Trail and mountain running are likely to see further expansion into more countries after the governing bodies combined forces to launch an inaugural world championships in 2021.

At a joint news conference on Tuesday, the International Trail Running Association (ITRA) and World Mountain Running Association (WMRA) announced a partnership with athletics’ governing body, the IAAF, marking a new era for two of the largest running communities in the world.

International Association of Athletics Federations president Sebastian Coe hailed the rising popularity of the off-road running events, saying this new endeavour was a logical next step to bring all the events under one umbrella.

“As the global federation, it is our ambition to bring all runners together under one umbrella and this process will reach a significant milestone in 2021 when we will host the first combined IAAF Trail and Mountain Running World Championships,” he said in a statement.

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“It is new and exciting territory for us, and we look forward to offering new opportunities for distance runners to compete in the spectacular settings and on the challenging courses that traditional mountain and trail events offer.”

Under the new agreement, the two running organisations become technical partners of the IAAF and will work alongside the International Association of Ultrarunning (IAU), a consultancy partner, to tap the potential of trail and mountain running.

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“The partnership project with the IAAF is a great step forward for our sport,” ITRA president Michel Poletti said.

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“It is a way to combine the expertise and skills of each and to share our own experience.”

The IAAF said it would in the coming months work closely with the ITRA, WMRA and IAU on the details and venue for the combined biennial world event.