The first edition of the ECOTRAIL Funchal took place today on the stunning island of Madeira.
For those who know, they will say, Madeira? wow, that is a hilly island for a race. I agree! It’s a very hilly island for a race.
Three events, 600+ people and community united are the key statistics from this inaugural edition.
Starting at 0600m the main event of the day, the 80km race (5400m of elevation gain) departed the centre of the town and under the illumination of head lamps the runners set out for what was without doubt a tough day and for many, night, on the trails of Funchal.
At 0900 the 40km event with 2500m of elevation gain departed from Algeria (Alegria) and finally at 1100, the 17km event with just 250m of vertical gain departed from Bico (PICO) de Barcelos.
Madeira is known for it’s great all year climate but race day proved to be a mix of glorious sunshine, cloud and light rain. However, the conditions for runners were perfect enabling the majority to run in conditions that were neither to hot or cold.
First edition races seldom have high quality fields but here in Madeira three world-class French runners toed the line:
Arnaud Lejeune – recent 2nd place at the Ultra Trail Mt Fuji
Julien Chorier – Champion of the Madeira Island Ultra Trail in 2014 and 6th at Western States in 2015.
Fabien Antolinos – 6th at UTMB 2015
Although Lejeune and Antolinus dominated the 80km event and Chorier won the 40km race, the ECOTRAIL Funchal is much more than elite names racing and setting records. The race is all about motivation and inspiration. This was reflected in the 17km event where local people arrived in their hundreds to take part and support
The race, the people and the island rely on tourism and without doubt, the ECOTRAIL race adds a great boost.
The 80km and 40km races
The race started by following the main streets of the town heading east and then up to Curral dos Rameiros and Monte. Following trails, technical at times they head to the 1800m summit at Pico do Arieiro and then drop like stones to Allegria (this is the 40km start). Navigating through suburban streets a brutal uphill follows and then a descent to Ribeira Grande, Santo Antonio. At Levada Negra another steep climb awaits, unfortunately this is the nature of Madeira trails; they go up and down! From Pico de Buxo they drop downhill towards the sea and stunning views of Funchal. Following trails and paths they navigate to the finish in Funchal with a final stretch running along the coast and the finish in Avenida do Infante.
Starts from Pico de Barelo and takes in the final sections of the 80km and 40km events to finish on the Avenida do Infante in Funchal.
In the 80km race, Arnaud Lejeune lead from the front and had a stunning day on the trails of Madeira. Despite a fall, he arrived in Funchal looking strong. Fabien Antoninus played the bridesmaid and as the latter stages of the race unfolded he obviously decided to take his foot of the gas and save some energy.
In the 40km race, Julien Chorier raced in 2nd place for most of the day behind Marco Silva but at around 34km, he pulled away and took a strong victory on a course that he said was, ‘very tough challenging and technical!’
The 17km race was all about fun and in many scenarios it provided a first race opportunity for many locals. No doubt, they will be inspired to look ahead to 2016 and maybe move up to the 40km distance.
Episode 98 of Talk Ultra is a packed show, we speak with Mike Wolfe about his epic Crown of Continent Traverse with Mike Foote. Shirt Leventhal, ladies winner of Atacama talks about racing multi-day races and Sarah Cameron tells us how cycling made her a excel at running. The News, Up and Coming Races and Niandi co-hosts.
00:01:35 Show Start
Help Nepal – Nepal images ‘FACES of NEPAL’ – order a print and all funds donated to Nepal charities HERE
TRAINING CAMP in Lanzarote with Elisabet Barnes 28th Jan to Feb 4th HERE
1 – Ellie Greenwood 7:58
2 – Jasmin Nunige 8:04
3 – Anne Lise Rousset 8:24
1 – Benoit Cori 6:44
2 – Nicolas Martin 6:47
3 – Tofol Castanyer 6:48
RAID DE LA REUNION
1 – Antoine Guillon 24:17:40
2 – Sebastien Camus 24:41:50
3 – Freddy Thevenin 25:17:48
1 – Nuria Picas 28:11:14
2 – Emelie Lecomte 28:12:32
3 – Andrea Husser 28:38:53 and on the last show we mentioned that she won UTAT
C’mon, get a grip! If you run in mud, you will no doubt be familiar with inov-8. For years, inov-8 has provided the ‘go-to’ shoes for running when the ground gets wet, slippery, muddy, gnarly and so on!
The Mudclaw 300 is not a new shoe in the massive inov-8 line up. The 2015 incarnation though does have a wicked and eye grabbing colour way and having used many versions on inov-8 (fave the 212 here) I was keen to put the Mudclaw 300 through its paces. Believe it or not, I am (was) a 300 virgin!
Red, blue and a white logo. Have to say, inov-8 does a great job of getting shoes to jump off the shelf. I love this colour way and yes, it makes me want to wear the shoe. If you have the previous version of the ‘300’ in yellow and black, don’t be fooled into thinking this is the same shoe. It’s not.
The sole and heel have had a revamp. The previous model really flared up at the rear, the new incarnation (red and blue) sits much closer to the ground, does not flare up and the heel box sits lower so as to cause no problems with the Achilles.
It’s still a 2-arrow shoe, so, 6mm drop.
Drop is a personal thing but I am a firm believer that 6mm/ 8mm drop shoes provide a great middle ground and if you are running longer, a slightly higher drop is kinder on the calf and legs. Of course, this is all down to personal preference. If you don’t know what the drop of the shoes you run in is, it’s worth finding out. Going too low too soon could cause injury.
The sole has 8mm lugs. If Wolverine™ wore run shoes he would most likely go for the Mudclaw. Yes, they are grippy buggers. The rubber compound is soft and grippy but be warned, the shoe is called Mudclaw for a reason, you want to keep hard ground and abrasive surfaces to a minimum in these shoes as the sole WILL wear down. My test run includes 1-mile of road before and after the trails and I have to say, this shoe feels wonderfully comfortable on the hard stuff despite its ‘off-road’ pedigree. You can actually hear the sole grip. Sounds weird I know, but it’s very clear and you can feel it. At the front of the shoe, just behind where the toes would sit is a clearing in the sole with a META-FLEX™ this allows the shoe to bend without restriction when running. Works great when climbing!
As the name suggests, the weight of the shoe is 300g. inov-8 always name the shoes based on the weight of a UK8.5 in case you didn’t know. It’s a pretty cool system actually as you can see at a glance, based on weight, if a shoe may or may not be suitable for you.
The upper is treated with DWR coating and has a ‘Precision’ fit. Let’s be clear here, inov-8 now makes many shoes in a ‘standard’ and ‘precision’ fit. If you have a wide foot, this is good news because you may now well be able to wear a shoe that you were not able to wear in the past. But for me, the Mudclaw and shoes like it are all about control and precision. A shoe for really muddy and technical conditions should hold your foot and allow no movement. You need that controlled feel. Control gives precision and precision means faster running and less mistakes. Of course I am giving a very personal opinion here but I hope you see the logic? What I am saying is, be careful when choosing a shoe. Precision for my relatively wide foot is great when I need it but I wouldn’t want to be running all day with my toes cramped into a shoe. For me, the Mudclaw although precision in fit still had a relatively roomy toe box and this was great on the technical muddy stuff.
The tongue is held in place by elastic to stop it slipping. It’s a great move. However, the Mudclaw doesn’t fit as tightly or as snug as say the Salomon S-Lab Sense SG (the perfect fitting shoe for me!) but if laced correctly (try this), pulled tight and double knotted your foot should feel super secure; my feet were!
Getting lacing right is particularly important as the heel box has been tweaked so that it sits lower on the Achilles Tendon to avoid tension and potential injury problems. On my first run I felt as though my heel was slipping and I was unsure if this was a good move. Once re-laced, tightened appropriately, I can confirm that the lower heel is a good idea.
The rand around the lower part of the upper is now stitched and should in principal last longer and be more durable. Toe protection is relatively minimal.
The sides of the shoe are reinforced with a series of zig-zag support (webbing upper support) to hold the foot in place and these extend to the back of the shoe. They do the job, I had no issues with feeling that I had any lack of support.
Cushioning for me is one of the key factors of this shoe. I have long been a fan of the 212 (here) but when running longer I found it just a little too minimal. Not so with the 300. The EVA foam, 6mm drop and Meta-Shank all work together to make this a great shoe for longer days out. The stack height is 28mm and therefore considered low but obviously not as low as some. It has average stiffness that works exceptionally well on varied terrain. It has no rock plate but does have a performance last and Met-Cradle.
The shoe is as you would expect in an out-and-out off road/ mud shoe fits NEUTRAL.
My first run in the shoe was mixed. I found my foot moved around a little and I felt insecure with the lower heel. When I got home I looked at the shoe, re-laced it and then the following day went out and ran the same 8-mile loop. It was a completely different experience.
First and foremost, these shoes grip and really grip. If it’s wet and muddy these are now my go to shoe. I recently ran an uphill and downhill trail in Ireland that was on the Mourne Skyline MTR race route and the trail incorporates many elements – forest path, tree routes, gravel, stone steps, mud, road and it had rained heavily before the run and drizzled whilst running. At no point did I have any question on grip! For a shoe that is designed to keep you secure on muddy trail, I was amazed at the security on wet and slick rock. I can’t emphasize enough how important this is. You need that 100% reassurance so that you can relax, the the Mudclaw 300 gave me this.
Although a precision fit shoe, I found the toe box roomier than my inov-8 212. No bad thing and it certainly caused me no issues. The added cushioning was superb when running longer or when getting off soft ground and on to harder trails. Certainly a shoe I would choose when training or racing longer.
6mm drop for me is perfect and the stack height of the shoe made me feel 100% confident; no rolling! Depending on your experience, preferred distance and ability, the Mudclaw 300 is a perfect training shoe that will keep you happy for many a run. I personally would be more than happy racing in it over any distance. For the more experienced, they may well prefer a slightly lighter shoe? The Mudcaw 265 for example is 35g lighter, has the same outsole and 3mm drop.
The Mudclaw 300 is a shoe for when you need grip. It’s comfortable, secure, provides excellent traction and if laced correctly will hold your foot firm. It’s not a shoe for running on the road even though it’s remarkably comfortable. Just keep in mind, the more you run on the hard stuff, the quicker the sole will wear out. My daily training run has 1-mile of road out and back and I have been using the Mudclaw 300 on a regular basis. I currently can see minimal wear after 80-miles. The shoe is true to size. I wear a UK9.5 and the inov-8 fit perfectly in the same size.
Weight: 300G / 10.5OZ
Upper: SYNTHETIC, TPU
Shank: META-SHANK™ 1
What inov-8 say:
The legendary all-terrain animal has undergone a makeover for SS15. Now boasting the same flatter heel unit as the mudclaw™ 265, but still maintaining its 6mm drop, the mudclaw™ 300 also has an improved, more flexible upper. A fully gusseted tongue helps keep any debris out. Its hero-status outsole remains as aggressive as ever, guaranteeing the ultimate grip for mountain, obstacle and adventure racers on the muddiest, steepest terrains. Website HERE
Iain Bailey and Diane Wilson were the 2015 champions for the 2nd edition of the Mourne Skyline MTR, the 6th and final race in the Skyrunning UK calendar.
Considered by many to be Northern Ireland’s toughest and most challenging race, the Mourne Skyline MTR covers 35km’s with a whopping elevation gain of 3370m. Starting and finishing in the seaside resort of Newcastle, the race is now considered to be a highlight not only of the Skyrunning UK calendar but also the racing calendar in Northern Ireland.
The first edition of the race was made especially difficult with gale force winds that at time lifted runners off their feet and ‘helped’ them along the course. It looked like a repeat day was in store for the 150-runners who would tackle the 2015 edition when overnight wind and rain battered the coastline.
At 0800 leaving the promenade of Newcastle, the cold temperatures, strong winds and light rain certainly added to the trepidation of a tough day in the mountains. From the off, Dan Doherty dictated the men’s race but he was closely followed by the day’s main protagonists of Eoin Lennon, Ian Bailey, Jayson Cavill and Ally Beaven. For the ladies, Shileen O’Kane pushed the early pace ahead of Lizzie Wraith and Diane Wilson.
At the col between Slieve Donard and Slieve Commedagh, with 6.6km covered, the action started to unfold as the runners headed out on the more demanding sections of the course. Climbing the rocky and technical Slieve Meelmore, the real race started to take place but at all times the main protagonists jockeyed for position.
Iain Bailey and Diane Wilson took the respective race leads for the men and the women and this coincided with the skies clearing and the arrival of the sun. Finally, it was possible to see out across the stunning Mourne Mountains and take in the beauty this area has to offer. The sea glistened in the distance and the yellow and amber colours of the terrain provided a stunning backdrop to hard, tough and technical racing.
Overnight rain had made the course exceptionally difficult under foot and many runners commented post race how challenging it was to remain upright while descending.
Slieve Bearnagh offered one of the toughest climbs of the day and then a drop down to Hare’s Gap where the ever-present Mourne Wall then guides the runners to Slievenaglogh, Slieve Commedagh and then final push of the day up and over Slieve Donard (2788ft) before dropping all the way down from the summit to the finish line in Newcastle.
Pre race favourite Dan Doherty went to through a bad patch in these sections as he chased Iain Bailey who had a convincing lead of well over 5-minutes, “I am lacking energy and feeling tired,” Doherty shouted as he ran past hotly pursued by Ally Bevan, Eoin Lennon and Jayson Cavill. One would have thought that Doherty would not hold on to 2nd but he found the energy from somewhere!
Bevan, Lennon and Cavill contested the final podium place and it was a close battle before Lennon found that extra few percent to open up a gap. Bevan looked secure for 4th but a charging Cavill looked like he may well have upset that as he raced for the line. Bevan held off for 4th by just 7-seconds.
Pre race favourite Diane Wilson never looked back after taking over the front of the race and ran a well paced and controlled run to take victory, behind Helen Brown held off early leader Shileen O’Kane for 2nd and GB athlete Lizzie Wraith finished 4th ahead of Jaqueline Toal. “I had completely wrong shoes today,” said Wraith post race, “the descents were so slippery that I just couldn’t push the pace. I am happy though!”
Although the start of the day was a tough one many commented that the conditions after a couple of hours of running were considerably kinder than the 2014 edition when the gale force winds battered the runners, this was reflected in a new course record by Iain Bailey of 3:51:22.
A notable mention must also go to Garmin who for the first year sponsored the Mourne Skyline MTR and the input of the GPS watch brand was instrumental and securing a 30-minute program on the race for channel 4 TV. Needless to say this will be a great boost for the race, running in Northern Ireland and Skyrunning UK.
The program will be televised in November and we currently have a possible date of 8th.
Mourne Skyline MTR concluded the 2015 Skyrunning UK calendar. Just 2-years old, this series of races is now firmly becoming one of the most exciting race circuits. 2016 will see the series grow with points awarded for each race, prize money at every race and some special prizes on offer for the 2016 SKY and ULTRA champions, make sure you keep an eye on www.skyrunninguk.com
Ryan Maxwell, race director for the Garmin Mourne Skyline MTR provides an insight into the racing that will take place in the Mourne Mountains of Northern Ireland this weekend.
The Skyrunning UK series comes to a great conclusion for 2015 with its 6th race.
The eyes of the Skyrunning world will be on Northern Ireland, and in particular, the stunning Mourne Mountains, as the 2nd annual Mourne Skyline Mountain-Trail Race once again attracts a plethora of talent from across the globe. The event will be filmed by Channel 4 and broadcast in November 2015.
This year, world renowned producers of innovative GPS products for the recreation and wellness markets, Garmin, have come on board to support the event, which is now named, the Garmin Mourne Skyline Mountain-Trail Race.
Closing the 2015 Skyrunning UK season, action will kick off at 7.30pm on Friday 23rd October 2015. Close to 100 competitors will take on the unique ‘Granite Trail Race’ (‘GTR’), a 2 mile uphill only event, starting on Newcastle Promenade (County Down) and finishing approximately 1,000ft above sea-level at Millstone Quarry.
The impressive field will be headed by Northern Ireland international Seamus Lynch (Newcastle AC) and winner of the Mont Blanc 10k, Paul Navesey (Centurion Ultra Running Team). The ladies race will include highly respected European Cross Country (team) and World Mountain Running Championship (team) medallist Sarah McCormack (Ambleside AC and Ireland) who just last month secured a top ten place at the World Mountain Running Championships in Wales, finishing just ahead of former World Champion Kasie Enman (USA). Sarah will be joined on the ‘GTR’ start line by the in-form NI & Ulster Half Marathon medallist Laura Graham (Mourne Runners).
On Saturday 24th October 2015, the Garmin Mourne Skyline MTR will see 200 hardy competitors from fourteen countries cover a gruelling but incredibly scenic and rewarding 35k course, which incorporates 3,370m of ascent. Northern Ireland’s highest mountain, Slieve Donard, which stands at 850m above sea-level, will be the final peak, before the athletes descend quickly into the Donard Park finish area.
Although last year’s worthy Champions and course record holders, Kim Collison (England) and Stevie Kremer (Team Salomon), are unable to return to defend their titles, this year’s race will undoubtedly provide the same exciting spectacle. There are at least thirty athletes who have represented their country at international level due to start, meaning that both the male and female fields provide incredible strength in depth.
There really is all to play for ahead of this event, and here are some of the athletes who will be gunning for the honour of being crowned Garmin Mourne Skyline MTR Champion.
Dan Doherty (Scott Trail Team), Paul Tierney (Ambleside AC), Jayson Cavill (Ultra Runner Store Trail Team), Eoin Lennon (Carnethy HRC), Ally Beaven (Unattached), Iain Bailey (Newcastle AC), David Steele (Newcastle AC) and Sam Herron (Mourne Runners) look to be the strongest candidates for the podium places in a field littered with talent from across the globe.
Irish international Dan Doherty has increased his profile considerably since stepping onto the international stage in 2011. His 17th place finish at this year’s IAU Ultra-Trail World Championships in France cemented Dan as one of the UK and Ireland’s most respected ultra-distance athletes. The 2013 Anglo-Irish Plate winner also impressed at the gruelling Tor Des Geants, where he worked his way through the field to move into 2nd place before a knee injury cruelly ended his race with approximately 100k to go – 12 months earlier, Dan had claimed the runners up spot at the 330k event, which includes an incredible 24,000 metres of ascent.
Dan’s Irish International teammate, Paul Tierney will also go into the event with confidence high after victory in the Lakeland 100 in the UK, a top placing at the Skyrunning UK Lakes Sky Ultra and representing Ireland at the IAU Ultra-Trail World Championships.
Scotland based Northern Ireland man Eoin Lennon has been in the form of his life since claiming the runners up spot at the Mourne Skyline MTR in 2014 – Eoin recorded 3:59:42 to finish behind Kim Collision and has went on to impress at several notable events, this includes a 4th place finish at the prestigious HOKA Highland Fling and a win at the recent Glencoe Marathon, both in Scotland. Eoin has also shown his speedy edge with a 16:16 5k over the Summer.
Newcastle AC men Iain Bailey and David Steele, and Mourne Runners’ Sam Herron will know this course better than most. All three will be in the mix for a high placing, but it’s Iain’s strength on the climbs that will ensure that he plays a prominent part in in the race for a podium place – he finished in 5th place at the British Championship event in the Mourne’s in August.
If podium places were calculated for all of the Skyrunning UK events since the Series’ inception in 2014, Jayson Cavill would no doubt be one of the highest ranking athletes. He (Jayson) is never off the podium and as per usual, deservedly claimed his spot there at the Salomon Glencoe Skyline event in August (2015), where he took 3rd place in the men’s race. Jason also won the Lakeland 50 in the UK. Steve Franklin (Totley AC), a 14th place finisher at the aforementioned Glencoe Skyline and top fifty finisher at the Mont Blanc Marathon, will finish well up the pack. The same can be said for 2014 4th place finisher Ally Beaven; despite focusing more on his training, rather that racing recently, Ally should be there or there abouts.
Profeet UK athlete Victor Mound will also run well, as will Richard Ashton (Orion Harriers), Bjorn Verduijn (Shettleston Harriers), Barry Hartnett (Dundrum AC), Gary Bailey (Mourne Runners), Shane Donnelly (Acorns AC), Peter Cromie (Roe Valley CC), Billy Reed (East Antrim Harriers) and Dale Mathers (Mourne Runners).
Team GB star Lizzie Wraith, a podium finisher at this year’s Dragon’s Back 200 mile race, will start as pre-race favourite. Despite the fact that Lizzie is used to covering much longer distances, it will be her ability to deal with the leg-sapping climbs and descents that may well just give her the edge. The Lakeland 100 winner (in 2013) is excited about visiting and racing in Northern Ireland for the first time and will prove difficult to beat. In saying that, local hero Diane Wilson (Dromore AC), winner of the Ben Nevis Mountain Race and a podium finisher at the Mourne Skyline MTR in 2014, knows exactly what to expect and is going into the event in the form of her life.
Newly crowned Northern Ireland Mountain Running Association (NIMRA) Champion, Shileen O’Kane (Lagan Valley AC), will be another athlete who will be in the thick of the action, but the local lady, who won 5 NIMRA Championship races this term, will have to see off some formidable opposition if she wishes to secure a podium spot – none more so that Mynydd Du Mountain Runners athlete and recognised international Helen Brown, who secured 14th place in the World Mountain Running Championships less than four weeks ago. Interestingly, Helen has stepped onto the podium on three of the previous four occasions she has raced in Northern Ireland. Arguably her best performance on these shores was a win at the Silent Valley Mountain Race in 2013, which was part of the British Fell Running Championships.
Jacqui Toal (BARF) and Fran McFadden (Springwell Running Club) enjoyed an epic dual at the 26extreme Causeway Coast Ultra last month (September 2015), with Jacqui coming through to win late on after Fran had led from the off. The pair will resume battle here and will be joined by another highly respected ultra-distance athlete, Comrades finisher and podium regular Joanne Curran (BARF). Aisling Allum (Carnethy HRC) will be one to watch – after moving to Scotland earlier this year, Aisling has shown superb improvement and less than four weeks ago, the former triathlon star picked up a prize at the Glencoe 10k, after finishing in 3rd place. Aisling will smash her 5:54:43 clocking from 2014, which saw her take 10th place in the ladies race.
Lagan Valley AC’s Hazel McLaughlin will claim a top ten place, while Ireland based ladies Jolene Mellon (Unattached) and Elizabeth Wheeler (Unattached) will be hoping for the same. Versatile Springwell Running Club athlete Sonia Knox will go well, as will 2:50:52 marathoner Georgia Wood (Unattached) and local ladies Taryn McCoy (BARF), Paulette Thomson (Newcastle AC) and Anne Sandford (Lagan Valley AC).
View the galleries from the 2014 edition of the race, Stevie Kremer and Kim Collison were the champions.
Watch the film, Fast and Light at the bottom of this article
A trickle of piano noise from the local music school weaves its way through open window shutters left ajar to allow some breeze… the heat of the day can be stifling. It feels and sounds like a scene in a movie. Cobbled streets, stone arches, a wonderful old square, the chatter of children playing and the smell of a freshly brewed cappuccino in the air.
Biella, or should I say, the International Skyrunning Federation HQ (and home of Lauri van Houten and Marino Giacometti) is atop a hill in a walled village close to the Aosta valley, just over an hour from Chamonix and in close proximity to Monte Rosa and the Matterhorn. It seems the perfect location for the home of pure mountain running. Biella lies in the foothills of the Alps in the Bo mountain range near Mt. Mucrone and Camino.
It is midway through the 2014 season, between Ice Trail Tarentaise and Trofeo Kima, I spend time with Lauri and Marino in Biella at their home in the mountains (Casina) Corteno Golgi and at Trofeo Kima to get an inside look at what makes this couple tick and how the Skyrunning calendar and its logistics fall into place. The African Attachment with Greg Fell, Dean Leslie and Kelvin Trautman were also filming for Salomon Running. Today, 20th Oct the preview film will be made live. #FastandLight is for me a special moment. I hope you enjoy the film and the related articles and images that are currently published worldwide to coincide with the films release.
Mountains dominate the life of Marino and Lauri. It’s not a job; it’s a passion that dominates 12+ hours of every day. You will see the dynamic duo at all the Skyrunner® World Series races every year. In total, that is 15-events in 3-disciplines, VK, SKY and ULTRA. But these worldwide events are just the visible face of what the ISF does! Behind the scenes it’s a frenetic highly pressured scene of telephone calls, emails, logistical planning and negotiations that make the Skyrunner® World Series tick.
“We moved here as the sports brand Fila were based here. In the 90’s they were a key sponsor for Skyrunning,” says Lauri van Houten, Executive Director for the International Skyrunning Federation, “When Fila folded, we were left with a dilemma; should we stay or should we go? Stay we did and it feels natural and relaxed to be here now.”
It’s a scenario far removed from 1989 when Giacometti set a record running from the village of Alagna to the summit of Monte Rosa. 25-years of mountain running and today, iconic names such as Bruno Brunod and Fabio Meraldi are once again being talked about in the same breath as Kilian Jornet.
“Older generations were already Skyrunners. My grandfather crossed the mountains working for example. ‘We’ as Skyrunners added more speed but in essence it has always been the same thing, Skyrunners have always existed.” Bruno Brunod says.
“What I liked was going quickly to the summit. I felt the same when I was a kid in the pastures, I always ran up and down the summits that surrounded me. It is something I felt inside, something I liked.”
In 2012, Skyrunning went through a revival. After careful and strategic planning, the ISF launched the new Sky Ultra Marathon Series with Transvulcania La Palma and a seminar, ‘Less Cloud, More Sky.’ The sport moved up a notch and became something that runners all over the world aspired to. It’s been called the ‘the next big thing’ but as Giacometti explains:
“There is nothing new in Skyrunning. It is just now that everyone is catching up with our vision from so many years ago.”
Biella is a wonderful place. Calm and relaxing, to me, it is typically Italian. Located opposite a music school, the ISF headquarters and home of Marino Giacometti and Lauri van Houten resonate a calm and tranquility that seems far removed from the full-on days in and around and Skyrunner® World Series.
The sun shines and the daily bustle of Italian life provides a wonderful soundtrack that penetrates ones’ mind. Cars rumble over cobbled streets as they scoot off to work, mothers are heard chastising their children as they amble to school. The click of an espresso machine and that wonderful noise as pressured water works its way through fresh coffee and the smell, oh the smell! Nothing beats a fresh coffee in the morning. It’s 7am and Marino is kicking off his day with a good strong shot of the dark stuff before donning glasses and opening his computer.
The office is adorned with memorabilia from 20+ years of travel and racing. The door plaque sums it up’ Skyrunners.’ In the corner, magazines are stacked in chronological order documenting a lifetime in sport.
Lauri joins us looking a little tired. Yesterday was another 18-hour day. It’s normal… it shouldn’t be but it is!
“What does a normal day look like for you Lauri?” I tentatively ask, knowing full well the answer.
“How long have you got? I have no idea; I am speechless. I am a person that gets bored easy. This job is NEVER boring! I may have 5-spreadsheets open, 50 e-mails to look at, and a schedule of things to address and amend and then I need to coordinate with athletes, teams, team managers and race directors and media. My day starts with email. I often think oh my goodness and then the first forty or so emails arrive and then a daily grind starts. In addition to this, sometimes language is a challenge. I speak English, Italian, German but I have emails from Russia, Turkey, Greece, Afghanistan and so on. As I said, my day is never boring.”
Trofeo Kima is just around the corner. For many, me included, ‘Kima’ is the epitome of Skyrunning. Kilian Jornet sums it up well when he says:
“Picture a mountain terrain that has no paths, amidst glaciers; it is all crests, rocks, stretches of via Ferrata and all over a course that stretches 50-km. Kima is not athletics, it is mountaineering; pure Skyrunning!”
Preparations are well underway for the race and in just 24-hours we will all need to travel to Milan for a press conference and then a journey will follow to the mountains, to Corteno Golgi and a stay at Marino’s mountain house, the ‘Casina’ before an onward journey to the Kima race itself.
“I m a hub, the person in the middle,” says Lauri. “But often you can’t plan how a day will unfold. I have a ‘to do’ list that obviously needs to get done but then things happen daily that need to be addressed immediately. It’s all about time management and you just can’t stick to a too rigid schedule as the guidelines constantly move and change. Kima is imminent and therefore many questions and problems arise. We also have a press conference in Milan, that requires work.”
Marino looks over at us, he peeps over his glasses and smiles. My question. “Tell me where you come in Marino?” Seems to suggest that I am implying he does nothing.
“Now it’s difficult. We have so many races. I look at race profiles initially and it is easy to see from a quick glance what will and will not make a good Skyrunning race. Remember, my experience was mountaineering but we had to adapt my dreams for a worldwide audience. I look for mountains and mountains provide races and opportunities. I also need to consider locations, countries and how the schedule comes together.”
The phone rings and Marino joins Fabio Meraldi in a conversation. Walking out of the office into the sunlight, Marino strides around the garden in animated discussion. The Italian sounds like bird song and with arms waving and gesticulating, plans are made for Kima and a series of interviews that will be filmed by The African Attachment on a new film about Skyrunning called, ‘Fast and Light.’
“Tell me about Trofeo Kima, because you designed this course, yes?”
“Kima is on the course of the Sentiero Roma. It’s a well known via ferrata route. It crosses the group of technical mountains in the area and passes through all the 7-refuges. We did the race in reverse for safety reasons but it is still a very technical race and ultimately it has become a beacon of Skyrunning. Ironically, for a Skyrunning race the course does not go to the summits! It is just not possible. However, it is a pure expression of Skyrunning.”
It is easy to look at the ISF calendar and see the Skyrunner® World Series and think easy! However, it takes 365-days to make those 15+ days happen. When one season ends, plans start immediately, if not before for the following season.
“We are no longer race organisers.” Lauri says, “We did in the past! We organised many races in logistically difficult places, such as Tibet, Mexico, Nepal and so on. I think we organised over 80-races! The World Series is a collection of races that we coordinate.”
Marino was a visionary and many like to call him the ‘Father’ of Skyrunning.
“Skyrunning differs to other sports and this is the discipline we launched in the late 1990’s. Skyrunning has always existed; all across the world it is just that it became a formalised sport. I therefore consider myself the father of Skyrunning for the aspect of race organisation because when it started 25-years ago nobody talked about this.”
Emails ping on arrival, the phone rings repeatedly and I suddenly realise that our day is going to be way too busy to continue discussing the working life of the ISF. Taking a place at my desk, I open my laptop and get on with my work in preparation for Kima. I sneak an opportunity pre lunch to stroll around the town, take in a cappuccino and photograph Biella. Lunch provides a break and in true Italian fashion, everything stops. It provides an opportunity to relax, take in a glass of wine and eat fresh and wholesome food in a meze style.
“Marino is brilliant,” Lauri says as she pours white wine into my glass. “He took on the role of food shopping and preparation to allow me more time to work on logistics. It really is a life saver.”
Marino is a fit man, he is lean, dark skinned from many hours outdoors and one may well think that is to be expected from someone who heads up the ISF and the sport of mountain running. It would be easy to assume that Marino spends 4 to 8-hours a day on the mountains, fulfilling his dreams and working his ISF role in and around his passion! In reality, Marino cycles or runs for 30-minutes a day. Somewhere deep inside I wonder, does he have regrets and then I find myself asking the question, “Do you regret the decisions you made all those years ago, to race direct and not race?”
“I made my choices. What can I say, for 2 to 3-years I was very disappointed with myself. I had run around Everest for example, but not to the top. Now I can’t go back. It’s a question of mountain mentality; I was born in a small valley, a small village with no sun in winter. You try to survive everyday and this forms your mentality. In my next life I hope to relax and enjoy simple pleasures.”
“But you must have dreams, aspirations. Do you have a bucket list; do you want to achieve anything else?”
“I want to go back to the mountains… it is just a dream! In 2016 I would like to go to the Everest North Face with Bruno and Kilian. I know it is impossible… but I can dream.”
It’s not often that I am stuck for words, but as I look into his eyes I feel sad. To me it seems as though Marino has given up on his personal dreams.
“Do you believe you can only live your dreams when you leave Skyrunning behind?”
“Skyrunning is our baby. But the baby has grown up. We would be lost without Skyrunning and we will be on board for as long as we can but obviously, in the near future we will hand over more duties to other people. Many of the people we work with are all very knowledgeable and passionate. That is stimulating and exciting. Skyrunning is here to stay, as we both are, have no fear!”
MILAN – Trofeo Kima press conference
Milan is not far away and it’s on our way to the ‘Casina’ thus making the Kima press conference logical and workable into a day of travel. We are late but Marino drives like an Italian! A clean white shirt, Armani jeans and Mr ISF looks pretty darn dapper. Lauri is dressed in black with large shades. I suddenly feel very British. Italians do ‘style’ with ease and of course, where better to look sharp than Milan. I have no choice, I am on a working trip and my wardrobe doesn’t extend to looking cool.
It’s hot in the city and the traffic irritates me after the quiet of Biella. Walking into a large office block we are escorted to the 4th floor and Kima delegates greet us. It’s all kisses and handshakes. Old friends meet new friends and the banter is relaxed.