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.
The fourth Lakes Sky Ultra (LSU)again demonstrated both the allure of the Lake District andthe international appeal of skyrunning, with runners representing Austria, France, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Poland and Romania(as well as Britain) all arriving in Ambleside.
As the elite field of 74 runners began the ascent of Dove Crag (via Low Pike and High Pike), Great Britain-international trail-runner Rob Sinclairtook an early lead. By notorious Striding Edge the Scot had a 10-minute advantage and as the day progressed it looked like he might break the course record of 7:30:27.
The first half of the course includes around two-thirds of the 4,500m of ascent and the majority of the technical ridge running, with the second half being faster, more runnable terrain.
Ultimately Sinclair arrived at the finish line in Ambleside just 10 minutes off the record. “The race was brilliant,” he said. “It was a really good run. It was super hot, but I felt good in the heat today.”
“I loved the race,” said second-placed Tim Campion-Smith (GBR), who won last year’s sister race, the Scafell Sky Race (which takes place on Sunday 15 July). “It was super fun. The first five hours were great. Hours five to seven were pretty bleak. But then it was a nice little run in to the finish. The blueberries were out too, so I stocked up on a few calories.”
“The other two lads were just a different level today,” said third-placed Andy Berry(GBR), who was 13 minutes faster than his winning time last year. “I don’t have that in the tank at the minute. Pinnacle Ridge [a particularly technical and exposed section where runners use safety ropes] was superb.”
In the women’s race, New Zealand-born GB international trail-runner Sophie Grant, who placed second at LSU in 2016, won by over two and a half hours, in a time of 10:14:41. “This is a race with service!” she said as she was sprayed with water at the finish line. “I’m feeling way better now. Thatwas fantastic. It’s just such a cool race.”
Kate Simpson (GBR) was second in 12:37:38, with Jenny Yate (GBR) third in 12:51:35. “I’m really chuffed with that,” said the Helm Hill runner. “I really enjoyed it up till Patterdale [30K into the race], then it got tough. The climb up High Street just went on forever. Coming off Red Scree [the final descent] seemed to go on forever, too. The marshals were amazing the whole way round. They were egging me on, telling me I was second lady, which did put some pressure on!”
Lakes Sky Ultra (LSU) is a 56km skyrunning race with 4,500m of ascent on extreme terrain in the Lake District National Park. Skyrunning is a combination of mountain running and alpinism, where scrambling/rock climbing is likely. For LSU, runners are vetted to ensure they have appropriate levels of experience in the mountains. The race is part of the UK Skyrunning Series.
Episode 159 of Talk Ultra is a Bob Graham Round special with a full and in-depth interview with Kilian Jornet. In addition, we bring you two interviews with Paul Aitken and Steve Birkinshaw who helped pace Kilian, amongst others, on this record breaking FKT.
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EXCITEMENT AHEAD OF THE SCAFELL SKY RACE AND THE LAKES SKY ULTRA
The English Lakes provides a great area this coming weekend when many of the UK’s best Skyrunner’s descend on Ambleside to participate in the first two races of the 2018 Skyrunner UK National Series.
SCAFELL SKY RACE
The 40km Scafell Sky Racetakes place on July 15th. It is a pure mountain race with 3000m of vertical gain. At times, it is a technical race and uses a multitude of single-track. In 2017, the amazing Lucy Bartholomew, who recently placed 3rd at the iconic Western States said, “The Scafell Sky Race is the most technical race I have ever done!”
In 2018, the race has significant importance as it is a qualifying race for the Skyrunning UK National Team that will participate at the 2018 Skyrunning World Championships at Glen Coe in Scotland.
18 slots are available, 6 per race – VK, SKY and ULTRA and places will be awarded as follows:
1. Ranking places – 6 in total.
2 entries are awarded, male and female, to the two top ranked athletes in VK, SKY and ULTRA categories based on the Skyrunning ranking.
2. Qualifying places – 4 in total.
2 entries are awarded, male and female, for SKY and ULTRA (4 entries in total) based on the results from Scafell Sky Race.
3. VK places – 2 in total.
2 entries for the VK will be awarded for any UK athletes who show previous experience/ results on the Vertical Kilometer World Circuit or via Scafell Sky Race.
4. Merit places – 6 in total.
2 entries are awarded, male and female, for VK, SKY and ULTRA based on the discretion of Skyrunning UK.
In the event of an invited athlete being unable or wishing not to take a place in the National team, Skyrunning UK will roll down the Skyrunning ranking (point 1), roll down the results from Scafell Sky Race (point 2), scroll down VK experience (point 3) and use discretion to award merit places (point 4).
In all scenarios, the final decision rests with Skyrunning UK.
So, who are the hot contenders for the overall podium places in the Scafell Sky Race?
Skyrunner World Series Champion and multi OCR World Champion, Jon Albon heads-up the field and will almost certainly be the man to beat come race day. But rest assured runner’s, Jon gets an auto entry in the Skyrunning UK National Team for the world champs, he has decided to race the ultra-distance event.
Marcus Scotney has won the Dragons Back Race, The Cape Wrath Ultra and is an ever-present in a GB vest. He loves the mountains, technical terrain and racing hard. He will, without doubt be a prime contender for a podium slot.
Tom Evans is a late entry and has been a revelation since placing 3rd at Marathon des Sables in 2017. What has followed is a whirlwind of races and great performances. In early 2018 he obliterated the course record at The Coastal Challenge ahead of Hayden Hawks and recently he placed 3rd at the IAU World Trail Championships.
Steve Birkinshaw needs no introduction the fell and mountain running, he has been there and done that. He recently said to me that he lacks speed these days but just last weekend he paced Kilian Jornet on leg 4 of his Bob Graham Round record, so, his slow is most people’s fast!
Sally Fawcett is an experienced mountain runner and has represented GB. She won the Lakeland 50 and has placed highly at the World Trail Championships.
Sarah Sheridan has raced many of the UK series races and has had great results recently at 9th place at the Maxi Race Ultra in May 2018 and she was 6th place at the UTMR in 2017.
Ones to watch:
Casper Kaars Sijpesteijn
The race starts at 0900 from Seathwaite Farm and the first runner can be expected in Ambleside around 1330, however, remember, this may well be a fast year… arrive at the finish early! The route is a classic to be reckoned with. Participants willsummit England’s highest mountain and traverse some of the most challenging trails in the central Lake District via sections of scree and light scrambling thrown in. Scafell Sky Race is a serious test of nerve, skill and endurance.
LAKES SKY ULTRA
Relentless, technical and designed to test you to the limit. The 56km race with 4500m of ascent requires a rounded athlete with experience, has mountain running strength, endurance, speed, balance and skill to the maximum. From grassy trods and well-worn mountain paths, to bare rock and scree, open fell, bogs and tussocks, the race is the ultimate test.
Inspired by the great Sky races of Europe, Lakes Sky Ultra™ is a technically demanding course that requires athletes to be vetted to ensure that only the most experienced will tackle this ultra-distance route.It contains ridges and one of the most gravity-defying scrambles the Lake District has to offer. Racers need a good head for heights and nerves of steel: their going to traverse three of the most iconic ridge-lines in the Lake District: Swirral Edge, the knife-edge of Striding Edge and the very alpine and technical Pinnacle Ridge.
The Scafell Sky Race being a UK qualifier has certainly impacted on the LSU but a great line-up of runners are set to do battle on the fells. Andy Berry will be racing hard for a repeat win at the LSU and is certainly one of the favorites for the top podium spot. James Elson is an experienced ultra-runner and ever-present on the UK scene. Has had great success at the 100-mile distance and has figured in the top ranks at Lakeland 100. Jarek Czuba made the podium V3K and Jason Millward was 4th at the 2017 Lakes Sky Ultra, can he make the podium this year? Rob Sinclair is a major contender for the overall victory, he won KMF 50 and smashed the record, set by Donnie Campbell in 2016, by 18-minutes. Tim Campion Smith was the winner of the 2017 Scafell Sky Race and this year steps up to the big brother, also watch out for Andy Bryce who placed 3rd last year, although he is going for the double! Sophie Grant heads up a small contingent of ladies who are taking on the LSU challenge. She is the overall favourite for victory after placing 2ndin 2016 and don’t be surprised if she does not impact on the overall ranking.
The race starts at 0700 on Saturday July 14th. First runners are expected in Ambleside around 1400hrs and the race cut off is at 2100.
All information for the weekend can be found at the race website
It all dates back to 1932 (actually earlier) when a certain Bob Graham broke the Lakeland Fell record by traversing 42 fells and peaks within a 24-hour period, he ran 23:39. The ‘round’ has since become synonymous with fell runners as a bucket list item to do.
In 1960, Alan Heaton lowered the record to 22:18 and it dropped over the years to 17:45 by Mike Nicholson in 1977. But it was in 1982 when Billy Bland stormed around in 13 hours 53 minutes that set the benchmark that stood the test of time; 36-years to be exact.
Bland’s record has been considered almost untouchable… many have tried, but the difficulty of the route, the distance the elevation gain and loss, the need for a team of helpers to run the legs and of course the weather, all must combine for a perfect storm.
In 2016, Jasmin Paris ran 15:24 and suddenly the ‘impossible’ started to look possible. Read Here
Fell runner’s looked at Paris’s run and realised that Bland’s time was possible. It was something that Bland himself agreed on. He has often stated that the record is there to be broken and he couldn’t understand why nobody had.
The route can be run clockwise or anti-clockwise and starts at the Moot Hall in Keswick.
The summits are as follows:
Threlkeld *road crossing point
Dunmail Raise *road crossing point
Pike O’ Stickle
Wasdale Campsite *road crossing point
Honister Pass *road crossing point
Moot Hall, Keswick
Kilian Jornet has always been interested in the history of running and the Bob Graham Round has certainly been on his radar for some time. However, his Summits of My Life project had most certainly been a priority ever since 2012. But in 2017, this project was complete and he was now open to new possibilities. In September he came to Scotland to race the Glen Coe Skyline, a race that he won. He had considered an attempt at the ‘Bob’ before or after, however, conditions in September were not ideal, so, the project was shelved.
In early 2018, Kilian suffered an accident in a SkiMo race, he broke his leg, this put him out of action for months. However, he dedicated himself to recovery. At times using cycling to keep aerobic fitness and then when allowed by doctors, he returned to the mountains. Not running, just doing big days with the aim of regaining mountain fitness without damaging his fragile leg.
In June, Kilian could see light at the end of the tunnel and he decided, after clearing with medical teams, to return to racing at the Monte Rosa Sky Marathon (here). In all honesty, it was the perfect return event… You see, Kilian has very much based his career around Skyrunning following in the footsteps of Giacometti, Meraldi, Brunod and De Gasperi. The event had not run for 25-years but the Monte Rosa Skymarathon was ‘the’ event that created the sport of Skyrunning. Racing in teams of two, Kilian teamed up with his partner, Emelie Forsberg and the duo created a new part of history… Emelie dictated the pace for the duo and in the process set a new FKT for Alagna-Monte Rosa- Alagna. Kilian was back?
Well, even Kilian was unsure? In his words, “Next week I run the Mont Blanc Marathon, this is a fast running race and I am just not sure how I will feel with such an effort? My leg feels good but this will be a test!”
Mont Blanc Marathon arrived one week later and amongst a world-class field, Kilian won. It was an incredible return and one that confirmed that Kilian as the supreme sportsman that he is.
What was next?
Well, in Monte Rosa, I had discussed the ‘Bob’ with Kilian and he said it was on the cards, and that he just needed the window of opportunity, the weather and the correct people in place.
Cut to early July, just day’s after Mont Blanc Marathon and Kilian arrived in the Lakes. He was on the fells and doing a recce of the route. The weather window was good and with some frantic planning, an attempt was put together.
0600, July 8th. Kilian departed the Moot Hall, Keswick on his first attempt at the Bob Graham Round.
It’s important to clarify and Kilian is the first to acknowledge this, that any record attempt on the ‘Bob’ is not possible without the right people. For clarification, to run an official Bob Graham Round you must have runners with you at all times to help pace, navigate and confirm that you reach the summits. The Bob Graham Round club are very active in helping with this process. It is allowed that these ‘pacers’ can mule for the runner.
Kilian had a line-up of pacers that are world-class, nothing else would do! Let’s face it, if the record was on, he’d need people that could not only navigate the best lines and route, but also be able to keep up! Somewhat intimidating to know that you will need to run with the best mountain runner in the world.
The route is broken down into ‘legs’ and the pacers work on certain legs and are then replaced by fresh runners for the next leg – for the pacers and navigators, it’s like a relay. For Kilian, it’s an all out run as fast as you can loop.
Early reports came in that he was 6-7 minutes up on the record – I posted this around 10:20am so Kilian had already been going 4-hours.
At 11:23 I posted that Kilian was on leg 3 and had 21-minutes on Billy’s time. It was getting exciting… Temperatures were rising and Kilian had a sting of supporters.
I had reports coming in from friends on the course and I was doing my best to build a picture of Kilian’s progress. I joked that Kilian was moving so fast that by the time I had an update, it was old news.
It soon became clear that the record was not only on, but it may will be obliterated.
Kilian arrived at Dunmail with 4:30 elapsed and this placed him 30-minute UP on Billy’s record.
It was a hot day though, anything could happen…. And what about Kilian’s leg, would it hold up to the relentless fells?
At Harrison Stickle, Kilian arrived at 11:51 am with approximately 5:51 elapsed – the record was really on and excitement started to grow.
Image copyright Paul Taylor
Bowfell came at 12:45 with 6:45 elapsed. He was looking fresh and reports confirmed that he was moving well.
The pace was relentless and the support incredible.
Image copyright Fellrunningbrief and Kim Collison
Good friend and experienced fell runner, Kim Collison confirmed that Kilian was 34mins UP on the record at Scaffell Pike – history was being written on the Lakeland fells!
Social media became a frenzy of Bob Graham hashtags and by early afternoon, many began to realise history was going to be re-written, a 36-year record was going to fall barring a disaster.
The Moot Hall, Keswick soon became a new meeting point for Sunday night as runners from over the UK made the journey to welcome Kilian home.
Image copyright Amelia Hunt
Amelia Hunt confirmed that Kilian passed Yewbarrow at 14:00hrs – that placed home approximately 40-minutes up on the record.
Kilian passed Gable at 16:10hrs.
As Kilian entered a network blackout area, a lack of updates left questions on how fast he was going and then suddenly I had a confirmed report that he was approximately 45-minutes ahead of Billy’s record… was this possible? Was it possible that he could be going so fast?
Image copyright Andy Jackson
Andy Jackson ran from Grey Knotts with Kilian and confirmed he was flying “Ran from Grey Knotts with Kilian and pacers. He stopped for 2mins for food and drink and pushed on. Had a great team with him: Scoffer, Paul Aitken and Steve Birkenshaw.”
Image copyright Honister Slate Mines
Finally an update came from Honister Slate Mines at 1700 hrs +/-.
Kilian passed Dalehead at 17:26hrs and now sub13 was looking possible!
Image copyright the lakes mike
Kilian arrived at the final summit Robinson at 17:52 – the record was going down and by a big margin!
At 18:20hrs Kilian arrived on the road at Little Town and before we knew it, he was at the Moot Hall.
New record 12:52 (tbc) – 1h 01m quicker than Billy Bland – wow!
As I write today, I still struggle to comprehend the speed at which Kilian completed this route and a huge credit must go to the team behind this. Kilian had the ‘best of the best’ to pace and navigate him. Without them this could not have happened. He had perfect weather, maybe a little too hot for some? And the ground conditions were ideal enabling a fast time.
Like I said, it takes a Perfect Storm for a record to happen. But Billy’s record was just beaten, it was elevated to a whole new level. Just think, Billy’s record has stood for 36-years, how long will Kilian’s stand for?
Records are made to be broken and this is one record that elevates Kilian to a whole new level and I think finally, he may well get the respect from many who have said that he is not a ‘runner!’ With this record, he has done something so special, it is a great sporting achievement that should be embraced by all. It’s not fell running, mountain running, ultra running, Skyrunning or any label, it is just running – let’s embrace it for that.
Kilian undertook this FKT attempt in the true spirit of the ‘Bob,’*it was low-key, without grandeur, without PR, without announcement, without film crews or photographers – it was man agains the fells. It says a great deal about the man and his character, he is a true ambassador for the sport. Post his finish in Keswick, he returned to the steps of the Moot Hall and sat for a hour with the assembled fans to ‘give back’ as he chatted and posed for photos.
Sporting achievements come and go, some truly last the test of time. Billy Bland’s record stood the test of time and now we have a new level. I personally can’t foresee this record being broken for many a year? But in year’s to come, I will be able to look back at July 8 2018 and remember that I witnessed a truly great sporting achievement by a truly great man. The word legend is used a great deal, in Kilian Jornet we have a living legend.
I will be interviewing Kilian on July 10th or 11th and his interview will be on Episode 159 of Talk Ultra podcast (Here). It will also be transcribed and post as word interview on this website.
*It came to light after the event that Lymbus employed a film crew and photographers to document Kilian’s BGR. At the time off writing this was unknown to me and I think to the general public. I still stand by the fact this attempt was low-key and without fanfare. Having now interviewed several of the pacers who helped Kilian on the legs, they have also confirmed that Kilian was ‘in the true spirit’ of the Bob Graham.
The 2017 Lakes In A Day (LIAD) in contrast to the idyllic 2016 LIAD was a brute! Renowned for beautiful landscape, blue skies and rolling and splendid mountains, the Lakes can also be a grey and brutal place.
As hundreds of runners arrived in Calbeck before the 0800 start, much of the talk was about the day ahead. It wasn’t the 50-miles north to south and the 1000’s of meters of vertical gain, it was, rightly so, what will the weather do?
Initial forecast earlier in the week had looked horrendous, trace morning greeted the runners with a brighter prospect. It was going to rain, that was for sure. The winds come and go and as the day progressed, the grey and wet would gradually clear bringing a drier conclusion.
The dry start gave everyone a false sense of security.
By the time the summit of Blencathra came, what lay ahead was clear for all. The winds were already gusting between 45 and 50mph. At times, it was difficult to remain on the ground as runners angled themselves into the wind fighting the force of nature. Dropping down from the summit, Hall’s Fell provided an intimidating and technical descent all the way to the first control at Threlkeld.
Hall’s Fell for some can be an intimidating section in dry and beautiful conditions, this year, it was intimidating for all – the rock sections ran with water and became like ice. It was four-points of contact for much of the technical sections with steely eye focus (or fear) written across many faces.
From Threlkeld, some easier running precedes the climb to High Fells and Helvellyn. The winds continued to throw the runners around making for a tough section before the drop down to GrisedaleGrisedale Tarn, traverse and then the climb of Fairfield before dropping down to Ambleside via High Pike.
From Ambleside, the course changes completely. The high ground covered, now it’s a journey down the Western side of Windermere though lower-ground, despite prevailing wind and rain, tree cover now offered a blanket of protection all the way to the finish, via Newby Bridge, to Cartmel.
The day was dominated by a strong and consistent performance by Marcis Gubats who crossed the line outside Kim Collison’s course record in 10:18:39. Gubats was an ever-present on the early stages biding his time and by the time he had crossed the Helvellyn summit he had opened a gap which he held all the way to the line.
Much of the talk pre-race had been about Lakeland 50 champ and course record holder, Katie Kaars Sijpesteijn. This lady has been on fire in 2017 with a string of top performances, her most recent coming at Salomon Glen Coe Skyline just 2-weeks previously. The form was there but would she be recovered? On the descent of Hall’s Fell she was 8th and full of smiles. At Grisedale Tarn she was 3rd and still full of smiles. Down the western fells, she moved into 2nd and was in a battle with Jack Casey. By the time the finish line came, Casey had edged away to finish in 10:43:49 and Kaars Sijpesteijn finished 10:46:29 for an overall podium place and an obliteration of the ladies’ record to win the £1000 bonus for a new CR – job done!
Nick Green rounded out the men’s podium in 11:04:07 and Elizaveta Ershova and Liz Barker placed 2nd and 3rd ladies’ respectively in 11:52:54 and 12:50:31.
It was seriously tough 2017 Lakes In A Day reflected in the battle the runners faced to cross the line, some taking almost 24-hours for the 50-mile journey, darkness bringing a whole new dimension to the journey.
I have always loved that simple quote from the movie, ‘Field of Dreams.’ I had the same thought process when I started the Skyrunner National Series in the UK. I was told, Skyrunning in the UK, don’t be silly. It’s not possible.
However, over the last three years the small but perfectly balanced series has gone from strength-to-strength. We had Stevie Kremer and Jo Meek race in year-1. In year-2, Emelie Forsberg, Jasmin Paris and wealth of other world-class talent toed the line.
And last year, the world came to Scotland for the UK’s first ever Skyrunner World Series race. This knock-on effect has seen a sell out 2017 calendar and all the races with in the UK Series personify pure Skyrunning.
The season starts with the V3K in Wales, the series then moves to the Lake District with Scaffell SkyRace and Lakes SkyUltra. Skyline Scotland follows with no-less than three World Series events – in the SKY, ULTRA and EXTREME category, the Mamores VK also joins the new VK Series. Finally we finish in Ireland with the Mourne Skyline MTR.
It’s never good to pinpoint one person, but when Kilian Jornet confirms that he will come to the UK and race in the series. That is worth shouting about!
Roll on June when the series starts – we hope you can join us in what will be the pinnacle of mountain racing in the UK!
Did I mention, he’s having a go at the BOB GRAHAM ROUND too!
Kilian marking his own Skyrunning race, TROMSO in Norway.
It’s a question I get asked a great deal and my answer is always the same – ‘Have you considered inov-8?’
inov-8 has been making shoes for muddy conditions for over 10-years and as such they are my ‘go-to’ brand when I need something to handle ‘off-trail’ conditions such as fell, mountain, open fields, mountain terrain and so on.
I photograph, test and run in many many shoes and no shoes come close to handling thick, sloppy and unpredictable mud like inov-8.
A firm favourite is the Mudclaw 300 which has a 6mm drop. You can read a review from 2016 HERE.
In the last 12-months, inov-8 has tweaked its line of shoes once again and the popular Race Ultra has now become the Trail Talon (one of my favourite trail shoes for dry conditions HERE) and we have the X-Claw 275 (HERE) which is a favourite for me when I want to mix up good trails with mud and rock for longer duration, the 275 version with wider toe box and 8mm drop is perfect.
The X-Talon shoe has been around for sometime as an inov-8 classic and certainly the 212 (6mm drop) is a shoe that I have used time and time again. HERE
Usually, I prefer 6-8mm drop shoes, however, if I am just running in soft mud, a lower drop of 4mm or 3mm is usually fine and providing I am not running for too long it is preferable as I feel lower to the ground and more connected.
The 225 is a 4mm drop shoe with a 3mm footbed and a stack of 19.5mm at the heel and 15.5mm at the forefoot. The lugs are the same as the Mudclaw 300 with 8mm depth.
It’s easy to see from the off that the X-Talon 225 is designed for a more efficient runner and having switched between the Mudclaw 300 and the X-Talon 225 the main differences come with a touch more cushioning in the Mudclaw, otherwise, both shoes feel very similar as they have ‘precision’ fit, same lug depth, similar lacing and a similar feel when running. Obviously, the X-Talon is 25% lighter and that does feel different!
Running off-trail in muddy and sloppy conditions requires control and precision, therefore, the X-Talon 225 is a precision fit shoe. You need your foot to feel controlled and yes, maybe a little tight in the shoe. This is what gives you the control and the security to let yourself go. The only time you would compromise on this precision feel is if you were running for hour upon hour or running a very long race where the fit may cause an issue. Therefore, I see the X-Talon as a perfect shoe for up to say marathon distance – it does depend on the runner?
They are feather light. You pick them up and you know straight away they will be a delight to wear. They are simple and no fuss. Good bumper around the toe with a reinforced section. The upper is durable, lightweight and designed to be breathable and protective. The tongue is lightweight and the laces almost feel inadequate but they really pull the shoe tight and give a wonderful secure feeling around the middle of the foot to offer that security and control that is so essential when running in the sloppy and unpredictable terrain that mountains or fells give us. The heel box is classic inov-8 and wraps around providing a comfortable and secure hold with no rubbing.
The X-Talon is ultimately what is on the bottom of the shoe and as the name suggests, you have a plethora of 8mm talons to provide maximal grip. The compound is DUAL-C as seen in other inov-8 shoes and this works well in transitioning from mud to rock without a compromise on grip. The configuration is designed to shed mud and debris, however, I have yet to find a shoe that when it’s really muddy sheds the mud as I run. Certainly, transitioning from muddy terrain to harder, firmer or dry trail and the mud falls away quickly.
Another key feature is META-FLEX which allows the shoe to bend just in the correct place to facilitate the propulsive phase. One of the tings I love about inov-8 shoes is this really does work! It’s not some name jargon that doesn’t mean anything.
My daily trail run requires me to run a 1-mile of road to the trail and 1-mile home. The X-Talon handles this well and just for kicks, try it yourself – you will here the outsole grip to the pavement and road. It’s quite a feeling! Of course, you want to keep road use to a minimum in a shoe like this – the outsole won’t thank you for rubbing it against such an abrasive surface. Ideally, this is a shoe that you will put on just before you start to run. Rest assured though, the shoe gives a wonderful feeling on hard pack. How wonderful depends on you, your efficiency and your need for cushioning. If you are looking for a shoe that can handle some road, some hardback trail, rocks and some mud – I recommend the X-Claw.
I mix between shoes with a wider toe box such as the Trail Talon and X-Claw and can quite happily use a shoe with a more precision or tighter toe box such as the Roclite, Mudclaw or the X-Talon, so, the precision fit is not a problem for me.
I prefer a higher drop shoe of 6-8mm but the 225 with 4mm felt really great on soft and muddy trails – I didn’t really notice the lower drop and the lightness/ flexibility is a real pleasure.
The shoes are really comfortable and secure. The heel box really grips and the lacing really holds the foot secure. I had no movement or sloppiness.
Toe protection is good. I’ve had a few toe collisions with rocks and had not problems. The 3mm footbed and 15.5/19.5 cushioning is certainly on the minimal side and when running on rocky, dry or stony trails I could certainly feel the ground beneath me. Again, this comes down to choosing a shoe that is fit for purpose and fit for the duration you are running. Again, need more shoe? Look at the Mudclaw 300 or X-Claw 275.
Grip is awesome and few shoes in the marketplace can compare to the grip offered by the 8mm lugs. The compound also works great when transitions from mud to rock – a real winner.
If you need a low drop, lightweight shoe with loads of grip and a precision fit, look no further than the X-Talon 225. This shoe has very little not to like and actually the negatives for some are what make this shoe great:
If all of the above is ‘too’ minimal for you, look at the Mudclaw 300 and if you need a higher drop (8mm), a little more toe width, good lugs but not as aggressive and more cushioning, you can’t go wrong with the X-Claw 275. If I was only going to have one pair of shoes for trail, mud and rock then I would go for the X-Claw. However, if I can pick and choose and use shoes shoes like weapons, the X-Talon 225 would be fast and light shoes for racing a fast and furious fell race, Skyrunning race or even a VK.
Episode 120 – Alex Nichols tells us all about his first 100-miler and how how he won it! Emelie Forsberg tells us about her return to Kima and finding solace and new skills in India. Jasmin Paris is on fire and we sum up an incredible 2016 and ‘another’ round record and finally Speedgoat Karl answers your questions about the Appalachian Trail FKT.
KARL ON THE AT
Some questions from listeners:
Daniel “DJ” Denton Funny: will he burn the van because it has his permanent stench after not showering for over 40 days, and, Serious: did the experience result in a deeper bond/relationship with is father and wife?
Seth Holling What was his thoughts on the smokies? Was the smokies tougher or easier than expected? Would he recommend tacklinnog the smokies first (NB) or last (SB)? Also, did he find a sixer that was left for him at Davenport gap where the AT crosses I-40 🍺
Chris Morgan Ask Karl if he had to push through any injuries?
And if he did how did he do it and did they go away? Or did they become something that needed constant management.
Florian Schuetz What made the difference compared to his previous attempts? Why did he manage to break the time this year? Better fitness, no injuries, mental game, etc.
Brett Slater I’d be interested in his foot care regimen and how he avoids calf issues.
David Nowaczewski Ask him what the heck happened on the day he was found face down on the trail?
Ray Jackson Jr. Ask him how it feels to finally be home and in a place where he can rest without deadlines.
RUNNING BEYOND BOOK is now available in Spain, Germany and Italy and the UK edition will be delivered to UK audiences, USA audiences and Southern Hemisphere audiences from November 3rd: more info – HERE
In the SkyRace (39km) Joe Gray did the double ahead of Tayte Pollman and Patrick Parsel – 4:00, 4:00.3 and 4:11 respectively.
Alicia Shay (now Vargo) won the ladies 4:51 ahead of Kristi Knecht and Sandi Nypaver 4:53 and 4:54
GRAND TO GRAND
Florian Vieux and Emilie Leconte won the self-supported race with Sebastien Nain and Elisabet Barnes taking 2nd.
Became a ‘really’ short race due to bad weather and Dylan Bowman and Fernanda Maciel ran great races to win the 27-mile race
Miguel Heras was back to winning ways with a dominant performance and just missed Kilian’s record. he finished in 12:05.Jessed Hernandez and Cristofer Clemente was 3rd. Cristofer became Skyrunner World Series champion for the Ultra distance.
Gemma Arenas tool the race win and Skyrunner World Series. Hillary Allen and Anna Comet placed 2nd and 3rd in the race.
Jasmin Paris sets another FKT on a UK round in wales
00:29:00 INTERVIEW with Jasmin Paris
Kaci Lickteig and Mick Jurynec/ Ryan Weibel (joint) won in 20:27 and 19:33
Rob Krar was back with a victory at Berkeley Trail Adventure 50 mile
inov-8 ambassador Nicky Spinks, the inspirational cancer-survivor and fell runner, marked her 10 years post-diagnosis by becoming only the second person – and first woman – to complete a DOUBLE Bob Graham Roundin a record time of 45 hours and 30 minutes
Starting at 00.01am on Saturday May 14, the 49-year-old farmer from Yorkshire started her 132-mile route across the Lake District’s highest fells in the hope to complete in under 48 hours.
A standard Bob Graham Round involves a 66-mile circuit of 42 summits including 27,000ft of elevation gain, to be completed in less than 24 hours. Nicky was the previous record holder for the Bob Graham Round – 18hrs 06mins completed in 2015. This record was recently recently broken by Jasmin Paris (read HERE) in 15:24.
Nicky managed to do all that twice; running 132 miles and visiting each summit two times on an epic run that involved 54,000ft of elevation gain. The only person to previously complete a Double Bob Graham Round in less than 48 hours was Roger Baumeister, who in 1979 clocked 46hrs 34mins.
Nicky still has the fastest women’s times for the equivalent 24-hour fell running challenges in Scotland (the Ramsay Round) and Wales (the Paddy Buckley Round).
In her blog, Nicky, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2006, said before the attempt:
“I hope to become the first woman to complete the Double Bob Graham Round in less than 48 hours, maybe even breaking Roger’s record time. The main aim, however, is to enjoy it and celebrate the fact that I am still here, living and running ten years after being diagnosed and treated for breast cancer.”
Well, Nicky did that and then some… it really is difficult to comprehend the mental and physical tenacity that is required for such a challenge.