are nearest to the high point in Czech – 1602-foot Snezka. It is not possible to make a race there. This area is the next best thing
“We wish to everyone to have a good time here and enjoy this area and these races,” continued Skliba, “All the races we have hosted in the past provided a super atmosphere, and I want Janske Lazne to be the same or better this year.”