The second Scafell Sky Race (SSR) brought not only a large international field of runners to the Lake District, but the strongest line-up of any UK mountain race so far this year. The SSR had increased significance in 2018 as it was a qualifying race for the 2018 Skyrunning World Championships that will take place in Scotland later this year.
Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, France, Greece, Ireland, Malaysia, New Zealand, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Romania, USA and Britain were the nations that made up 196 runners who started the 2018 edition.
The SSR line-up included two stars from the Great Britain (GB) team that earned a team silver medal at the 2018 IAU Trail World Championships, Tom Evans and Jonathan Albon, who placed third and fourth in Spain in May. GB 100K-runner and Dragon’s Back-winner Marcus Scotney, fell-running legend Steve Birkinshaw, and Lakeland 50 course record-holder Casper Kaars Sijpesteijn were just some of the other names in a strong field. The women’s field was equally stacked, with GB trail-runner Sally Fawcett facing competition from GB mountain-runner Georgia Tindley, experienced ultra-runner Sarah Sheridan, Jonathan Albon’s wife Henriette and his sister Beth, and last year’s Lakes Sky Ultra-winner Catherine Slater.
Like its big sister event, Lakes Sky Ultra, which took place on Saturday (read HERE) , 14 July, SSR is owned and organised by Glenridding-based Mountain Run Events. But unlike LSU, it’s designed as an introduction to technical skyrunning and entries are not vetted. The course, created by Charles Sproson, is designed to showcase the very best of the Lakes.
With a fast start on a short section of road then good trails, runners left Rosthwaite at 9am. After climbing past Sour Milk Gill waterfalls, up the Gillercomb Valley to the summit of Green Gable, technical singletrack led past the Napes Needle (where rock climbing originated, in the 1880s), to a classic, technical ascent of the highest mountain in England, Scafell Pike, via the Corridor Route.
After summiting Great End, crossing a boulder field, and almost summiting Bow Fell, a scree descent led to one the best singletracks in the Lakes. Next was the Climbers’ Traverse, then the Band, before runners descended into Great Langdale and a feed station outside the historical Stickle Barn pub.
After a hearty climb up Harrison Stickle, Stickle Tarn was passed, before some easier singletrack-running on the northern side of the Great Langdale Valley, with big views over Grasmere and classic Wordsworth country, leading to the finish in Ambleside.
As expected, in the men’s race Evans and Albon charged off the front, with Sebastian Batchelor initially keeping in touch. The GB trail-running stars arrived at Stickle Barn, about halfway into the race, together. Albon had a faster transition though and gradually pulled away, to arrive first at the University of Cumbria’s Ambleside Campus, in a course record time of 04.26:50.
“The Lakes is an amazing place to run,” said Norway-based Albon. “It was a lot of fun, especially the technical sections, when you get into your flow – if you ignore that there’s a drop off next to you. The second half was more runnable, but hotter – more bearable when we had some wind and cloud cover. The nice, open grassy fells were welcome. It’s interesting doing the techie stuff first – I loved the slabby section, I hadn’t run on stuff like that before – your legs get blasted by all the jarring around, and then you get the long flowy sections afterwards, so your legs need to be in good condition.”
“It was an amazing race,” said Evans, who placed second, in 04:39:57. “It’s different to what I normally do and a course of two halves: the first half was super-technical, and I was way out of my comfort zone, which is great. The second half is more runnable and more suited to me, but it got hot and I slightly misjudged my hydration strategy. I’m super happy though. It’s my first ever skyrace and it was great to race against Jon.”
Sebastian Batchelor (GBR) was third in 04.59:50.
In the women’s race, Georgia Tindley set the early pace, but dropped out after Harrison Stickle. Catherine Slater, too, was suffering on the big climb out of Langdale. Henriette Albon started conservatively but gradually moved ahead and took the win in 05:59:27.
“That was definitely one of the tougher races I’ve done this year,” said Albon. “There was a lot of undulating, rocky terrain, you constantly had to be focused. I was surprised by how much time it took. I remember looking at my watch 15K in and thinking, ‘Phew, this is going to be a long one!’ I liked the grassy sections at the end because I could get some speed, but I liked the rocky bits too. I started slowly and tried to pace it.”
“I loved the race,” said Sally Fawcett, who placed second, in 06:26:16, “even if I was out of my comfort zone for much of the first half. But I was in my element for the more runnable second half. It was pretty much six hours and 26 minutes of fun!”
Catherine Slater dug deep to finish third woman in 06:47:48.
About the race:
The Scafell Sky Race (SSR) is a 42km skyrunning race with 3,000m of ascent on challenging, often technically extreme terrain in the Lake District National Park, going over England’s highest peak, Scafell Pike (978m). Skyrunning in the Lake District is a combination of mountain running and mountaineering, which includes low grade rock scrambling. SSR is an introductory to intermediate-level skyrace and part of the UK Skyrunning Series.
FULL RESULTS HERE
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The names Billy Bland and Nicky Spinks are well and truly cemented in Bob Graham Round cement. Imagine it, covering 66-miles (approx) 27,000ft of climbing and crossing the 42 highest peaks in the English Lakes in under 24-hours.
First completed in 1932 by Bob Graham at the age of 42, the 42 peak round has become the holy grail of the fell running world. Just to complete it in under 24-hours is considered by many to be enough, but to set a FKT (Fastest Known Time) is something else.
How does one break the record?
In 1932 Bob Graham took pacers and company to help him in completing his round. It is an ethical and practical approach that the club encourages, and is committed to continue to require as a criterion for membership.
In light of the above, the criteria for Club membership were set down back in 1972. The criterion regarding having one’s arrival at each summit witnessed remains as valid today as ever.
From the Club’s perspective, solo attempts will, for safety reasons, not be recognised or considered for club membership (this includes partly solo rounds, i.e. a round that is only partly witnessed). One of the Club’s purposes is to encourage attempts. The potential risks to a contender are significantly increased should a contender chose to travel solo for around 24 hours in the Lake District mountains. Having company in the mountains enhances the safety factor.
The risk of losing a contender in the mountains may seem far-fetched but there have been deaths of fell runners during much shorter fell races. It is understandable that there is no desire to repeat that experience in a Bob Graham Club context. Were the Club to recognise solo completions for membership, it’s no great step in the minds of loved ones left behind to see that as an endorsement, nay an encouragement, of solo attempts; and families may feel that the Club (which is an unincorporated body) and therefore its Officers should bear some responsibility for a dreadful turn of events.
One claim made for modern GPS devices is that they can provide both veracity and a form of safety, however there have been fraudulent attempts to secure membership over the years; the advent of modern technology to validate a round neither mitigates the safety issue nor removes the ability to defraud.
Allied to solo attempts are attempts where a form of reciprocal witnessing takes place: contender A witnesses contender B and vice versa. This is acceptable, and there have been several such rounds over the years, but not recommended.
There are many accounts of multi-contender attempts having to split up. The most common reason is simply that most people go through a significant bad patch, often for several hours, and hoping that these coincide is hoping for too much. If contenders do have to separate, safety margins are hugely reduced. Pacts not to separate are all well and good at the Moot Hall before setting off but can unravel under the physical and mental pressures of the day. Again if the party has to separate, then the attempt will effectively be over in terms of obtaining membership of the Club.
In summary, the witnessing rule has always been in the Club’s Guidance Notes, and always will be. It is grounded in safety. Clearly in limiting the only help on the fells to a co-contender (who may be in a pretty poor physical state should problems arise), there is a significant reduction in the safety margins for the individuals. Usually a support team of two persons per leg should be adequate, but the decision on the number of supporters and pacers is of course up to the individual.
– Bob Graham Club
Billy Bland’s time of 13 hours and 53 minutes is a milestone and many have questioned, can that time be bettered?. Despite years of trying nobody has really come close; time has stood still. The ladies record set by Nicky Spinks of 18 hours and 12 minutes was set in 2012. Nicky has long been a pioneer of the Bob Graham Round.
That however all changed just yesterday, Saturday April 23rd.
Jasmin Paris, a respected fell and mountain runner, set a new ladies benchmark of 15 hours and 23 minutes. This time is OFF THE SCALE!
Not only does it obliterate the 2012 time of Nicky Spinks but it comes remarkably close to Billy Bland’s time of 13 hours and 53 minutes.
This is just fell running, a low key sport that takes place in the heart of England. Believe me though, in terms of running, this record is one that should be shouted from the rooftops.
Jasmin is a low-key athlete, who hides away from the spotlight despite incredible performances. She races regularly, almost too much some may say. Her response has always been, I have a job and I run for fun and pleasure.
I’ve been saying it for some time, JASMIN PARIS is one to watch and this year, Jasmin will run on the world stage taking part in many Skyrunning events and UTMB.
The dark horse is no longer, the dark horse…
Many congrats Jasmin
Information on the Bob Graham Round HERE
Morgan Williams, Bob Graham Round secretary discusses the BGR in-depth HERE
Listen to Nicky Spinks on Talk Ultra HERE
Listen to Rickey Gates talk Bob Graham Round HERE
Skyrunning UK is booming. Already this year we have had the V3K, Peaks Skyrace and the recent ground breaking Salomon Glen Coe Skyline.
Attention now turns to the True Mountain Lakes Sky Ultra.
A Lakeland course that offers elevated ridgelines, breathtaking exposure, fast travel on technical mountain terrain and some classic Lakeland scrambling. Race directors Charlie Sproson and Andrew Burton say, ‘Fell running on additives. This is Skyrunning™.’
Race date is September 12th and race entries close on September 6th, so you have time to gain a last minute entry in what will be a very special race.
It’s a race route that follows on quite nicely from the Salomon Glen Coe Skyline in that the True Mountain Lakes Sky Ultra has plenty of vertical grind (4300m+), grade 3 scrambling, knife edge arêtes and all over 50km’s of challenging terrain.
It’s not a race for the feint hearted and this is reflected by the start list.
Starting on the streets of Ambleside, arguably one of the most important town in the English Lakes, runners will run this challenging course via a fully way marked route.
Who is running?
Eirik Haugsness has been racing the Skyrunner® World Series for several years and he is the 2014 champion of the Tromso Skyrace. His presence in the English lakes is an exciting prospect as he will attempt to do battle against local talent.
Ricky Lightfoot needs no introduction to Skyrunning and fell running aficionados and without doubt he is a favourite for overall victory on what for him is home soil. Ricky has already had a string of top performances in 2015, can he add the LSU to the list?
Es Tressider recently raced the Glen Coe Skyline and ran much of the day in 2nd place. Unfortunately, Es faded in the latter stages of the race and missed the podium. Es’s experience in the mountains is quite incredible and if recovered, we can certainly expect him to mix it up at the front of the race.
Damian Hall in 2015 has raced The Spine, The Dragons Back Race and just finished 32nd at UTMB (2nd Brit). LSU only comes 2 weeks after the Mont-Blanc monster so Damian may well be a little tired; we can’t rule him out though!
Ben Bardsley is an experienced fell runner and ski mountaineer. In the past he has raced at classic Skyrunning races such as Zegama-Aizkorri. Ben’s current form is a little unknown but he’s one to watch for sure.
Chris Stirling has had excellent performances at the Langdale Horseshoe, Three Shires, Great Lakes Race and has preparing for LSU for several months. His presence almost certainly will be felt at the front of the race.
In the ladies’ race, V3K winner and 3rd placed lady at Glen Coe Skyline, Sarah Ridgway makes an appearance and if recovered we can expect her to contest the podium once again.
But Beth Pascall comes to the race with a set of solid results. She has placed 2nd at Lakeland 100, won The Spine, placed 2nd The Dragons Back Race and for me is the most likely lady to top the podium on the 12th September.
Shiri Leventhal has placed on the podium of multi-day races in the 4 Desert Series and in 2013 was 2nd lady at the Everest Trail Race. This course will provide a test to Shiri but it’s one that she can rise too!
Finally, Victoria Mousley is another hot contender for the top of the podium. Her experience on courses such as The Three Peaks, Tour of Pendle and Scaffell Pike Marathon will set her up nicely for a great run at LSU.
Race details can be viewed here: HERE
Course map here: HERE
RACE ENTRY HERE (open till September 6th)
Skyrunning UK at http://www.skyrunninguk.com
After several weeks of travelling, it was lovely to get out in the Lake District at the weekend. Some hiking, camping and basically just being with the people I love to be with. Even the rain (every now and again) couldn’t stop me appreciating the beauty that is at home.
If you have never taken time out to appreciate this part of the UK, do so, you will not be disappointed.