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

Sierre-Zinal 2013 Race Summary

©copyright .iancorless.com.iancorless.orgIMGP0638glacierdezinal

What a race the 2013 and 40th edition of Sierre-Zinal proved to be. It was an exciting nail biter in the men’s race with a new star and the old guard shining. For the ladies, we had a new lady on top of the podium, a repeat performance for second and third and the UK showing how to be consistent and perform at the highest level.

Men’s race

Marc Lauenstein (Suisse) 2:32:14 took home the win from Juan Carlos Cardona (Colombia) who was Kilian Jornet’s pre race prediction by just 16 seconds in what proved to be a fitting climax to an incredible race. Cardona looked as though he had the race won but Lauenstein pulled something special out of the bag in the closing stages. Very little is known about Marc, however, he is a Swiss orienteering competitor and he won silver at the 2005 and 2006 World long distance orienteering championships.

Mountain running legend and Sierre-Zinal course record holder, Jonathan Wyatt (NZL) proved that experience and pure class can outwit the competition for a 3rd place in a time of 2:33:44.

Although entered in the race for some time, Kilian Jornet decided to run only in the days before the race. He was already at the Matterhorn and preparing for his next ‘Summit’. The temptation to drive from Italy to Switzerland was too great, and although he may very well have raced for ‘fun’ he placed fourth in 2:33:59. After the race he tweeted, “Super, super, happy today with Sierre-Zinal. I was here to enjoy the race and I feel super good. Finished in an unexpected 4th with my best crono!”

Robbie Simpson from the UK proved what an incredible talent he is, running for inov-8 he placed 5th in 2:35:32. It’s a world-class performance in a world-class field. A star of the future!

As you will see from my pre race summary, the 40th edition of Sierre-Zinal was such a tough race to call. Stars like Tofol Castanyer (7th), Rickey Gates (9th), Sage Canaday (17th); all proved that predictions are a fickle area to delve into, particularly in a relatively short and tough mountain race like Sierre-Zinal.

Sage Canaday runs a 2:16 marathon and has had repeated victories in 2012 and 2013. Many of those victories have come with course records. Just recently he won Speedgoat 50k ahead of runners like Anton Krupicka, Max king and Timothy Olson. Now of course here at Sierre-Zinal he may well have been running on ‘jaded’ legs. It is a distinct possibility. Post race he said, “Total muscle failure. Mountain racing in Europe is totally different from the US ultra-trail scene.” It does beg a question, are some of the top guys racing too much or do they need to be more specific in training? Certainly Rickey Gates has proven here that US male runners can perform in Europe, as did Anton Krupicka at Cavalls del Vent in the latter part of 2012. What are your thoughts?

On a final note, Cesar Costa (Martigny) has placed second at Sierre-Zinal three times before. For sure, many of us thought that 2013 may well have been his opportunity, however, he finished in thirteenth with a time 2:42:11.

iancorless.orgIMGP0584glacierdezinal

Ladies race

Placing 2nd at Sierre-Zinal in 2012, her first European race, I firmly placed my prediction on Stevie Kremer taking out the win after a stunning twelve months racing. At the finish line, Stevie didn’t disappoint, however, the top spot was not hers. In a repeat of 2012, Stevie placed second, 3:03:12 and Maud Mathys placed third, 3:04:13. It was like déjà vu.

One thing that did change though was the top slot on the podium. Unnoticed by me on the start sheet, Elisa Desco produced a career enhancing performance and she once again proved that after some time away from the sport that good things come to those who wait. Marc De Gasperi (2012 Sierre-Zinal winner) summed it up when he tweeted, “No words enough to say how much YOU deserve this victory! Brava, brava, brava!!!”

Kenyan, Hellen Musyoka set the early pace but in the end placed 4th with a time of 3:04:47 and GB mountain running legend, Angela Mudge proved that experience is what really counts when it comes to Sierre-Zinal with a great fifth place in 3:07:21.

Victoria Wilkinson from Bingley Harries in the UK produced a sterling run to place sixth overall and this was ahead of some sterling competition. For example; 2013 Speedgoat 50k winner, Stephanie Howe placed 11th, Lizzy Hawker 14th (admittedly training for UTMB), Zhana Vokueva 15th and Celine Lafaye 18th.

Without doubt, it was an exceptional weekend of racing and of course, from a UK perspective, it is great to see Robbie Simpson, Angela Mudge and Victoria Wilkinson flying the flag at the front of the top European races.

iancorless.orgIMGP0559glacierdezinal

You can actually watch all the action from the 2013 Sierre-Zinal here:

http://www.rts.ch/video/sport/athletisme/5125770-revivez-la-40e-edition.html

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