Prior to the Skyrunner World Series event in Chamonix, France, six weeks ago, Eirik Haugsnes was a relative unknown in the sport of athletic superhumans.
Two outstanding performances under the shadow of Mont Blanc, however, changed all that.
First the 32-year-old Norwegian, who lives in one of Europe’s most northerly outposts, far from the skyrunning hub, claimed the scalps of many top mountain runners when placing third in the brutal Mont Blanc Vertical Km race.
Less than 48 hours later Eirik was at it again, this time finishing fifth in the elite-stacked Mont Blanc Marathon, which sees athletes tackle over 2,500m of grueling mountain ascent.
Having never previously raced in the Alps or over the marathon distance, suddenly he found himself as one of the hottest properties in skyrunning.
It’s therefore no surprise to learn of inov-8’s delight at recruiting Eirik to their talented international team, beating off interest from rival brands in doing so.
“The weekend in Chamonix was an incredible one for me,” says Eirik, who wore inov-8’s X-Talon 190 shoes in the vertical km and Trailroc 245 footwear for the marathon.
“I’ve done a lot of uphill-only races in Norway over steep and technical terrain and knew the Mont Blanc Vertical Km would suit me.
“As a relative unknown I was given an early individual start time, while the guys expected to clock the fastest times set off later.
“I just went for it. I pushed hard right from the beginning and maintained that intensity all the way up the climb.
“To get the third fastest time (35:02) and be within 30 seconds of the winner (Saul Antonio Padua Rodriguez) was really pleasing.
“I wasn’t supposed to be doing the Mont Blanc Marathon two days later, but on the back of my result in the vertical km race I was offered a place.
“Again, I gave it absolutely everything in the race and maintained a really good pace. The last 10km, however, were really tough. My body was in pain but I pushed through it.
“It was my first race over the marathon distance so to clock 3:47:59 and finish fifth over such a tough course was great.
“I also did it without any support. I had no team on the course to help me and drank only what was at the aid stations.
“I noticed inov-8 had a big team in Chamonix and was really impressed to see five of their runners place in the top-10 men and women for the marathon.
“I have always loved the brand, its philosophy and their big ambitions, so to now join the inov-8 team is really exciting for me.”
Living in Finnsnes, Troms, Eirik was brought up on a diet of cross-country skiing and was one of the best juniors in Norway, recording many podium places in national competitions.
In 2002, he achieved a then-world record for the fastest time skiing unsupported across Greenland, enduring terrifying whiteouts on route – something he says has aided his mental toughness for mountain running.
Eirik began running just five years ago and has since become one of the best mountain exponents in Norway, where many races are uphill-only, featuring ascent of between 500m and 1,800m.
This year, prior to his Chamonix double-header, he finished fifth in two very different races – first the Empire State Building Run-up in New York, which he completed in 11 minutes and four seconds, and then the 83km Transgrancanaria ultra-marathon on the Spanish Island of Gran Canaria, for which he clocked 8:55:24.
“The Empire State Building Run-Up involves scaling 86 floors and 1,576 steps as quickly as possible,” he said.
“In the town where I live the tallest building I could find has five floors. I did a lot of repetitions of those five floors in training!
“Before Transgrancanaria the only off-road races I had done were uphill races in Norway, so it was a totally new experience for me to be competing both up and down big mountains.
“I also went there having only trained in the snow, which every year covers our town between November and May – I think I live closer to the North Pole than the Canary Islands!
“I was therefore happy to finish fifth on the hard-packed trails, especially as for the last 30km I was totally wasted and running on empty.”
The Matterhorn Ultraks is part of the Skyrunner World Series and will see athletes battle it out over a stunning course that includes 3,600m of ascent.
And as for being the new kid on the skyrunning block, he adds: “I rise to it. I think it gives me an advantage. There are no big expectations on my shoulders, except those I put on myself.
“I will continue to run for adventure and to challenge my limits.”