Glen Coe Skyline™ – Skyrunning comes to Scotland

Glencoe-Skyline

Skyrunning will be coming to Scotland in 2015 with a world-class course based around Glen Coe. Aptly named the ‘Glen Coe Skyline™’ this race has already caused a storm of speculation as rumours of its launch swept through the mountain running community earlier this year.

The provisional route starts at the Glencoe Mountain Resort and, via the West Highland Way, reaches and ascends Buachaille. A full traverse of Bidean nam Bian ensues before dropping down into Glen Coe to then climb up to Sgorr nam Fiannaidh. There is then an extended traverse of the entire Aonach Eagach ridge, before rejoining the West Highland Way and descending into Glen Coe Pass via the Devil’s Staircase and returning to Glencoe Mountain Resort. The provisional route statistics are approximately 45km with 4500m of ascent.

As many experienced hill walkers and climbers have pointed out, this route covers some of the most challenging mountain terrain in the UK with long sections of exposed and serious Moderate standard rock climbing. 

1-ShaneOhly-Photo-IanCorless.com_MDM2015-8268

Shane Ohly

Race Director Shane Ohly explained:

 “I am not trying to create another fell or trail race, but bring to the UK World class Skyrunning and a course that has World class challenges. It is not meant to be easy, and a course of this caliber has inherent risk. We are not creating another mass participation running event, rather, a world-class course for experienced and competent participants. The Glen Coe Skyline™ is a fusion of mountain running and alpinism where competitors need to be skilled at both disciplines to negotiate the course.” 

Indeed, there has been a hotly debated forum thread about the Glen Coe Skyline™ on the popular UKClimbing / UKHillWalking website, and in response, Ohly has provided a detailed Q&A about the race, which is available HERE.

http://www.ukhillwalking.com/articles/page.php?id=7189

Leading British Skyrunners were quick to endorse the route with Tom Owens from the Salomon International Team saying,

 “Wow – This will be a seriously brilliant and challenging route,” whilst teammate Any Symonds said, “Excellent! Glen Coe Skyline. Couldn’t get much of a better setting and route for a Sky Race in the UK.”

Ohly continued, “The Glen Coe Skyline™ follows in the finest tradition of the most prestigious Skyrunning races and competing on such challenging and technical terrain is not without precedent.” 

For an event that has not even happened, the Glen Coe Skyline™ is already one the most talked about races on the UK calendar and it is clearly challenging many observers’ perceptions of what mountain running is.

Ian Corless from Skyrunning UK provided further context to the race, “The UK may lack high mountains but we have unique terrain and what we lack in altitude can be compensated for with challenging routes as we have seen at the V3K and the Mourne Skyline MTR. The Glen Coe Skyline™ however takes Skyrunning UK to the next level! Having experienced the iconic Trofeo Kimain Italy in 2012 and 2014, I was inspired to extend that experience to a UK and worldwide audience but on UK soil. Shane Ohly and his team have put my dream into reality. The Glen CoeSkyline™ will arguably be the toughest race in the UK and takes it inspiration from the Skyrunner World Series races such as the Dolomites, Zegama-Aizkorri and Tromso SkyRace’s®. The Glen Coe Skyline™ will not be for everyone though; it is a challenging race over a tough and technical course. It harks back to Marino Giacometti’s vision of Skyrunning that was created on the slopes of Monte Rosa in the late 80’s.” 

The organisers have been careful to consider the impact the race may have on other recreational users of Glen Coe and have been working with the National Trust for Scotland who are the major landowner.

3-GaryTompsett-Summit

Gary Tompsett

Rebecca Amiel, Individual Giving Manager, from the National Trust for Scotland said “We are delighted to be involved in Scotland’s first skyrunning event at Glencoe.  We look forward to welcoming participants who may never have visited Glencoe to take in its beauty as they complete this challenging event. The National Trust for Scotland is Scotland’s largest conservation charity and relies on membership and donations to care for these wonderful places.  The magnificent landscape of Glencoe is loved by so many, yet cared for by so few which is why it’s so important to raise the profile of our conservation work. Find out more about the Footpath Fund and mountain conservation at www.footpathfund.org.uk

Ohly added, “Each year Ourea Events™ (the company organising the Glen Coe Skyline™) donates 1% of its total income to charitable environmental organisations at the forefront of the protection of the mountain environment. The business has been a member of 1% of the Planet since day one because, whilst we always seek to mitigate our environmental impact, we understand that we do still have some form of impact, but our policies over the years have given some very attributable payback”.

OureaEventsLogo(500x500-cropped) copy

Entries will open at 9pm on Monday 13th April 2015

 

For further Information about:

Ourea Events visit www.OureaEvents.com or contact Shane Ohly on 07771516962 or ShaneOhly@OureaEvents.com

Glen Coe Skyline visit www.GlenCoeSkyline.com

SkyrunningUK visit http://skyrunninguk.com or contact Ian Corless on 07725813457 or iancorless@mac.com

 

Key Event Information

Website: www.GlenCoeSkyline.com

Date: Saturday 22nd August 2015

Venue: Glencoe Mountain Resort, Scotland

Entries Open: Monday 13th April 2015

Courses: 45km with 4,500m ascent (TBC)

Of Fells and Hills – Salomon Running TV S4 E02

screenshot_492

Check out the new film from The African Attachment and Salomon Running TV – this one is a classic and so great to see the English Lakes, Scotland and some of our legends given the credit and the exposure they deserve.

All content ©salomonrunning and ©theafricanattachment

The term “fell” is an often used Northern England expression for hill or mountain. It is presumed that Shepherds were probably the first ever fell runners with the earliest documented accounts of running in the fells dating back to the 11th Century. By the 19th century organised fell runs began taking place in Cumbria in the United Kingdom. Locals raced each other up and down hills and a sport was born.

In “Of Fells and Hills” we travel with American Writer, Photographer and Trail Runner, Rickey Gates, to the UK to explore and discover the history, culture and legends of the ancient practise of Fell Running.

Listen to an interview with Rickey Gates about his Bob Graham experience with Scott Jurek HERE

Credits:

A PRODUCTION BY THE AFRICAN ATTACHMENT

MUSIC “FINISHES” BY BATALEUR & “I CROSS THIS LAND” BY FINAL MIX ONLINE

VINTAGE VW CAMPER SUPPLIED BY:
http://www.cartyscampers.com

LAKE DISTRICT ACCOMODATION SUPPLIED BY:
Castlerigg Hall Caravan and Camping Park

ARTICLES REPRODUCED WITH THE PERMISSION OF:

MUD SWEAT AND TEARS
http://www.mudsweatandtears.co.uk

THE HERALD AND TIMES GROUP
http://www.heraldscotland.com

THE KESWICK REMINDER:
North Lakeland’s Local Newspaper

THE DAYTONA BEACH NEWS-JOURNAL

THE CUMBERLAND NEWS

MSIG Sai Kung 50 & Skyrunning Asian Championships: pre-race interviews

Hong Kong is certainly a place of contrasts. A pre-breakfast run along the waterfront this morning saw the whole city shrouded in a thick, yellow smog which softened the outlines of the masses of skyscrapers and high-rise apartment blocks. People bustle along the pavements whilst taxis and buses fill every meter of the chaotic roads. Even the water between the mainland and the island is crammed with boats of all sizes ferrying people or freight around seemingly 24 hours a day. Not really a promising place for a Skyrunning race then…

But an hour out of the city and Sai Kung is a leafy, charming place with a vibrant sea port and – more importantly perhaps – towering forest covered hills rising from the sea shore to the sky. Suddenly the potential for a challenging Skyrunning race and the Asian Championships is revealed.

Just after lunch Simon had a chance to catch up with a few of the elite athletes looking to make an impact on this race early in the season:

Tom Owens

Screen Shot 2015-02-06 at 22.12.27After a ruptured ankle tendon in 2013, Tom was actually happy with how he raced in 2013 and enjoyed including some long races that the surgically repaired ankle dealt with without a problem. When I asked Tom why he chose to race the Sai Kung race, he said that he had already planned on taking some time off in February to go on a warm weather training camp, to get away from the freezing temperatures that he has been enduring in Scotland all winter. As soon as the opportunity to race in Hong Kong came up, Tom changed his plans to be here.

Tom also said that after a winter of cyclo-cross and cross country racing, he thought that tactically, getting a Skyrunning race under his belt early in the season would give him an advantage later in the year.

Simon asked Tom about how cyclo-cross has played a part in his training and Tom admitted that although he really enjoys it, he is technically not as strong as he’d like to be having only taken up the sport in the last couple of years. But Tom thinks that it has given him a physical and psychological edge that he needed after his surgery.

Martin Gaffuri

Screen Shot 2015-02-06 at 22.12.45Martin is a French resident although he is soon moving to Switzerland for work, so coming to Hong Kong for a race is a great opportunity to escape the snow and run in relatively warm conditions.

The Sai Kung race also represents a chance for Martin to return to the sport he loves after a hiatus in 2014. He feels that his best result last year was in Tarawera, but around racing the 80km World Champs in Chamonix, where he came 17th, Martin lost motivation for his running and took time off, only really returning to the sport towards the end of the season with a tilt at the Rut where he took a tumble off the trail.

With his new full-time job about to start, Martin is looking forward to having some structure, aiming for more quality over quantity. This makes the 28km race in Sai Kung a perfect chance to test his legs on a relatively shorter course.

Elisa Desco

Screen Shot 2015-02-06 at 22.13.31Elisa told Simon that this is her first season Skyrunning. In fact until last year she had not raced more than 20km. She said that Zegama was a fantastic new experience for her and that, along with her brilliant run at the World Championships in Chamonix, have surprised her and given her added motivation to train and race.

Looking ahead Elisa is racing the shorter Skyrunning series in 2015 and then thinks that she might start to consider tackling some longer races. But for now she thinks that her speed on relative short distances – her road marathon debut was a very impressive 2:36 – will mean that she can compete with the best of them on the trails in the hills.

Marco De Gasperi

Screen Shot 2015-02-06 at 22.13.18On reflection Marco believes that he may have been over-trained in 2014. He told Simon that for a few crucial months in the middle of the year he felt very tired and weak. Thankfully now he has fully recovered and has trained consistently – ensuring that he isn’t over-training – so that he is ready for the Sai Kung event, which Marco sees as a significant race and a great way to start the Skyrunning season.

Sat in Sai Kung town in a cafe today, Marco looked remarkably relaxed and told Simon that whilst he is wary of the other elite athletes on the start line tomorrow, he is also not stressed and is looking forward to the trails.

Marco has an eye on races beyond the Sai Kung event. He wants to be in best possible share to race Zegama later in the year and he knows that he needs to measure out his efforts so that he can get the best from himself at the right moments.

The action starts at 7am in Hong Kong and Simon will be on the course following events. You can keep up-to-speed on twitter and check back for a race report soon.

MSIG Sai Kung 50 Skyrunning Continental Championships – Race Preview

Continental Logo

Skyrunning goes global! Normally we would be previewing the first race in the Skyrunner® World Series in April with the prospect of Transvulcania or Zegama-Aizkorri looming around the corner. Not in 2015! More races, more places and now, the chance to count an extra race in the ranking.

The successful 5/5/5 formula (VK, Sky and Ultra) stays where three results from five count but now you must include a fourth race from the Continental Championships. Step in the MSIG Sai Kung 50 in Hong Kong.

3+1Taking place on February 7th, Michael Maddess from Action Asia has assembled a high quality field that will do battle on the trails of Sai Kung after starting in Pak Tam Chung Picnic Garden. Rest assured, this race will be no picnic!

A ranking race this early in the Skyrunning season is extremely significant when one is looking to contest the Skyrunner® World Series. Early points provide a great platform on which to build a season and this is reflected with the presence of Marco De Gasperi, Elisa Desco, Kasie Enman, Tom Owens, Fulvio Dapit, Stephanie Jiminez, Alesandra Carlini, Vlad Ixel, Samir Temang, Luke Nelson, Blake Hose, Dong Li, Yan Long Fei, Mira Rai and so many more.

Two races are on offer

28km SKYRACE and the 50km ULTRA SKYMARATHON.

The SKYRACE has 1954m of vertical gain and 1941m of loss and a maximum elevation of 408m. The ULTRA SKYMARATHON has 2810m of elevation gain ad 2781m of elevation loss. Race director, Michael Maddess says,

This 50km course is tough & we believe one of the toughest 50km course in Hong Kong yet one of the most spectacular beautiful courses in Asia.”

Winning times in 2014 for the 50km event were 4:51:05 for Rudy Gilman (USA) and 6:00:59 for Cassie Scallon (USA).

PREVIEW

When a race field contains past champions, world champions and a plethora of rising talent, we know the action in Hong Kong is going to be incredible.

MEN

©iancorless.com-8862Kima2014_

Yan Long Fei (50km) just the other weekend won Hong Kong 100 in 9:52. A 2:15 marathon runner, Yan must be an outright favourite for racing here at Sai Kung. Providing he has recovered? It’s a justifiable question mark.

©iancorless.com_LimoneSKY-0080

Marco de Gasperi (28km) needs no introduction to anyone. When in form he is an unstoppable force on any mountain course. A long time sparring partner for Kilian Jornet, Marco’s presence in Hong Kong is extremely exciting and he will be a hot favourite. Marco had a mixed 2014 with injury niggles and we sincerely hope he has been able to get fit and healthy over winter.

Vlad Ixel (50km) also ran at Hong Kong 100 but twisted an ankle just before the race; this hampered any possibility to contest the front of the race. Vlad is a fast runner who is slowly but surely making his presence felt in all the races he runs. In 2014 he spent time in Europe, which opened his eyes to the challenges that European racing brings. He will be focused on the podium at Sai Kung.

Blake Hose (50km) surprised everyone at the Skyrunning World Championships in the middle of 2014 when he placed 6th overall. In actual fact, the whole Australian Skyrunning team was a revelation. Eager to impress, Blake will look at Sai Kung as an incredible opportunity and I know that he has plans to spend time in Europe in 2015; watch out!

©iancorless.com.IMG_6959Transvulcania14Luke Nelson (50km) loves the mountains and excels at the 100-mile distance. He has been a regular at Transvulcania and has placed consistently well at Speedgoat 50k. Over the winter he has had an expended period in Patagonia, so it’s fair to assume that Luke will be in great shape.

©iancorless.com_Nepal2014_7-1046Samir Tamang (50km) placed 2nd at the TDS (UTMB sister race) and I was fortunate to watch him race day-in and day-out at the Everest Trail Race in November. He’s a super talented athlete who loves the mountains. He will be a fierce competitor at Sai Kung and don’t be surprised if he contests the podium looking for the top spot. 

©iancorless.com-0362Kima2014_

Fulvio Dapit (50km) is a regular in races all over the world. A Skyrunner in the purest form, Fulvio has experience and endurance that will play into his hands on a tough course here in Hong Kong.

David Byrne (50km)

What excites me most about racing in Hong Kong is the opportunity to test myself against top class athletes on a course that’s steep and technical. I’ve heard a lot of great things about trail running in Hong Kong and the awesome running culture there, so to experience it first hand will be special.”

David is a fast man! A 29-minute 10k confirms this. Explosive speed and strength is not always a guarantee for success on tough, mountainous and technical courses, however, David has won the Six Foot Track back in Australia. One to watch!

Tom Owens at Trofeo Kima

Tom Owens at Trofeo Kima

Tom Owens (28km)

“I’m very excited about racing in Hong Kong, especially in Sai kung, where the trails look great. It will be nice to get some warmer weather (it’s been very wet and dark in Scotland) and kick start the 2015 Skyrunning campaign with an early season race.”

Tom is one of the UK’s top fell, mountain and Skyrunners. In previous years he has excelled, in particular, 2012 and 2014. Unfortunately 2013 was a troubled year with injury but Tom is back. When in form, he can push Kilian Jornet all the way to the line and although Sai Kung comes early in the year, Tom is fit and therefore has great potential for top honours.

Martin Gaffuri (28km) moved up the ISF rankings in 2013 with a series of strong and consistent performances. However, 2014 was a troubled year. Early success at Tarawera and a good run at the Skyrunning World Championships were never really followed up with stellar performances of the previous year. With some time away from the sport and racing, it will be interesting to see if Martin has recharged his batteries for the 2015 season.

Ones to watch – Male

  • Marco Sturm
  • Mohamad Affindi Nudin
  • Chou Pin Chi
  • Dai Matsumoto
  • You Peigui

LADIES

©iancorless.com_IMG_1042Zegama14Elisa Desco (28km) is the current Skyrunning World Champion and along with a string of high profile performances in 2014 is without doubt a hot favourite for victory in Hong Kong. However, Elisa will not have things her own way!

©iancorless.com-0556Kima2014_Kasie Enman (50km)

I am excited to kick off the 2015 Skyrunning Season with the MSIG Sai Kung 50.  I finished up my 2014 racing season mid-September with a 2nd place overall ranking in the Skyrunning Ultra Series, then took a couple months of down time in my training and racing to recuperate and enjoy time with my family at home in Vermont (Northeast USA, near the Canadian border).  I am excited to have the opportunity to come to Hong Kong to see the trails and meet the trail runners here.  It will be my first time visiting and running in Asia.”

Kasie deciding to race this early in the season can only mean one thing, early season points and the opportunity to gain a foothold in the Skyrunner® World Series. Kasie had a great 2014 running strong at Zegama-Aizkorri, Speedgoat 50k and taking victory at Trofeo Kima.

Wyan Chow Pui Yan (50km) won the recent HK100 and therefore like Long Yan Fei and Dong Li, powers of recovery will be tested. Ryan has recently quit the police force to be a full time trainer and therefore allow her more time for recovery and racing. It’s an interesting and exciting prospect to see how she performs against some of the worlds best Skyrunners.

Dong Li (50km) also heads up the local talent and placed 2nd at the HK100 in 12:39 just two weeks ago. Sai Kung coming so close to HK100 will almost certainly leave Dong Li feeling a little jaded and therefore racing some of the top female Skyrunners in the world may well push her to her limits. But the talent is there for all to see.

©iancorless.com-0303Kima2014_Alesandra Carlini (50km) placed 2nd at Sai Kung in 2014 and followed up her performance with a string of top performances. Considering Allesandra lives on the Italian coast, her ability in the mountains is seriously impressive as we witnessed at Ice Trail Tarentaise and Trofeo Kima. Arguably a stronger field is assembled for 2015, however, Allesandra has the potential to contest the podium.

Mira Rai (50km) from Nepal is a previous winner of HK50 and placed 2nd at Lantau 50. All great credentials for a top performance here in Sai Kung.

Lucy Bartholomew (50km)

“Don’t think about it as one big chunk of a run. For me I break it down into checkpoints and make it into achievable amounts! It’s never going to be easy but the key is to find happiness in the toughness of it because when you get to the top it’s worth it!”

Lucy is the junior Skyrunning World Champion and so therefore Sai Kung will be a steep learning curve for the young Australian. Coached by Emelie Forsberg, Lucy is a rising star in the sport.

©iancorless.comIMG_3269Canazei2014

Stephanie Jiminez (28km) is a last minute entry to the race and is always a force to be reckoned with. Consistently strong on VK courses and SKY distances races, Stephanie can push the pace and the competition to the edge.

Ones to watch – Female

  • Hsiao Shiang Chong
  • Ho JoChun
  • Shiho Iwadate

All the action starts in the early hours of Saturday February 7th.

You can follow our reports and stories on this website.

 Facebook and on Twitter @talkultra

Race website HERE

Skyrunning HERE

Skyrunning Twitter feed @skyrunning_com

Skyrunning Facebook page HERE

ISF-logo

Sierre-Zinal 2014 In-depth Race Preview

Marco, 11th August 2012 in the mountains above Zinal.

Marco, 11th August 2012 in the mountains above Zinal.

Just one mention of the name: Sierre-Zinal and the emotions stir in even the most experienced mountain runner. For over 40-years, the 31-km point-to-point course from Sierre to Zinal with a total elevation gain of 2200m and just 800m of descent has been the battle ground for some epic battles. In 2014 the tradition will continue and with it a new moment in history… I have a feeling that this year may well be a record year! It’s a bold statement. Jonathan Wyatt set the current male record of 2:29:12 in 2003 and the female record of 2:54:26 was set by the Queen of Sierre-Zinal; Anna Pichtrova (now Strakova) in 2008.

iancorless.orgSierre Zinal 1sirrezinal

Image ©iancorless.com

The Sierre-Zinal course is unique in profile, starting low, the runners immediately go into a tough long climb that is followed by fast running with a slight drop to the line. It suits a rounded athlete; one who can climb with the best, keep pace with the fastest and then descend like a demon. Who’s your pick? On August 10th, 4000 runners will depart Sierre and head to the mountain arena that is Zinal. I for one can’t wait!

Who is going to win? 

Kilian Jornet and the Matterhorn ©iancorless.com

He is on a roll and with current form I am going all out, laying it on the line and predicting Kilian Jornet with not only victory but a new course record (weather permitting.) The Catalan’s current form is arguably the best we have witnessed. His 2014 so far has illuminated the history books and leaves us all wondering… what will Kilian go on to achieve in his lifetime. His natural ability, humility and passion for the sport is endless and I for one feel very content that I am here to witness ‘The Kilian Years!’

Marco De Gasperi ©iancorless.com

Marco De Gasperi has been struggling with injury but when on form, Marco is one of the few runners to push Kilian and push him hard all the way to the line. In many respects, The Sierre-Zinal course may well suit Marco more? We saw this in 2011 when Marco pipped Kilian to the line in the 2nd fastest time ever seen on the course. In 2012, Marco returned and won once again. However, Kilian was not present. The showdown that awaits this year may well prove to be one of the eagerly anticipated editions of this iconic race.

Juan Carlos Cardona placed 2nd in 2013 and along with course record holder, Jono Wyatt one has to assume that the duo will be upfront, pushing the pace and looking to repeat 2013 performances.

Robbie Simpson, Chamonix 2013

Robbie Simpson, Chamonix 2013

Brit, Robbie Simpson had a breakthrough performance in 2014 and I for one sincerely hope that he can at least repeat or better his performance. His current form is very good and the opportunity to race against such a quality field is something that he will embrace.

Tom Owens Trofeo Kima 2012 ©iancorless.com

Tom Owens Trofeo Kima 2012 ©iancorless.com

Robbie will not have it all his own way though and I see Tom Owens moving up a level and following up his already impressive 2014 placing at the Transvulcania La Palma, Skyrunning World Championships and Ice Trail Tarentaise with a podium place in Zinal. Currently on a sabbatical from work, the time is right for Tom. Quality training and more importantly, quality rest. One to watch!

©iancorless.comIMG_5850Canazei2014

Ionut Zinca is on form. He showed his class at Limone Extreme in 2013 and once again adorned the podium behind Kilian Jornet at the Dolomites Skyrace. On his day, Ionut is a definite podium contender.

Jo Gray from the USA is an ever present at Sierre-Zinal. His current form appears to be excellent and although he may not make the podium, a top-10 placing is a definite possibility.

Tofol Castanyer on his day needs 100% respect, particularly in a mountain race. His presence here will not only make his competitors make a mental note but also firmly place a target on his back as one to follow should he make a move.

©iancorless.comIMG_7275Canazei2014

Aritz Egea goes from strength-to-strength and will be a fierce competitor with a top-10 placing guaranteed should he continue the form shown at Zegama-Aizkorri, Skyrunning World Championships and most recently at the Dolomites Skyrace. Aritz will be top-5 at the summit of the long climb but may slip back as the running becomes faster and flatter.

©iancorless.comIMG_7059Canazei2014

Zaid Ait Malek will be smiling. Guaranteed! Zaid broke onto the circuit in 2013 and like others has progressed into ‘hot’ on the trail, mountain and Skyrunning circuit. Without doubt top-10 potential and should he have a great day, top-5.

Alex Nichols Chamonix ©iancorless.com

Alex Nichols Chamonix ©iancorless.com

Alex Nichols may very well upset the apple cart for everyone! The Sierre-Zinal course will suit him right down to the ground and will play into his hands; he loves mountain running on faster trails where he can unleash his speed. His recent top result at Speedgoat 50k bodes well!

©iancorless.comIMG_2843Canazei2014

Thorbjorn Ludvigsen goes from strength to strength not only in the VK distance but in the Sky distance. His ability and rounded running style will suit the Sierre-Zinal course and after 2 impressive runs in the Dolomites, we can expect Thor to push at the front of the race.

©iancorless.comIMG_2745Canazei2014

David Schneider heads up the competition from Switzerland and Cesar Costa will make them an unstoppable duo. David has recently become a Dad so he may be a little sleep deprived but his recent performance at the Dolomites Skyrace shows he has lost none of his speed.

Florian Reichert will be looking to transfer his fast marathon pace and VK ability to a course that plays into the German’s hands. Of all the Skyrunning courses, Sierre-Zinal on paper appears to be the perfect fit for Florian. His recent performance at the Skyrunning World Championships shows his form is good.

Ones to watch:

  • Fabio Bazzana
  • Dabid Garcia
  • Hector Haines
  • Saul Antonio Padua
  • Robert Krupicka
  • Nicolas Pianet
  • Julien Rancon

The elite line up has great depth. I am sure I have missed some possible top-10 contenders? You can view the list HERE

 

THE LADIES

©iancorless.com_IMG_2071Zegama14

Elisa Desco pipped Stevie Kremer to the top slot in 2013 and will be looking to do the same in 2014. Elisa recently beat Stevie at the Skyrunning World Championships and just this last weekend placed 1st at Fletta Trail. Elisa is going to be the one to beat!

©iancorless.com_IMG_0989Zegama14

Stevie Kremer has raced at Sierre-Zinal a couple of times now and hasn’t made the top slot. 2014 may well be the year that elevates her up a slot and she is crowned champion. In real terms, I wonder if this course has enough climbing? Certainly in the early stages, Stevie will be at the front of the field and may well lead the race. However, as the course flattens off and comes more runnable, Stevie looses some of her advantage. If I were Stevie, I’d run hard from the gun and open up a gap…

©iancorless.com_IMG_8267Zegama14

Kasie Enman is back! I have been continually impressed by the progression and story of Kasie. Now a mother of 2, Kasie is on the comeback trail after her 2nd child and her recent improvements in all her races can only mean that the American will be ‘one-to-watch’ on this course. Placing in the top-3 at Speedgoat 50k must have provided a real boost not only to her confidence but fitness. Now in Europe for an extended period, expect Kasie to create a stir.

©iancorless.comIMG_3081Canazei2014

VK specialist Laura Orgue turned the tables upside down at the recent Dolomites Skyrace relegating Emelie Forsberg to 2nd place. For sure, Laura will embrace the opening kilometres of the Sierre-Zinal route, as they are all uphill. However, as the course flattens one has to question will she be able to hold any advantage gained to the line.

©iancorless.comIMG_3218Canazei2014

Victoria Wilkinson created a stir at the Dolomites Skyrace and I am 100% convinced that she will make her presence felt here in Zinal. Like so many other Brits before her, Victoria is grounded in fell running and the technical skills and ability that style of running brings. The transition is often seamless as we have seen with Tom Owens, Andy Symonds and so many more… one to watch!

Stephanie Howe along with Kremer and Enman adds more US firepower to what is already a very strong line up! Sierre-Zinal may well be a little short for Steph, however, if she can transfer he ability from longer races to this fast mountain race, we may well see an upset. In 2014 alone, Steph has won Western States, Mesquite Canyon 50k and placed 2nd at Lake Sonoma 50.

Christel Dewalle is an ever present on the podium. Her ability of VK and SKY distance is second to none and the French lady will without doubt be contesting the top-5 and arguably the podium.

Aline Camboulive and Maud Mathys both return. Aline won the race in 2012 in 3:02:58 and Maud placed 3rd in 2012 and 2013. This year the competition is arguably a little stronger and more competitive. Add Celine Lafaye to the mix and if any of this dynamic trio makes the podium, they will have had a great race.

Ones to watch:

  • Tessa Hill
  • Leire Agirrezabala
  • Caroline Chaverot
  • Ana Conde
  • Helen Bonsor
  • Christy Mahon

Female Elite start list HERE

LINKS

Skyrunning HERE

Talk Ultra on Twitter HERE

Talk Ultra on Facebook HERE

Zegama-Aizkorri 2014 In-Depth Race Preview

Kilan and Hernando copyright Ian Corless

Kilan and Hernando copyright Ian Corless

The heat subsides on the island of La Palma, the waves continue to splash on the shoreline and a new week begins. It’s only 10-days since the incredibly successful, dramatic and exciting Skyrunning Transvulcania La Palma. But wait a minute, days away, the iconic mountain race, Zegama-Aizkorri kicks off. Ask anyone about ‘Zegama’ and they say, it’s ZEGAMA! Nothing more needs to be said… it’s a race that excites mountain runners like few other races do.

Zegama Map iancorless.com

It’s a brutally fast and technical race that is not for the feint hearted. Located in a natural park, Aizkorri-Aratz, it brings respect and excitement to every mountain runner that toes the line.

Zegama Profile Zegama this year may very well just be a classic in the making, we had fireworks at Transvulcania, but one look at this line-up and I think we may well have fireworks once again but this time on the proportions of a New Year’s Eve get together…

Kilian Jornet, Luis Alberto Hernando, Marco De Gasperi, Tom Owens and Pablo Villa illuminate a top-quality men’s field.

Emelie Forsberg, Maite Maiora, Stevie Kremer, Kasie Enman, Elisa Desco and Nuria Picas add no element of softness to the race line up, these ladies are as tough as nails and may well take down a few of the top ranked men.

So, what is going to happen on the trails and mountains of the Aizkorri-Aratz?

Tech specs:

A medium mountain route over the Aratz massif and the Sierra of Aizkorri, which includes the four highest peaks in the Basque Autonomous Region (Aratz – Aizkorri –Akategi and Aitxuri). Starting in the town of Zegama (296m) the race climbs up to the high point of Otzaurte (652m) and then follows a mountain pass and a route along paths and mountain tracks of great natural beauty. It combines forests with steep rocky slopes and high grazing land. It is very technical and with a high level of difficulty.

Date: 25th of May, 2014

Start and finish: Zegama ( guipúzcoa ) –09:00 start.

Total length: 42.195 km.

Control points: 14
Refreshment points: 13

Flying sprint: Aizkorri (22.58 km)

Accumulated height gain: 5.472 meters

Maximum altitude: 1.551m Aitxuri

Minimum altitude: 296m Zegama.

Technical percentage of course: 70% approx.

Climate: medium mountain, possibilities of intense heat, strong winds, fog or rain.

Time limit: 8 hours.

Closing time of check points: Click the button to see the control time

 

MEN

Kilian Jornet, Zegama 2013 ©iancorless.com

Kilian Jornet, Zegama 2013 ©iancorless.com

The men’s race is full of talent and like Transvulcania, a winner could come from any direction; are we due a surprise? However, based on the La Palma showdown, one has to conclude that Luis Alberto Hernando and Kilian Jornet are HOT favourites for the win.

Luis Alberto Hernando Zegama 2013 ©iancorless.com

Luis Alberto Hernando Zegama 2013 ©iancorless.com

Luis Alberto Hernando fulfilled a dream at La Palma and coming to Zegama he will either be immensely satisfied and looking for a victory loop or he will be fired up and ready for more… I’m going with the latter! He’s a fierce competitor and his powers of recovery post Transvulcania will be good. Zegama suits Luis and he only ‘just’ missed out on the win in 2013 by seconds, pushing Kilian Jornet all the way to the line.

Kilian Jornet Zegama 2013 ©iancorless.com

Kilian Jornet Zegama 2013 ©iancorless.com

Kilian Jornet now has one race under his belt and all the competition will now know that his training is done… I joke, but Kilian usually only needs one race to loosen up and he is back in his stride. If we look at 2012, Kilian placed 3rd at Transvulcania and then just 1-week later dominated Zegama in atrocious conditions. For sure, Kilian doesn’t like heat and he will be hoping for cooler conditions come the weekend of the 24th. If he could choose, he would like rain, some snow and wind. If we get those conditions, Kilian will almost certainly be hot favourite. Should we get sun, heat and calm conditions, I think Kilian is still the hot favourite BUT it will be close, very close.

Marco De Gasperi Zegama 2013 ©iancorless.com

Marco De Gasperi Zegama 2013 ©iancorless.com

So close that Marco De Gasperi will almost certainly make Kilian and Luis potentially repeat the Zegama finish of 2013 or we may have a ‘replay’ of the Kilian and Marco sprint from the Dolomites Skyrace in 2013. One thing is for sure, the legend that is Marco De Gasperi will be pushing the Spaniard and the Catalan over every meter of this course and if he is not pushing them, he will be leading them. Marco keeps telling me that he is getting old but class is permanent and that class will shine in Zegama.

Tom Owens Transvulcania 2014 ©iancorless.com

Tom Owens Transvulcania 2014 ©iancorless.com

Tom Owens had a superb Zegama in 2011 and 2012 and then disappeared in 2013 with injuries. However, Tom is back! A recent 2nd behind Ricky Lightfoot at the Three Peaks in the UK and a stunning 6th at Transvulcania, his first ultra, without doubt elevates Tom to hot and he will be looking for a podium place. For Tom to place 6th in an ultra and then drop down to his preferred distance, SKY, can only mean that he has an even greater chance of rocking the cart. His strong fell running background is a perfect fit for this race. Podium potential for sure.

Tadei Pivk Zegama 2013 ©iancorless.com

Tadei Pivk Zegama 2013 ©iancorless.com

Tadei Pivk produced a stunning run in 2013 taking the final podium place ahead of Zaid Ait Malek. Both of these runners will make an impact one again. In particular, Zaid has progressed in the last 12-months with a series of quality results and performances. He’s a small guy with a huge character and personality. They will both be up at the front.

Zaid Ait Malek Zegama 2013 ©iancorless.com

Zaid Ait Malek Zegama 2013 ©iancorless.com

Michel Lanne Zegama 2013 ©iancorless.com

Michel Lanne Zegama 2013 ©iancorless.com

Michel Lanne will be leaving his helicopter at home and once again lacing up his ‘Sense’ to test himself against the best in the world. He will be in the mix, he always is, however, he just needs that touch of extra luck to help him move up to the very front end of a pure mountain race like this. Michel had a string of top-3 performances in 2013, a notable 2nd to Francois d’Haene at Mont-Blanc 80km a highlight. Just recently he placed 2nd at Trail du Ventoux, so, the form is good.

Pablo Villa Transvulcania 2014  ©iancorless.com

Pablo Villa Transvulcania 2014 ©iancorless.com

Pablo Villa is going to be on a high after top-10 at Transvulcania and like Tom Owens will be looking to carry the momentum on here. It’s going to be a tough call and although I don’t see him contesting the podium, the Scott runner will be in the mix if recovered.

Oli Johnson inov-8 ©iancorless.com

Oli Johnson inov-8 ©iancorless.com

Inov-8, Skyrunning partner are sending a very strong field that can be broken down into several levels. I see the strong performances coming from Eirik Haugsnes, Aritz Egea and Alex Nichols. Anyone of these guys could make the top-10. Oli Johnson placed top-10 at Mont-Blanc Marathon in 2013 and will represent the UK at the up and coming Skyrunning World Champs, he has the run ability and skill set to excel at Zegama, however, I am not sure he is 100% at the moment, so, I think he will have a presence at the front end, his performance will very much depend on his progression in the last 2 to 3 weeks. Pierre Laurent Viguier recently won Trail du Citadelles but like Robbie Britton, this race may well be too short, too technical and too fast for them to excel. I see Zegama, as being a learning curve and Chris Steele will no doubt embrace the opportunity and give it all he has.

AJ Calitz in Europe, early 2013. Zegama-Aizkorri

AJ Calitz in Europe, early 2013. Zegama-Aizkorri

Alex Nicholls gets a nod in the inov-8 line up but we have other quality overseas competition coming from Cameron Clayton (USA), AJ Calitz (South Africa) and we should have had Vlad Ixel arriving from the Southern Hemisphere, however, recent injury has put a stop to that. A real shame, Vlad is my hot-tip as one of the new ‘surprises’ in the trail and ultra world. No worries, we will get to see him perform in June at the World Champs. AJ Calitz pushed at the front end of the 2013 Zegama and then it all went pear shaped when he tried to follow Kilian on one of the descents, he hit the deck and his race was over… AJ swore he would be back and he is! I still think he is in for a learning curve experience but I do expect to see him in the mix. Cameron has all the speed needed to race at the front but this race is like no other. It’s fast, furious, relentless and technical. The question for Cameron will be can he use all that natural ability and perform on what for him, will be very technical terrain?

Martin Gaffuri Transvulcania Half Marathon ©iancorless.com

Martin Gaffuri Transvulcania Half Marathon ©iancorless.com

Martin Gaffuri raced really well in 2013 earning some very cool Skyrunning stripes. He started 2014 with a warm up in Costa Rica laying a great foundation and at Transvulcania he raced the half-marathon so as not to use up too much energy and gain a confidence boost. However, the race didn’t go well… just a bad day I am sure. However, it may play on Martin’s mind? Martin has the right skill set, speed and downhill ability to do well at Zegama so we will just have to see what happens.

To be honest, Zegama has an elite list that extends well beyond 50 runners, so, here are a few notable mentions that we can almost certainly expect to see in the mix:

  • Cristobal Adell – potential top-10
  • Alfredo Gil – potential top-10
  • Jokin Lizeaga – potential top-10
  • Greg Vollet – Team Manager for Salomon. Don’t be surprised to see Greg beat some of his own athletes and he may well make top-10.
  • Thorbjorn Ludvigesen
  • Fabio Bazzana
  • Florian Reichert still new to Skyrunning and on a learning curve but may make the mix?
  • Stephan Wenk
  • Hassan Ait

Who have I missed? In a field this stacked, it’s impossible to account for everyone, particularly local runners who I may not know too well but who will excel on local terrain.

Check out the men’s elite field at http://www.zegama-aizkorri.com/en

LADIES

Emelie Forsberg copyright Ian Corless

Emelie Forsberg copyright Ian Corless

Rewind to Transvulcania and I think we may well see some similar performances with the exception of Frosty who will not be racing at Zegama. What we have, is a who’s who of female mountain running and it’s wide open.

Nuria Picas Zegama 2013 ©iancorless.com

Nuria Picas Zegama 2013 ©iancorless.com

Nuria Picas is on fire! As I write this, she has just won TNF100 in Australia setting a new course record. Add to this win, two incredible 2013 wins, one at the 105-mile UTMF and the other at Transgrancanaria and Nuria is the female to beat at any distance and on any course. However, she pulled out of Transvulcania (correctly in my opinion) and although Nuria is on the start list for Zegama, I expect a similar withdrawal this coming week? However, should she race, she will be pushing at the front, of this I have no doubt. The question mark will come on how fresh she will be for a short, fast mountain race after racing 100km’s or more in the early part of 2013. Nuria placed 2nd in 2013 behind Emelie Forsberg and finished just seconds ahead of Stevie Kremer. It’s an exciting prospect. Update 21/05/14 : Nuria will not race stating that recovery is paramount after her win in Australia.

Emelie Forsberg Zegama 2013 ©iancorless.com

Emelie Forsberg Zegama 2013 ©iancorless.com

Emelie Forsberg is just off skis and other than running half of the Transvulcania VK and a couple of hours in the Transvulcania main event, has little running in her legs. Add to this a bad fall in La Palma, stitches and some recovery time and Emelie may well be going to Zegama the most underprepared ever. She was relatively underprepared in 2012 when she arrived an unknown, however, look what has happened since… She has said to me that Zegama is no longer an ‘A’ race and she will use it to find form, however, Emelie on an off day is still a formidable force and I still see her in the mix. Emelie won Zegama in 2013 and pretty much everything else in her long and demanding season. When knocked off the top slot, particularly in mountain running, it was by Stevie Kremer! Firstly at Mont-Blanc and then at Limone, so, Emelie will be taking Zegama with one eye on the trail and the other on Stevie.

Stevie Kremer copyright Ian Corless

Stevie Kremer copyright Ian Corless

Stevie Kremer is also just off skis but unlike others, Stevie does maintain some running during the winter months. It may not be a great deal of hours or mileage but that connection with trail certainly puts her in a good place for the first race of the season. She showed this last year at Zegama when she flew down the final descent (she says she can’t descend) and nearly caught Nuria for 2nd place. Notorious for being nervous on the start, Stevie turns that energy into exciting running. She can climb with the best and although she thinks that she can’t contest the downhills, she can! Stevie just needs to believe it. My tip for the race victory!

Maite Maiora Zegama 2013 ©iancorless.com

Maite Maiora Zegama 2013 ©iancorless.com

Maite Maiora is a class act when it comes to mountain running. Her recent 2nd place at Transvulcania shows a new side to this slight but extremely strong runner. With added endurance, boosted confidence and great technical ability, Maite will be in the mix at Zegama and testing the other ladies to the limits. I see her on the podium; the question will be at which level? To be honest, if her recovery has gone well post La Palma, I see her going head-to-head with Stevie.

Elisa Desco Transvulcania VK ©iancorless.com

Elisa Desco Transvulcania VK ©iancorless.com

Elisa Desco returned to racing in 2013 and won the highly prestigious Sierre-Zinal. Her recent win at the Transvulcania VK and half marathon confirms that her form is good. Elisa has all the right elements to perform well at Zegama and without doubt she is podium material. The ladies field is so strong, it may well just come down to who makes the least mistakes? Elisa won’t make many!

Uxue Fraile Zegama 2013 ©iancorless.com

Uxue Fraile Zegama 2013 ©iancorless.com

Uxue Fraile once again produced an incredible race in Transvulcania. I said in that preview that she lacks the outright speed of some of her rivals, however, what she does have is staying power and true grit. So, should any lady falter, Uxue will be in the mix to take places. I see this happening again at Zegama. She will definitely be in the top-10, probably in the top-5 and may just sneak the podium.

Kasie Enman is coming over from the USA and will add an interesting dynamic o the race. She’s a fast lady and as Stevie says, she is without doubt one to watch. The trails and technicality of Zegama may not allow Kasie to unleash her natural speed, however, I don’t see her being off the pace. The biggest question will come in her form, as this is a return to racing after having a child.

The ladies race has less depth than the men’s field, however, you can expect to see the ladies listed below in or around the top-10.

  • Oihana Azkorbebeitia last big win in 2012, Puebo de Gran Fondo and has had top ranking at Zegama before. This is her comeback after having a baby. You can’t rule her out…
  • Nerea Ambilibia
  • Aitzibier Ibarbia
  • Stephanie Jiminez strong run at Transvulcania VK and just coming into form.  Will not race, Stephanie says she is not ready for 42k yet.
  • Silvia Miralles
  • Landie Greyling strong South African runner, 5th at Kepler Challenge and 2nd at Addo Elephant.

Who have I missed? It’s impossible to account for everyone, particularly local runners who I may not know too well but who will excel on local terrain.

YOU CAN CHECK THE FULL LIST HERE

Trail Magazin, Germany 2013

 

Ricky Lightfoot wins 60th 3 Peaks Race

 ©Mick Kenyon / Racing Snakes

©Mick Kenyon / Racing Snakes

After a number of attempts at glory and a second place finish in 2009, Salomon International runner Ricky Lightfoot eventually added one of fell running ‘monuments’ to his growing list of big wins, as he stormed to victory at the 60th 3 Peaks Race.

Matt Ward, PR for the Salomon Trail Team provides an insight into a classic race.

Understated as ever the Salomon International runner stated:

“I wasn’t expecting much at the 3 Peaks, I thought it would be a good hard training run in preparation for the Maxi Race in Annecy which is in May, I felt I was in good enough shape to get a top 10 finish and I’d have been happy to run somewhere between 3.00-3.10.”

As it turned out his winning time of 2:53:16 was the third fastest time in the last 15 years, and this effort was underlined by second-placer Tom Owens who said:

“Ricky had a very strong run and I was impressed with his finishing time – given the running conditions were not fast with the recent rain which made the course very muddy and then there were the strong winds.”
A compliment indeed from the 2011 winner. Ricky explains how the race unravelled:
“After a troublesome start to 2014 with injuries I hardly imagined that I’d get a chance to have a crack at the 3 Peaks Race this year, but after a late entry I’m happy to say I took the chance and ran it. I was always doubtful that I’d get an entry so late so trained as normal up until Wednesday when I found out I had been given an one, that gave me Thursday and Friday to recover for the race the following day.
“We arrived in Horton on the morning of the race and the weather was pretty horrid, the clag was down and there was shower after shower. I was told that the course would be pretty wet and muddy today and as there was a few other events on the same day the paths would be well trodden. We picked our numbers up and changed, I managed to get a little run up the road to warm up in-between showers and it was almost time to gather on the start. I don’t know where time goes before the race!”
“Another quality field had assembled for the 60th 3 Peaks Race with only 1 or 2 Internationals this year. We toed the start line and the race got under way, I decided to push the pace from the start and led out of the field and onto the road, Salomon GB Team mate Tom Owens followed and we worked together on our way up to Pen Y Ghent, as we approached the summit I began to feel the effects of the fast start and lack of running fast in general, Tom pulled away and I was passed by Thor Ludvigson with Rob Jebb just on my heels as we dibbed the first summit.”
“The run off was wet and the clag was down, I managed to catch Thor and kept Tom in my sights as we reached the path where other runners were coming up (thanks for the shouts). I managed to catch Tom and again we pushed on over to High Birkwith, I felt as though I was hanging on at this point which was a bit worrying but I thought I’d start to fade from the pace around the hour mark.”
“I stuck to Tom along the road and we reached Ribblehead together, Tom stopped to grab his bottle and lost a few seconds while I moved on and picked a Kinetica Gel up off friend Jackie Winn further along the track where Tom caught me again. We could see that we had a gap to 3rd place which was good as we knew Jebby would claw some time back climbing up to Whernside. We reached the top in 1.42 which from previous peaks races I’d ran knew that we were running quick given the underfoot conditions.”
“Tom pulled a few seconds on the Whernside descent but I managed to catch him on the run over to Hill Inn, I took another Kinetica Gel from Jackie at this point as we only had one more summit to climb, Ingleborough. This section seemed to fly by, we reached the bottom of the steep climb with Tom only slightly ahead. Half way up I felt as though a had a little something left so pushed a little harder to the summit, I was surprised to move away from Tom and reach Ingleborough with an advantage. Could I really win the 3 Peaks?”
“I was always conscious of Tom as he’s one of the best descenders around, off the summit I pushed to see whether I could grab a few more seconds, at this point I found myself moving away. There was a strong head wind which made the going feel really slow. I reached Sulber Nick and the finger post which I’d remembered from previous years and took one last glance to see if anyone was catching. At this point I knew there wasn’t far to the finish, looking at my Suunto I knew today it was going to be a PB so pushed a little harder on the run in, I crossed the line in 2.53.16.”
“I’m over the moon at winning my first 3 Peaks Race as it has come so unexpected! Once again the 3 Peaks Race put on an excellent event and is up there with some of the best races around. Thanks to the Jackie Winn, the marshalls and spectators, the shouts of encouragement really do help!”
 ©Mick Kenyon / Racing Snakes

©Mick Kenyon / Racing Snakes

Former winner Owens was also satisfied with his day, especially given his injury issues of 2013, he commented:

“I missed the 3 peaks in 2013 through injury so was delighted to be back at this classic race & knew that I was in pretty good shape. Ricky and myself worked together for much of the race and it was relaxing to be running with a team mate, the pace felt good and we were pulling away from the other runners.
“I was always conscious of the quality of the chasing runners and their ability to make up time- especially Jebby with his climbing ability & pedigree at this race.
“Ricky and I were together through Hill Inn and this is where the race really kicks in -especially this year as the 2nd half of the race was into head winds. On the lower slopes of Ingleborough I still felt okay and started to get away from Ricky on the step sections over the boggy ground but Ricky kept pulling me back! we were also together up the steep section on Ingleborough.
“I had a bad energy blip and Ricky pushed on getting some time on me to the top of Ingleborough. I tried to stay calm and recover as it’s a long slog of a descent to the finish & it is possible to real folk in. I started to descend hard. It was a particularly strong head wind and muddy conditions and try as I might I wasn’t closing the gap! in the end Ricky was pulling away! I took a small tumble which made me cramp and slowed further, so second place it was.”
“Ricky was telling me he’s had injury issues this year but this result shows he’s still in great shape & his ultra running in 2013 has certainly made him resilient. I hope he has a cracking 2014 season.”
“I thought I had a pretty good run and was pleased with the way I was feeling for most of the race – it was certainly exciting to be at the sharp end. Although having won this race once before it’s hard to be happy with second place now! Perhaps I should have started off more conservatively? I also faffed around at the drinking stops finding my water bottles which seemed to zap momentum & I had to work hard to get back…..regardless it’s still very early in the season so onwards and upwards!”
Behind Ricky and Tom, Rob Jebb finished a very strong third, just under 3 hours.
In his first trip the UK for the 3 Peaks race Salomon International’s Thor Ludvigsen finished a highly creditable 6th, and has vowed to return to the event after thoroughly enjoying his day ‘fell running’ and his weekend in Yorkshire!
For further information on any aspect of the Salomon Trail Team and Salomon Avenir athletes, products and racing activity, please contact team PR manager Matt Ward on +44(0)7515558670 or email matt@runcomm.co.uk

Skyrunning UK – the first steps

Skyrunninguk logo sign offIt has been a long season… the 2013 Skyrunner World Series came to a close in early October on the shores of Lake Garda at the impressive Limone Extreme race. The Skyrunner ULTRA title had been concluded just weeks earlier in Vail, Colorado at the Ultra Race of Champions (UROC) but at Limone Extreme, VK and SKY champions were crowned confirming the closure of an incredible 2013 season.

It would be nice to sit back, relax and reflect. Oh no, time stands till for nobody, the 2014 Skyrunner World Series needs to be confirmed and announced, in addition, 2014 has the Skyrunning World Championships taking place in Mont-Blanc (here) at the Mont-Blanc Marathon weekend. Champions, male and female will be announced for the distances of VK, SKY and ULTRA.

An exciting year awaits!

Luis Alberto Hernando at Matterhorn Ultraks

Luis Alberto Hernando at Matterhorn Ultraks

The growth os Skyrunning has exploded in the past 2-years, the catalyst, Transvulcania La Palma in May 2012. Arguably, the worlds ‘best’ descended on a small island in the Canaries and although the ULTRA distance was new to Skyrunning, a transformation was made and suddenly, Skyrunning became the next big thing! The foresight of Marino Giacometti (President ISF) and Lauri Van Houten (Executive Director ISF) was rewarded with a big thumbs up from all who attended!

La Palma, Transvulcania La Palma 2012 ©iancorless.com

La Palma, Transvulcania La Palma 2012 ©iancorless.com

Skyrunning today is growing and at an alarming rate. The Skyrunner World Series has now established itself as one of ‘the’ series to do and we are seeing this reflected in the diversity of the nations taking part but also the diversity in the athletes. We are seeing many runners participating in several disciplines and in certain scenarios, such as Kilian Jornet, we are also seeing them crowned champion in multiple disciplines.

We are not only seeing the ‘regulars’ perform. Skyrunning are being rewarded with new athletes and teams, take a look at Arc’teryx and inov-8. They have taken the bull by the horns and seized an opportunity, not only have they created teams to perform at this high level but they have created apparel and shoes that work in this demanding sport. In 2013, Arc’teryx had UK based athlete, Tessa Hill create some stunning results in the VK and SKY distance, in addition, inov-8 had great success with UK based Anna Lupton and with Alex Nichols (USA) who placed third on the Skyrunner SKY World Series podium.

Tessa Hill and Anna Lupton, Limone Extreme ©iancorless.com

Tessa Hill and Anna Lupton, Limone Extreme ©iancorless.com

For years, the UK have provided a hard core of athletes who have raced and won on this world stage; Angela Mudge, Ricky Lightfoot, Andy Symonds, Tom Owens and so on… in many respects, these UK runners progressed from a minority sport in the UK, ‘Fell Running’ and participated in a minority sport in Europe called ‘Skyrunning’.

That is all changing and the time is now right, for the UK to progress and not only create a UK based series but also create stimulus within the UK to encourage UK based runners to travel to Europe and farther afield to experience Skyrunning on a global scale.

Salomon athlete, Andy Symonds sums it up very well,

Skyrunning was born in Italy, twenty years ago. For me it’s always represented the best of European and until recently – mainly Italian – racing. It’s about racing high up, on real mountains, on real mountain terrain. The fun comes from the race courses which go to summits, along exposed ridges, gaining incredible views, and from moving fast in a competitive environment over this sort of terrain.

Andy Symonds Trofeo Kima ©iancorless.com

Andy Symonds Trofeo Kima ©iancorless.com

The UK may lack the altitude of the Italian Alps, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t do the same thing on our own moderately sized mountains, fells and hills! It’s great to see the sport branching out of Italy, with national series now launching in France, Australia/NZ the UK and no doubt shortly elsewhere.

The future of proper mountain running will probably lie in the hands of the Skyrunning Associations and I’ll be supporting that growth and hoping to help guide things in a good direction!’

Andy is right! the time is perfect.

Welcome to Skyrunning UK

It is early days for Skyrunning UK and 2014 will almost certainly be a transformative year. We are well aware that Skyrunning in the UK will be a challenge… we don’t have too many 2000m+ peaks! However, as Andy says, ‘The UK may lack the altitude of the Italian Alps, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t do the same thing on our own moderately sized mountains, fells and hills!’

To that end, an athlete commission has been created to help guide the sport within the UK from a grass roots level. We already have established and respected runners signed up and confirmed:

  • Ricky Lightfoot (Salomon)
  • Anna Lupton (inov-8)
  • Tom Owens (Salomon)
  • Ben Abdelnoor (inov-8)
  • Andy Symonds (Salomon)

Within the coming weeks, several other athletes will be added to the commission and this will guarantee that the direction of Skyrunning in the UK is not only in good hands but will also consider the well established traditions of fell and trail running.

Skyrunning UK will work in harmony and respect existing races and traditions within the UK.

To interact and get involved, please make sure you:

  • ‘Like’ the Skyrunning UK Facebook page HERE
  • ‘Follow’ on Twitter HERE
  • and sign up to ‘Follow’ our website HERE

Tom Owens – Is the SKY the limit?

Tom Owens running a ridge at the stunning Trofeo Kima copyright Ian Corless

Tom Owens running a ridge at the stunning Trofeo Kima copyright Ian Corless

Tom Owens  is a British runner who I guess in ultra terms, as Tom keeps telling me, is not an ultra runner. But when you are on the podium repeatedly in Skyrunning races in 2012 and push Kilian Jornet, the term ‘ultra’ can be loosely used. I caught up with Tom just as he had finished a run in a gale force wind on the fells near his home in Scotland.

IC: Welcome Tom.

TO: Thanks Ian, great to be here.

IC: Thanks for finding the time to chat. So, you say you are not an ultra runner but it is fair to say that when we look at some of your 2012 races like Zegama and Trofeo Kima they are tough races aren’t they and when we look at how long it takes to cover these races they do drift into ultra category.

TO: Yes I agree with you. You are on your feet for a long time. A race like Zegama can take 4 hours and that is considered a ‘runnable’ Skyrunning race.

IC: Lets go back to what got you into running. You told me that at the age of 22 you ran London Marathon.

TO: Yes I was at University and I entered the ballot for the marathon not thinking I would get in. Ironically I got in first time. I did a little training and joined a cross country club. I had a year of running but it was very much a sideline. I was much more interested in Football and having a good time. I ran the marathon and then got addicted.

IC: In 2004 you ran 2:42 at London.

TO: Yes, correct. I learnt so much in the first two years. I met some great folk at Bristol Uni and I learnt how to train and recover. I was very pleased at the time.

IC: What do you mean pleased? Any of us would be ecstatic with 2:42 marathon.

TO: Funny, I didn’t know what time to go for so I wrote splits for 2:42 on my hand and it went well. My first time was hopeless and I bonked. I made changes for the second year but that was pretty much the end of my road running.

IC: Yes, you met Andy Symonds and I guess your friendship with Andy has dictated both your careers. You have almost run in parallel.

TO: I met Andy and he introduced me to hills. He is a great guy, super talented and enthusiastic. So he encouraged me to try hill races and I loved the vibe. Really different. Very challenging but no pressure. So varied. Andy encouraged me throughout and I kept with it.

IC: What would you say was the point when the focus started to shift? You lived in New Zealand and you met the Scottish team who were out for the world trophy. Was that a pivotal point?

TO: Yes it was I guess. I travelled and then I settled in New Zealand and it had a great running community. I lived in a brilliant city surrounded by hills. It’s an outdoor way of life and I ran more. With the World Mountain Running Champs taking place I saw Jonathan Wyatt and that inspired me. To have the English, Scottish and Welsh team over was brilliant. I hung out with them, did the ‘open’ race and yes, I guess I just continued that momentum in the UK.

Tom Owens behind 'Hernando' in the early stages of Zegama 2012 copyright Ian Corless

Tom Owens behind ‘Hernando’ in the early stages of Zegama 2012 copyright Ian Corless

IC: In 2007 you won your first British Championships beating Rob Jebb.

TO: Yes that was a surprise. A race up in Scotland. Wasn’t a big field but it was a tough race and it has two or three big hills. I can’t remember the distance but it took about 3 hours. I just pipped Rob by about 7 seconds on the line. It was a huge confidence boost. Luckily most races I do finish downhill so it gives me a chance to catch back up after loosing time on the climb.

IC: I guess this is a perfect opportunity to discuss and explain what fell running is. As an exponent of fell racing would you like to give us an overview.

TO: They are very low-key events. The race will visit checkpoints, typically hill summits or passes. You often start at a village hall or pub. You run to to the hills carrying basic equipment such as waterproof, whistle, compass and map and then you make your way to checkpoints as fast as you can. It’s often horrendous conditions; after all it is the UK. You can need map and compass work but you can ‘follow’ as I do. More often than not it is usually wet and very slippery. In a nutshell you basically go straight up and straight down as fast as you can

IC: It’s a key point isn’t it that fell running is not about sticking to the worn path, it’s about the quickest route from A to B.

TO: Yes. That is the beauty. You have a hill, you get up as quick as you can. That is often ‘hands on knees’ power walking and then the fun bit is hurtling down as quickly as you can in a direct line. I guess in the UK we are lucky. The hills are open and we can pretty much go where we want. Especially in Scotland with the right to roam act.

IC: You mentioned going up ‘hands on knees’ I think for most of us we can get our head around that, what I find with fell running is the coming ‘down’ is just crazy. It’s such a skill. Is that God given or do you have to practice.

TO: Like anything you need to practice. You have to get confidence on all terrain and build up ankle strength. If you relax it is so much easier. Particularly if you fall over, most of the time you get up and carry on. Racing is in the head, relax and enjoy it and the rest will follow!

IC: In 2007/ 2008 you got involved with Salomon and eventually you ended up adventure racing and multi stage racing. What was the process involved in that?

TO: I started as a reserve for the Saab/Salomon Adventure Racing Team. In 2008 adventure racing was a big sport. It was certainly one of Salomon’s big focuses. I would say it was probably the last year of racing too as the economy crashed. I was called up as a reserve and I raced a six-day race. Probably one of the best races ever…  two mountain days on foot, mountain biking, climbing, paddling and canyoning. In addition, every evening we had a trail race that was really competitive. It favored runners.

IC: Your team was 2nd overall, yes?

TO: Yes that is right. I was with Andy Symonds again and a guy called Ben Bardsley. We are mountain people. We lead for most of the race but lost time on the water.

IC: That combination of multi stage racing and time with Andy, was that instrumental in what brought you guys together to take on Transalpine.

TO: Yes, it was a race I had heard about. It looked amazing. Andy was in Scotland at the time and we trained together so it seemed logical that we should undertake this as a team and give it a go. Again, another brilliant race!

IC: The race is typically about 160 miles over 8 days and alternates direction?

TO: Yes, 8 days. It has two routes and they alternate. An easterly route and a route that is more western which is more alpine. Actually we did both. We did the west route in 2009 I think and the other the following year.

IC: And you won both!

TO: Yes, Andy and I run together so well and the format suits us. You run hard and then you get to recover and do it all again the next day.

IC: Just like that!

TO: Yes, it is a battering race. Definitely good that it is late in the year as you really need to recover afterwards.

IC: You see, you say that you are not an ultra runner but 8 days in the mountains on those tough courses running a marathon a day is ultra running. That is severe, head to the ground hard work.

TO: Yes, challenging days. Brilliant days. Some of the passes and tracks are breath taking. It’s a delight to be involved but you get it done as quickly as you can. It does take its toll. It definitely has an ultra element to it.

IC: In 2010 you raced ‘Giir di Mont’. You came 6th. Was that the point that Skyrunning really started to appeal or was it before that?

TO: To be honest the first Skyrunning race was 2006, it was La Plagna, A huge race. It was 55km with 3000m up and 3000m down. Certainly the hardest thing I had ever done at the time, I hadn’t been running long. In 2007 I did a couple more and similar in 2008. I started to build up and as more opportunities came I snapped them up.

Crowds supporting at a Skyrunning event copyright Ian Corless

Crowds supporting at a Skyrunning event copyright Ian Corless

IC: Well, we are at present day and 2012 was a stunning year. We seemed to bump into each other all year. Sometimes we saw each other consecutive weekends. What impressed me was right from Zegama to the very end you were always there or there abouts with Kilian Jornet. You pushed him. Great to see a Brit pushing at the front… from a world perspective also, Tom Owens became a name to reckon with. It must be great for you to have Kilian on your Salomon Team but also to be able to race him.

TO: I don’t actually think I pushed Kilian. I may have been second but he was usually 10 minutes clear.

IC: It’s all relative Tom!

TO: Certainly seeing Kilian at the start and finish is great. He is on another level. He is so dominant at all distances, VK to ultra. We can’t get close to him. He is so chilled and he recovers so quickly. I certainly can’t do it week after week. After a hard race I can’t walk for 4 to 5 days.

IC: If we look back at 2012 what was your highlights?

TO: To be honest I was really pleased with the year actually and the consistency. I did so much and it was never straightforward. I had some wonderful opportunities. The highlight though was Trofeo Kima in August. It’s a really technical Italian Skyrunning race that has passes, via ferrata and scrambling. It’s a small race but absolutely brilliant experience.

Tom Owens  'running' at Trofeo Kima copyright Ian Corless

Tom Owens ‘running’ at Trofeo Kima copyright Ian Corless

 IC: I have to say that it was a highlight for me too. I had never experienced a course like it. To be able to witness the action unfold and capture it on camera was really fantastic. You say it was a small race, you are right, the race is capped at around 125 people but it had a stacked field; Philipp Reiter, Kilian Jornet, Andy Symonds and more. What was obvious at the end was the level of fatigue you all had. That course required 110% concentration.

TO: Absolutely, it had so much rock hopping and you followed painted markers so you had to be focused not to go off course and also not to fall. The last descent was bonkers. A 2000m descent on slippery gnarly terrain. To be running that long on such technical terrain that included ladders, chains and ropes is a big concentration exercise. I was happy to get to the road at the end to be able to relax. It was full on.

IC: What are the plans for 2013? Is the Skyrunning series going to figure again?

TO: I really want to do the Skyrunning series again. Races like Zegama, Chamonix and the Matterhorn excite me. Also the race at Limone. All being well I will try some of those and also mix in some new races. It will be an adaptable schedule and I will see how I go and feel.

IC: What about UK races?

TO: I fancy the British Fell Running Championships, so that will be three, maybe four races in addition to everything else. I will try to mix it up like I did in 2012.

IC: Any temptation to move up to any longer distances or will you establish yourself around the Sky marathon distance.

SKY Marathon races for 2013
1. SPAIN: Maratòn Alpina Zegama-Aizkorri – 42k, Zegama – May 26
2. FRANCE: Mont-Blanc Marathon – 42k, Chamonix – June 30
3. USA:  Pikes Peak Marathon – 42k, Manitou Springs, Colorado – August 18
4. SWITZERLAND: Matterhorn Ultraks – 46k, Zermatt – August 24
5. ITALY: Skyrunning Xtreme – 23k, Limone sul Garda – October 13

Tom Owens at Sierre Zinal being chased by Joe Symonds (Andy Symonds brother) copyright Ian Corless

Tom Owens at Sierre Zinal being chased by Joe Symonds (Andy Symonds brother) copyright Ian Corless

TO: I think it would have to be a course I really wanted to do. I would like to try the Ice Trail Tarentaise. That looks brilliant. I am not sure of the distance but I will have to see. I am not avoiding them but I wouldn’t do an ultra for the sake of it!

IC: You know your skills and ability and as such you choose the races were you know you can perform.

TO: As long as I am enjoying it I run well. We shall see.

IC: Thank you so much for freeing up time to chat, Tom. I am really looking forward to seeing you at many races in the coming year.

TO: Thanks so much. It’s a pleasure. Keep up all the good work!

This article was first published on Mud, Sweat and Tears in March 2013.

Links

  • Skyrunning events can be found HERE
  • Salomon Running HERE
  • Tom Owens HERE

Salomon Trail UK Team 2013

The Salomon Avenir squad, with their mentors: Back Row (L to R): Rob Samuel, Ricky Lightfoot, Emma Clayton, Rob Hope, Angela Mudge. Front Row (L to R): Nathan Jones, Bertie Houghton, Annabel Mason, James Hall, Andrew Lawler

The Salomon Avenir squad, with their mentors: Back Row (L to R): Rob Samuel, Ricky Lightfoot, Emma Clayton, Rob Hope, Angela Mudge. Front Row (L to R): Nathan Jones, Bertie Houghton, Annabel Mason, James Hall, Andrew Lawler

2012 was another great year for the Salomon Trail Team in the UK, once again producing some amazing domestic and international performances. With 2013 now upon us and the racing season about to get underway proper, the team spent last weekend at their Spring training camp for three days of team talks, kit fitting, training sessions and product briefing ahead of what will no doubt be a very busy year.
 
This year’s camp was made extra special with the first meeting of Salomon Avenir, a new junior development squad of fell, mountain and trail runners aged between 16 and 18 years, who will not only be aided with product for the year but also be given support in the form of a mentorship scheme via some of the UK’s best athletes.
The concept behind Salomon Avenir is to help develop the next generation of trail and mountain runners in the UK and hopefully the ‘next draft’ of the Salomon Trail Team. The squad will be guided by Salomon Trail Running community manager for the UK, Matt Ward.
 
Manchester was the base for the weekend activities, with the brand new Salomon UK northern showroom playing host to the seminars and product meetings over the weekend. Present at the camp were representatives from main sponsor Salomon and sports instrument partners Suunto. The athletes were also kept up-to-date with with advancements from nutrition partner Kinetica. The teams were also fortunate enough to receive help and support in their physiology from top UK physio Andy Walling, who will once again look after the team in 2013.
Andy Davies on the Rivington fells

Andy Davies on the Rivington fells

 
Trail Team boss Tim Lloyd comments:
 
“It’s always a pleasure to get the Salomon team together to train and plan the year ahead, but this year was one of the best camps we have ever had with a great atmosphere and some great input from all at Salomon and our associate sponsors. The training camp is important for Salomon and the athletes because we are all working together to move off-road and trail running forwards in terms of product development and events. Plans for 2013 look very exciting, and I am especially excited at the Avenir project which is something Matt has been working on for a while. We have some incredible athletes in our senior team and for a group of them to be on hand to aid the next generation of athletes to come through is something really special.”
The weekend saw the team try out new products on the hills surrounding Rivington, Lancashire, in a number of group training runs and photo sessions. Sunday afternoon also saw the two groups take part in the now familiar core stability session courtesy of Andy Walling, to round off the weekend!
Regarding the Trail Team line-up for 2013 Lloyd continues:
 
“We have tweaked the team a little this year creating a mix of our highly experienced champions and younger athletes capable of taking the Salomon name into some different spheres. Rob Hope, Angela Mudge, Tom Owens, Ricky Lightfoot, Rob Samuel, Emma Clayton and Joe Symonds all remain with the team and will once again focus on a programme of international and domestic races, with Tom racing predominantly with the Salomon International team once again this season.
 
“In comes Welsh International Andy Davies, who will add that extra dimension in the longer distance races. Andy has a great engine and after focusing on his marathon aspirations for the first few months of the year, will look towards some of the longer mountain and ultra trail races in the UK and abroad”.
 
“Overall it is a great mix of youth and experience, speed and endurance, and we hope to be able to do all of the partners proud with some great results once again this year”.
Ricky Lightfoot

Ricky Lightfoot

 
Speaking about the Avenir squad Matt Ward comments:
“I am very pleased with what we have achieved in pulling together this junior collective in 2013. In a relatively short space of time it has gone from a vision to reality, and the fact that we have some of the UK’s top young talent on the squad in the very first year is particularly pleasing. 
 
“In Annabel Mason we have the European Mountain Running Champion and one of the brightest prospects in UK junior running at the moment, James Hall is the English Schools Fell Running Champion, Bertie Houghton an English international on the fells and a champion on the track at English schools level. Nathan Jones won the British Home Countries fell championship gold medal in 2012, and represented GB at the European Mountain Running champs last year and Andrew Lawler was 3rd in the British Championships race which Nathan won, and has recently become Scottish Junior 800m champion indoors.
 
“The opportunity for these guys to learn from some of the UK’s and world’s best fell, mountain and trail runners is immense. When people ask me I liken it to a 16-18 year old footballer being given a direct line for advice and support to someone like David Beckham – which youngster in their given sport wouldn’t jump at that chance?!
 
“We are clear from the outset too that we are not in the process of interrupting coaching or governing body programmes, this is all aimed at complimenting those programmes and offering something a little different from a sponsor’s point of view”.
 
Head of marketing at Salomon GB is Richard Philip, he concludes:
“The weekend was great from our perspective. It gave us an opportunity to meet the guys on the team and spend a little time explaining our objectives for the brand, events and general marketing in 2013. It also gave us the opportunity to properly look at product for the team and make sure that our offerings are in-line with what they need to be the best that they can whilst training and competing.
 
“As a brand who supports sporting excellence we are very excited for the year ahead, especially with the Avenir project which Matt will head-up, and we look forward to working with the team and sharing in their successes over the coming season”.
For more information and news on the Salomon Trail Team, Salomon Avenir and the Salomon trail events for 2013, head to www.salomontrailtour.co.uk
 
Full Salomon Trail Team line-up for 2013
 
Emma Clayton
Rob Hope
Ricky Lightfoot
Angela Mudge
Tom Owens
Rob Samuel
Andy Davies
Joe Symonds
 
Full Salomon Avenir line-up for 2013
 
Annabel Mason
Bertie Houghton
James Hall
Andrew Lawler
Nathan Jones
 
Mentor partnerships
 
Annabel Mason – Emma Clayton
Bertie Houghton – Ricky Lightfoot
James Hall – Rob Hope
Andrew Lawler – Angela Mudge
Nathan Jones – Rob Samuel