Running and ultra running really is booming in Portugal. Carlos Sa and Ester Alves amongst others are paving the way. Madeira, an island in the Atlantic Ocean lies west and slightly south of mainland Portugal and it is an incredible natural landscape that cries out for challenging races. Madeira is of volcanic origin with extremely rugged topography, as such, it’s the perfect location for a Skyrunning race.
The USM is a technical mountain race which consists of steep slopes and trails covering a distance of 55km and 4000m of vertical gain. It is no ordinary race and one that combines mixed elements in a wonderful natural playground for the adventurous runner. Comprised of passages which require technical climbing expertise of grade 2, stunning mountain scenery, mountains, sea cliff landscape plus the addition of an up river boulder hopping scramble; yes, the Ultra SkyMarathon Madeira is a unique race.
Starting in the town of Santana, a northern municipality of Madeira Island,the runners soon head up a climb of 1400m to Encumeada Alta (1750m). Cloud inversion happens often here and suddenly runners can feel as though they are floating. In the distance as altitude changes, islands appear in and out amongst a sea of clouds.
“The views when the mist lifted were incredible,” said Ricky Lightfoot, 2015 champion. “It was almost as though I was running in another race.”
“‘USM is one of, if not the hardest race I have ever done,” said US based mountain runner Stevie Kremer. “The terrain is relentless and conditions underfoot just make it so much harder than others.”
For the first time, the island of Madeira, Portugal, will feature on the Skyrunner® World Series. The 55 km course with a brutal 4,000m vertical climb will welcome runners from across the globe up for the challenge.
Anna Frost, fresh from a 7th place at Transvulcania is just one of the competitors who loves skyrunning and island-hopping. Speaking to Lauri van Houten she says:
“This place is incredible. The diversity of nature, the amount of vertical that you get immediately from the sea is breath-taking. The colour of the water is like nothing I have ever seen. I have stopped so many times to say “wow”! The organisers and community runners have made me feel at home already. I don’t want to ever leave…”
Frosty will be joined by Americans Hillary Allen, who is looking strong after her 5th place in Transvulcania and Kristina Pattison who is now fit and fired up to compete in Madeira after a recent illness and a a late withdrawal from Transvulcania.
Strong competition will come from Spaniards Gemma Arenas (6th) and Anna Comet, who placed third overall last year in the SWS.
Cristofer Clemente from Spain, second on the 2015 SWS Ultra ranking and in last year’s race, is among the men’s favourites with new-entry Remigio Huaman from Peru who finished 7th at Transvulcania. The line-up includes Philipp Reiter from Germany who has been missing from racing for some time, Jan Bartas from the Czech Republic, Dimitrios Theodorakakos from Greece, Pau Bartolo as well as competitors from Japan Skyrunning.
Nuno Silva and Ester Alves, 2015 Portugal National Champions, will no doubt perform well on home ground after placing respectively 3rd and 2nd last year.
Notable absentees include Mira Rai with a stress fracture and Paul Hamilton who will sadly miss the whole season. Also, Alicia Shay and Chris Vargo are unable to race (they have had to return to the USA) even though they travelled to Madeira directly after two great runs in La Palma at Transvulcania Ultramarathon.
Other runners to watch out for:
- Elisabet Bertran
- Anna Strakova
- Luis Fernandes
- Martina Valmassoi
- Franch Pons
- André Jonsson
- Rick Floyd
- André Rodrigues
- Hidenori Fukuda
- Lucia Franco
- Santiago Soria
- Zuzana Urbancova
- Tiago Silva
- Hana Krajnik
- Ron Braz
- Sachiko Kotani
- Albert Herrero
- Yukari Fukuda
- Mindaugas Grigas
The Madeira Ultra SkyMarathon®, now in its third year, perfectly embodies the sea-to sky concept pioneered by skyrunning – with some very technical stretches up to Grade II, and a via ferrata sections just below the island’s highest point at 1,861m altitude.
Course records: Ricky Lightfoot 6h09’56”. Stevie Kremer 7h33’37”
Anticipation mounts for Saturday’s race where the top runners can be followed with our new live tracking system.
Current Ultra Series ranking
The 2016 Skyrunner® World Series is brought to you with a new management company, Geneva based SkyMan SA
SkyMan SA is pleased to present a new Main Partner, Migu Xempower, a Chinese exercise and health management platform which also counts a rich experience in organising marathons, city and mountain races for millions of runners.
The well-established, Sky, Ultra and Vertical format is joined by the Extreme Seriespresented by Alpina Watches, which more than ever expresses the true spirit of skyrunning defined not only by distance, but vertical climb and technical difficulty.
Skyrunner® World Series is supported by Migu Xempower, Alpina Watches, Compressport, Salomon and Scott Sports.
iancorless.com is the official photographer and media partner for the Skyrunner®World Series Follow on:
Follow the Skyrunner® World Series on social media platforms