Emelie Forsberg – Smiles and Miles; I am back!

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Emelie Forsberg is back! She has just won Salomon Glen Coe Skyline and with a stunning course record beating her 2014 time and once again confirming that many smiles and miles are ahead.

“About the pressure, yes, for sure, sometimes you can feel pressure. If you have been winning a lot of races, it’s like people expect you to do that. I was not in good running shape when I let my skis for the summertime. Some of my friends, who don’t run that much, they beat me a lot. I’m not the kind of skier that runs through the winter. I train with Ida Nilsson and she’s running a lot, which makes her in a great shape at the beginning of the season, but I can’t do that because then I’m not the ski mountaineer that I want to be. I just hope everyone realizes that I can’t be in a great shape in the beginning of the season.” – Emelie Forsberg

©iancorless.com_GlenCoe2017-07148An accident while skiing has made the last 12 to 18 months tough. Surgery, rehabilitation and being patient are all tough things for an athlete to manage, especially one as active as Emelie. But Emelie was patient understanding the need for a full recovery and to come back strong. Working on her strength and core she came back slowly and fine honed her yoga skills, she event spent a month in India on an intensive course. Emelie has set the example for how elite runners should return from an accident and surgery.

I caught ups with her post her Glen Coe victory as she settled back into recovery in her Norwegian home before she once again started training for new targets ahead.

You can listen to the interview in Talk Ultra podcast HERE

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Ian: Before we come on to the race, I think the last time we spoke was about your rehabilitation from knee surgery and how you were managing that and of course, there’s been some ups and downs in that process, but you must feel now as though things are almost getting back to normal and the shape is there, the form is there, physically, mentally everything is good?

Emelie: Yes, everything is good now and yes, for sure, there has been a few ups and downs. I know what to do now when I switch from ski to running and my knee is working really well so it’s good. That is the short version…

Ian: Exactly. Well, it’s definitely working well because I saw you running up and down those fells and mountains in Scotland and it reminded me of exactly two years ago, when you came to Scotland and you won the race. You just ran that whole race with a big smile on your face and it seemed as though this year was — I was going to say the same, but I think probably even better.

Emelie: Yes, I think so because last summer I was only doing rehab and that was that. I wasn’t really in shape, but this year, my ski season went really well, but then, in the beginning of the summer, I didn’t really know… I had a lot of things going on. I have been writing a book and I wasn’t sure if I wanted to be ‘only’ a runner for Salomon anymore? But everything has been working out like I want it to be recently, it takes time to try to figure everything out.

Ian: There’s a price to pay for being… and I’m going to use the word famous, you might not like me using that word, but famous in the trail, mountain and ultra-world, and you are. We can argue about the semantics of that word, but you are. That brings a lot of pressure, a lot of people looking on, a lot of people even criticizing or commenting or supporting and, of course, there’s lots of good and bad in that. But have you found in this period, this last 12 to 18 months, that there’s been some pressure there that you’ve tried to escape from? And I guess living in Norway helps with that.

Emelie: Yes, for sure it does, but I can be good and bad with pressure, I think like all the athletes. But I just made it clear for everyone now that I need to make my own plan because I am a skier and I’m a hobby mountaineer or whatever you call it –  light alpinism? I want to improve in that too, so I just made it clear for everyone that I want to take time to do mountains in that style and I want to take time to do my ski season, and then I want to take care of my running, as well. I think the balance now is much clearer for me and my sponsors, which is great.

About the pressure, yes, for sure, sometimes you can feel pressure. If you have been winning a lot of races, it’s like people expect you to do that. I was not in good running shape when I let my skis for the summertime. Some of my friends, who don’t run that much, they beat me a lot. I’m not the kind of skier that runs through the winter. I train with Ida Nilsson and she’s running a lot, which makes her in a great shape at the beginning of the season, but I can’t do that because then I’m not the ski mountaineer that I want to be. I just hope everyone realizes that I can’t be in a great shape in the beginning of the season.

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Ian: I guess in some ways, you’ve almost created a little bit of that pressure yourself, and that’s not a criticism, this is just the facts. If I think back to, say, 2012, 2013, 2014, you and I have often had those conversations, where you’ve come off skis and we’ve been talking about Transvulcania and you say to me, “I love that race and I really want to do it, but I’m not in shape and should I do it, shouldn’t I do it?” and you’ve done it and you’ve always done well.

But I think since 2014, the sport has changed and it’s been changing progressively year on year, now the sport is going faster, it’s changing completely and like you say, somebody like Ida Nilsson, who comes into Transvulcania with a lot more running, it’s very difficult for somebody like you, with such a high profile, to just step off skis and go into a race like that with expectation. Do you wish you could say, “You know, guys, I’m just going to run this because I want to run it and I might come 10th or I might come 20th, but give me a break.” Do you ever feel as though you want to do that?

Emelie: [laughs] Yes, I did that at Zegama. Zegama was really special this year because Kilian was trying his second attempt on the summit of Everest and I didn’t get any news until one hour before the race started. So, I didn’t sleep during the whole night. That was really, really hard. I can always run a race and do okay, but Zegama was really hard because of the stress, worry, lack of sleep and so on.

Ian: That’s an incredible pressure, a really incredible pressure. How do you deal with that?

Emelie: Yes, I just say to myself that in the end, it’s all about what I want to do. I cannot live a life through somebody else’s eyes and I just like to be honest, and if people are listening, they understand, I’m only human.

Ian: Absolutely. Following Zegama, you took a step back and maybe re-evaluated and this is the point where you say to yourself, “You know what? I have to do what I want to do because I know what I need to feel like, I know what training I need to do, I know what mental space I need to be in to perform.” In amongst that, you’ve already touched on the fact that you were writing a book, you’re a race director for the Tromso Sky Race. There’s all sorts of other things going on, but you said to me in Tromso, “I’ve sorted out my calendar now and I know exactly what I’m going to do.” That seemed like a really important process, where you got things clear.

Is that the type of thing now that you’re going to do moving forward and maybe communicate that with the fans, so that you don’t get that external pressure? You lay your calendar out early, or basically you say, “There is no calendar, leave me alone and I’ll tell you when the calendar’s available.”

Emelie: Yes, for sure, I will — it’s important to do the structure, especially as I said, that the beginning of the summer is really changing. Previously, many runners and my peers took a break during the winter and we all came to the races more or less with the same amount of running early in the season. Over the few years, I have realized that ski mountaineering is really important to me. I’m really excited and super motivated to do well there because I love the sport. It’s different from running and it’s something that makes me really happy and motivated to train for and focus on. I will try to or I will make a plan now in November for next year and let’s see if I share it or not. Things can happen and plans can change.

Ian: Okay. As the calendar changed, Salomon Glen Coe Skyline certainly became a priority. When I managed to get you over to the UK in 2014 to run the first edition, you said after that race, “Wow, this race is incredible.” Of course, my dream was not only to bring you back, but to bring Killian and to bring a world-class field. And we did it. This year we really, really did it. I think it’s been not only the best race in the UK, but worldwide. I think the quality of the field; the quality of the course was absolutely stunning. How important was it for you to come back? How important was it for you to come back with, say, Killian and the Salomon team?

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Emelie: First, it was really nice to come back because last year, I wasn’t there. I really loved it, the course, it’s amazing, it’s pure Skyrunning. Yes, for sure, was super nice to have Killian there because I knew that he was going to love the race, which he did. So, great to have a big team there, as well, to see what they were thinking about it.

Ian: Expectations of going into the race? I know what you’re like, I know that when you race, you want to perform well. No disrespect to 2014, but there was maybe yourself and a couple of other runners that could have potentially won the race. Whereas this year, it was completely different. There was plenty of really top female runners who could push you to the line. Does that bring external pressures on you or is that something that makes you bring your A-game to the race?

Emelie: [chuckles] 2014 was special because I had a really big week that week. I think I climbed Mont-Blanc four days before I was going there and I was just pushing really hard… I can’t remember? I was supposed to do another race after that, that I was training hard for. I knew that I was really strong, so I had the confidence to do that then. But this year, I haven’t been running long-distances because of my knee. But since OCC, which was like three weeks ago, my knee has felt good in longer training. I had like two weeks that I could do a bit more hours, which was really good. But two weeks is only two weeks. I knew that Megan Kimmel is super strong, Ragna Debats had a super good summer too and there was so many strong women there. I really wasn’t confident that I could do well and that I would be able to run well after four hours. I was more like, “I’m going to be happy with whatever.”

Ian: The opening miles of the race changed to 2014, because the initial edition was based at the ski center and we realized after year one that actually it brought you to Curved Ridge too quickly and it created a bottleneck for the field. Also, logistically, it wasn’t in the most ideal place for the race growing. So, we moved the race over to Kinlochleven, which means that you have probably a good hour of running before you get to the really first technical section, which is the climb of Curved Ridge. When you got there, you had Megan Kimmel right on your heels. The two of you were together. Were you surprised by that or did you expect it?

Emelie: Yes, for sure [chuckles] I expected that. I expected because she’s a fast runner and I thought that Ragna was going to be with us, as well. But it was Megan who was setting the pace. I just followed her and on the technical part, I was in the front and on the downhill, I was in the front too. But in the uphill, she pushed the pace a lot and I was a bit worried that it was too fast, actually, but I just tried to follow her. Sometimes, she had maybe 30, 40 seconds on me in uphill, but I knew that in the downhill, it was nothing. I just tried to keep my own pace, even though it was a bit fast. [chuckles]

Ian: Yes. Do you think Megan pushing the pace was a contributing factor to a course record?

Emelie: I think so. I think it could have been anyway, but it was a good time and it was good to push in the beginning, because that’s when you have the energy to push. Megan pushed the pace for sure.

Ian: I’ve got to say, I was surprised that Megan handled the technical section so well. Because she openly says that she’s not really a technical runner. I guess at the back of your mind, you knew that when it came to the real crunch moments, the Aonach Eagach Ridge for example, you could use your strength and maybe that’s where you could open up the gap and pull away?

Emelie: Actually, Megan, she’s a good climber…

Ian: Yes, I know, but she always says that she can’t do technical?

Emelie: No. The technical part, she was doing good, actually. She’s a very all-around runner, I would say. She can perform really well in technical races, like Dolomites and Zegama. But she can also win Mont-Blanc Marathon. She’s maybe one of the best all-around runners I know. So, I wouldn’t say that she’s bad on technical, that’s my opinion. In the end, I don’t think that I made a big gap, even though I kept the lead over the Aonach Eagach Ridge.

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Ian: Tell me the highlights of the course and tell me why this race is so special.

Emelie: First of all, I think I need to say that it’s not a race for everyone right now. I think anyone can run it if they train for it and get experience – the race is vetted anyway! But you should have a lot of respect for it. I do and I would never do a race like this if I wasn’t comfortable in climbing Degree III. Because it’s technical, which I really love.

We start with maybe 10K of running, until we come to Curved Ridge, which is the most technical par. Super steep and scrambling up. Then, we follow beautiful ridges with some ups and downs and big climbs. Then, we have a big downhill coming to kilometer 35, where is the aid station, the second one. After that, it’s a very steep climb, like a vertical. I was actually looking to my watch and I think I did the climb in 52 minutes, which I do the same time as the vertical.

Ian: The vertical, yes.

Emelie: Yes, it’s a steep vertical there. Then, the ridge starts, the Aonach Eagach Ridge, which is a beautiful ridge. People tell me that they feel like that’s a technical part, but I don’t see the technical part there. It’s a ridge, which is super nice to be there and run and I don’t see the difficulty there.

Ian: How does the Aonach Eagach Ridge compare to the ridge in Tromsø?

Emelie: For me, it’s about the same, actually. I know that some people find Aonach Eagach Ridge a bit more technical, but I think it’s more or less the same.

Ian: I’ve been along both and I have to say that the Aonach makes me feel a little bit more exposed than the ridge in Tromsø. I think it’s just those couple of down-climbing sections. Nobody likes down-climbing. [laughs] If you’re not a complete mountaineer, and I’m not, I can scramble, I can go along the ridges. But down-climbing really does make you think a little bit. I think maybe for me, it’s those couple of sections and there’s also the rock chimney that you go down, which I find is fine. But I know a lot of people after the race had said to me, “Oh, the chimney was just horrendous.” Because you’ve got to put one hand to either side and put your feet down underneath you. But I guess it just comes down to comfort and experience level.

Emelie: Yes, I see what you mean with the down-climbing. For sure, it’s not any down-climbing like that in Tromsø. That’s the difference. I guess it’s just as you say — I can see the difference, but more or less, for me, I would say it’s the same.

Ian: One of the things that I said to you after the race, and to Killian, was the similarities of Scotland with Norway. If I close my eyes, and apart from a couple of distinctive details, maybe like the midges [laughs], you could feel as though you’re in Norway at times. I guess that really appeals to both yourself and Killian because it feels like home.

Emelie: Yes, for sure. It is like home, but it’s new, so that’s really a cool feeling. The culture is different and the people. Trails are much better there in Scotland because when it’s not technical, you run on a super nice trail, I really like the contrast there, you can run really fast. In Norway, we don’t have too many that well-marked or big trails.

Ian:  With the victory and with the course record, do you feel as though one chapter of your running career is maybe ended and a new point is starting?

Emelie: [chuckles] Yes, in one way because, as I said, I wasn’t sure about how my endurance would be and I know that it’s my kind of race, I love the terrain. In one way, I can be hard to myself and say that win didn’t really matter because it’s so much your kind of a race, but then I know that I’m unfair to myself, that I should be proud of what I’ve done, but I also want to train on my weaknesses, which is to run fast for a longer time. Now, I actually will start to train for Les Templiers, which is a really runnable race, so that’s exciting. I know that it’s really hard for me to go out and run on the road but I will do that, I will find some flatter trails and try to do some speed work on them.

Ian: Okay. The other thing that you did in the UK was the VK. I actually really like that VK course, it’s very different to other VK courses because it starts off and it’s very runnable and then, all of a sudden, it just goes really, really, really steep and it’s very muddy, it’s very slippery. How was your experience of that?

Emelie: Yes, it reminded me of Norway, actually. I knew that it was a VK that would suit me pretty well and I like to do VKs because it’s good training, but I also have been saying for the last few years I’m not a vertical runner, but I have been improving in that and that’s also really cool.

Ian: You’ve said it’s like Norway, there are so many similarities in that VK to your VK in Tromsø. I know the final section is much rockier in Tromsø, but the early meters are so similar to Tromsø, that you could feel as though you were in either place.

Emelie: Yes, exactly.

Ian: How do you progress now? You’ve got Templiers, which is a very different race to Glen Coe. It’s not very technical, it’s going to be a fast race, you’re going to need to move quickly for that. You’ve got to be fast, you’ve got to be endurant for that one because it’s also quite a long race and then what follows that?

Emelie: After that, I will do San Francisco, actually. It has been a race that I wanted to do again. I had one good year there and one not so good year and now it’s actually two weeks earlier, so it fits my calendar better. That’s motivating, as well. It’s going to be the same training as for Les Templiers. I need to speed up and move fast.

Ian: Correct me if I’m wrong, I’m going from memory here, but you won San Francisco 50 on your first attempt/

Emelie: Yes.

Ian: It’s a good benchmark race, I guess. Things have moved on. I’ve not seen the elite field for San Fran yet, it’s probably a little bit too early, but because of the prize money that’s available, it’s going to be very competitive, we know that. Is there anything that you think that you need to do to get yourself in the shape that’s going to give you potentially a podium or a victory?

Emelie: Yes, I need to train flat.

Ian: I can hear the disappointment in your voice…

Emelie: No, actually it’s different and I know it’s not my favorite, but actually it’s really motivating for me because I always want to improve what is my weak side and I have been doing that with uphill running and I’m eager to do it now with my flat running, too, so I’m actually really excited for it. I know that I’m going to be like, “Why do I need to do this race when I run my tempo runs on a dirt, flat road?” But I’m actually motivated for it and it’s going to be really fun because Ida Nilsson, who I consider one of the best flat runners, will also run both races and we’re training together – she’s really pushing me, which is great.

Ian: And you ski together as well, yes?

Emelie: Yes.

Ian: What does 2018 and maybe 2019 look like for you? Do you have a bucket list of races or experiences that you’d like to tick off?

Emelie: I do, actually. I have three or four things that I have planned already for 2018, and one of them is a project in the Himalayas, which I want to do by myself and it’s going to be really exciting.

Ian: That sounds really good! Exciting.

Emelie: Yes.

Ian: My other question, which is actually related to that one. Any dreams of 100-mile race, say, Hardrock 100?

Emelie: Yes, yes, for sure. I think I said this before to you that I really like the distance. I’m fascinated about it. I did Diagonale des Fous for experience but I want to try to race it, I think I could do really well there. I want to wait for it though, maybe five, six years. It sounds a lot, but I know that it will be even better if I wait because I want to do so many shorter distances, up to 80K right now.

Ian: I think that’s a good idea. History shows that 100-mile runners are very, very good or in their peak once they get to mid-to-late 30s and even into their 40s. There’s no issue there and, of course, it’s more years running, more endurance, which you can then carry over to that long distance. You might as well maximize the speed that you have and the ability that you have up to the 80-kilometer distance. Pressured question, will we see you in Glen Coe next year?

Emelie: I really hope so.

Ian: I hope so, too.

Emelie: It really fits in my calendar, so I will be there.

Ian: What about Tromsø?

Emelie: I think so. We’re working with it now and I said that I need to step down a little because there are so many things to do there. I think it’s much better if there’s someone that has more time and take care of it. Kilian and myself are still part of the organization, but I cannot do as much work, so I think for next year, it will be even better than it has been before.

Ian: It’s so difficult to balance a busy life, training, racing and being a race director. You know both sides now, you understand the complexities of that.

I’m going to thank you so much for your time. It’s been great to have you back in the UK, great to have you win the race here in Scotland, great for you to have a course record and great to see you back to the shape you had before your accident.

Roll on Les Templiers and San Francisco 50!

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Salomon Glencoe Skyline 2017 Summary – Migu Run Skyrunner World Series

Kilian Jornet and Emelie Forsberg toed the line with one of the most ‘elite’ fields ever on UK soil for a mountain race. Yes, the 2017 Migu Run Skyrunner Extreme Series stepped up a notch and went Extreme! In Scotland for the Salomon Glencoe Skyline.

‘This’ race truly is one of the best races out there!’ Was the consensus when runners finally made it to the finish line. To get across the tape though requires some endurance, skill and the technical ability to climb Curved Ridge and to cross the infamous ‘Aonach Eagach’ ridge.

In the words of Kilian Jornet, ‘What a cool race! Glencoe Skyline is absolutely one (the one) to do!”

Gaining Skyrunner® Extreme Series status has had a huge impact on this race and like Jornet says, this race has become ‘the one’ to do in addition to the iconic KIMA which will take place in 2018 and Jornet’s and Forsberg’s own, TROMSO SkyRace.

No question about it, the 2017 edition of the race had the greatest field ever assembled for a mountain race in the UK with a who’s who of elite runners with runners coming from all over the world to test themselves on the best course against the best runners.

Coming into this edition, Jornet was the hot favourite, how could he not be? The Catalan didn’t disappoint, he opened up a small gap while climbing Curved Ridge but it all came back together again with Jon Albon, Bhim Gurung, Andre Jonsson, Alexis Sevennec and the USA’s Max King keeping in contention. As they climbed to Aonach Eagach Jornet made his move extending away from Albon. Albon re-caught him though and apparently took Jornet by surprise. Jornet looked around and moved into the next gear pulling away from the 2016 Skyrunner Extreme Champion. By the time he reached the finish line, a new course record was his in 6:25:39!

Last years winner Albon was ‘first human’ in 2nd place in 6:31:45. Importantly for him though, 2nd place confirmed that he would also be the 2017 Migu Run Skyrunner World Series Extreme Champion once again – a great result.

Alexis Sevennec placed 3rd, a race that for him is a little long (his words) but after racing the Mamores VK and Ring of Steel in 2016, he wanted a new challenge, 3rd on the podium 6:40:34 a great result.

Bhim Gurung placed 4th and Max King 5th. King went on to say, ‘This race is crazy, off-the-scale, mad, beautiful and just an outright challenge – it is amazing!’

In the ladies’ race, Emelie Forsberg lead from the gun and although Megan Kimmel pushed her close in the early stages, this race had Forsberg’s name written all over it! She won the first edition in 2015, missed 2016 with injury and now the comeback is complete. Forsberg beamed her amazing smile on the course and after it. ‘I so love this race and Scotland. It reminds me of Norway but it is also so different, just amazing!’ In the process, like Jornet it was a course record performance setting the new level at 7:53:30.

The USA’s Megan Kimmel is not known for her ability on technical terrain but here she excelled keeping on contact with Forsberg early on and then consolidating a strong 2nd place ahead of the indestructible Ragna Debats. The duo finished in 8:14:57 and 8:22:55 respectively.

Importantly, Maite Maiora who won the Royal Gran Paradiso and Tromso SkyRace did not run in Scotland as she already had the 2017 Migu Run Skyrunner World Series Extreme title secure with two victories.

Ever-present in the Extreme series, Malene Bikken Haukoy placed 4th and the UK’s Beth Pascall 5th, their times 8:26:53 and 8:34:14.

The Salomon Glencoe Skyline route features long and sustained sections of scrambling terrain, which is roughly equivalent to moderate standard rock climbing. In addition, the race traverses high and remote mountainous terrain, which is at times impossible to retreat from and may be subject to severe and rapidly changing weather. The day started in glorious sunshine but as predicted, a weather system arrived late morning bringing in cloud and clag, however, conditions remained dry. The crossing off the Aonach Eagach was considered the most challenging part of the route and although rocks were slippery, many considered conditions to be good.

Skyline Scotland 2017 – Glen Coe Skyline Extreme plus VK, SKY and ULTRA

The Salomon Glen Coe Skyline series of races are upon us – a stunning weekend of Skyrunning! From the short, sharp and brutal VK in the VK World Circuit, to the long, demanding and challenging ultra – this weekend will be the pinnacle event of racing in the UK in 2017 and sees three events in the Migu Run Skyrunner® World Series

With the exception of World Championship events or the Olympics, the Glen Coe Skyline events will without doubt have the greatest elite field ever assembled on UK soil of sky, trail and mountain runners. It’s a who’s who of the Skyrunning world with the best all assembled in one place in what will be an absolutely incredible weekend of racing.

Kilian Jornet, Emelie Forsberg, Max King, Caroline Chaverot, Laura Orgue, Jan Margarit, Maite Maiora, Ragna Debats, Alexis Sevennec, Andy Wacker, Pascal Egli, Bhim Gurung, Mira Rai and so many more will head to Scotland.

The highlight event is without doubt the brutal, demanding, challenging and yes, dangerous, Glen Coe Skyline Extreme Race™ which will see 264 vetted runners take on what has become one of the most challenging events in the world. It’s up there with Tromso SkyRace and the iconic Trofeo Kima. Following in the finest tradition of the most prestigious Skyrunning races the race fuses mountain running and alpinism, the extreme race is a pure test of speed, endurance and skill on an uncompromising, world-class course. At 55km with 4,750m of vertical gain, this race personifies Skyrunning, it includes the most challenging Scottish mountain terrain with a traverse of the Aonach Eagach ridge.

Ok, take a breath! Kilian Jornet will race on UK soil and on a course that it is fair to say, exactly his thing! It’s technical, pure Skyrunning, offers an incredible technical challenge – all things the Catalan loves. KJ needs no introduction to anyone, he just placed 2nd at UTMB, he won Sierre-Zinal and he summited Everest twice in one week and he won Hardrock 100 single-handedly, and that is just 2017. To see Jornet race this course in the UK is a dream come true.

But Jornet will have his hands full with Tromso SkyRace winner and GlenCoe Skyline 2016 champion, Jon Albon. Importantly, Albon is tied on SWS points with Nepalese runner Bhim Gurung. These two will have a race within a race, the first past the line will be the Migu Run Skyrunner World Series champion for 2017.

Let’s not also forget that Tom Owens is running! Add to the mix USA legend Max King and world class competition – Hector Haines, Andre Jonsson, Cody Lind, Martin Gaffuri, Pere Aurell, Rolf Einar Jensen, Roger Vinas, Konrad Rawlik and the UK’s Oli Johnson – we have the most exciting race ever on UK soil!

For the ladies, Emelie Forsberg is back to a race that she loves! This race has figured highly on Forsberg’s calendar and she has meticulously prepared in 2017 by slowly coming back to racing after knee surgery in 2016.

Ragna Debats will push Forsberg every step of the way. The lady from the flatlands of the Netherlands is having a stunning year and recently won at the RUT in the USA and placed 2nd at Tromso SkyRace. Caroline Chaverot was unstoppable in 2016, won Hardrock 100 earlier this year but recently withdrew from UTMB after winning in 2016. If she is recovered and fit, she will be a contender for sure, however, the technical terrain will be a challenge.

Other top contenders will be Megan Kimmel from the USA who was unstoppable early season. Malene Bikken Haukoy, Ekaterina Mityaeva, Katie Schide, Kimberly Storm, Natalia Tomasiak, Martina Valmassoi, Zuzana Urbancova, Kelly Wolf, Ann-Marie Madden and the UK’s Beth Pascall.

The weekend kicks off with the Salomon Mamores VK™, an incredible leg burning and lung-busting ascent from sea level to a Munro summit. It is also iconic as it is the UK’s only Vertical Kilometer®. Following the well-established ISF (International Skyrunning Federation( ‘VK’ format, 298 participants will follow a marked course climbing 1000m of vertical gain in less than 5km’s. Departing at timed intervals, it’s like an epic stage of the Tour de France as runners push their limits – the fastest overall time to the summit is the winner!

Stian Angermund-Vik heads up a world-class field for the men and Laura Orgue heads up the ladies’ race. Also watch out for Jan Margarit, Alexis Sevennec, Andy Wacker and Ondrej Fejfar in the men’s race.

Saturday brings us the Salomon Ring of Steall Skyrace™ which is a pure ‘classic’ following in the tradition of Zegama-Aizkorri and the Dolomites SkyRace. It consists of uncompromising mountain running with scrambling along mountain ridges. Traversing ridges are followed by technical ascents and descents, it’s a challenging race to push the most experienced Skyrunner to the limit. The Devil’s Ridge provides a thrilling and airy traverse with Glen Nevis visible ahead, and in total four peaks will be summited.

Last year, in its inaugural event, the race was won by Stian Angermund-Vik and he returns to do battle again! He is going to have a battle on his hands with Skyrunning legend Marco De Gasperi coming to race on UK soil along with Pascal Egli, Jan Margarit, Kiril Nikolov, the Casal Mir brothers of Oscar and Marc, Rok Bratina, Andy Wacker and the UK’s Jayson Cavill and Ben Hukins. It is set to be an epic battle. Egli, Angermund-Vik, De Gasperi and Margarit have all been on fire in 2017 and to see them go head-to-head on Scottish soil will be amazing.

 Laura Orgue heads up the ladies’ race but she also will have a fight on her hands. Laura recently won the RUT VK and SkyRace so comes to Scotland with great form. Maite Maiora though has been unstoppable in 2017 with victories across the Skyrunning calendar, just recently she placed 2nd at CCC. Sheila Aviles is a likely podium contender and yes, maybe even winner after a strong performance at Comapedrossa. Also watch Oihana Azkorbebeitia, Katrine Vilumsen and Laura Sola.

The Salomon Ben Nevis Ultra™ uses remote runnable tracks, technical single track, and airy trackless ridges, the highlight and highpoint coming with a climb and traverse via the Carn Mor Dearg Arete, leading to the summit of Ben Nevis. This is one seriously tough race, especially when one considers the demanding 120km course and 4000m + of vertical gain! Starting from the southern shore of the world-famous Loch Ness, the Salomon Ben Nevis Ultra™ follows a route through remote Scottish Highland Glens, before finishing at the Skyline Scotland™ Event Centre in Kinlochleven.

Dmitry Mityaev heads up the men’s race and he will have a fight on his hand with local runner, Donnie Campbell. Lakeland 100 winner and 8th place at the 2017 CCC, Michael Jones, will also be one to watch. Csaba Nemeth and Nuno Silva add to an incredibly stacked male field.

For the ladies, Nepalese sensation Mira Rai will be a strong favourite, however, the ever-present and indestructible Andrea Huser will toe the line after recently placing 2nd at UTMB. This is going to be an epic battle! Also keep an eye on the USA’s Kristina Pattison and local lady, Rachel Campbell.

Skyrunning UK was created four years ago with the dream of bringing the best-of-the-best to UK soil, this weekend, that dream becomes a reality. I for one cannot wait!

Tromso SkyRace® 2017 Summary – Migu Run Skyrunner® World Series

The 4th edition of the Tromsø SkyRace®, the second race in the new 2017 Migu Run Skyrunner® World Series in the Extreme category took place today in Tromso, Norway.

The brainchild of Kilian Jornet and Emelie Forsberg, you just know it’s going to be possibly one of the toughest races out there. What it lacks in high-altitude it makes up for with relentless tough climbs, technical terrain, exposed ridges, snow and downright toughness.

“It was crazy, but it was awesome! Certainly, one of the most difficult races in the world!”

Hundreds of runners departed from the new (2016) start and finish outside The Edge Hotel, Tromso. It must be noted, that this new start and finish adds 8km’s onto the 2014/2015 route.

The route takes in 2 mountain summits: Tromsdalstind (1.238m) and Hamperokken (1.404m) – the route very much looks like a figure eight and Tromsdalstind must be run twice; out and back! Covering approximately 56km with 4600m of elevation gain, this is not an easy race!

The race requires a level of skill, devotion and commitment that not every runner has – it is pure Skyrunning!

Skyrunner® World Series Extreme champion and Tromso winner Jon Albon once again dominated this course with a solid performance that left a world-class field chasing.

“The Hamperokken ridge is difficult. In contrast to last year, we seemed to go over the ridge more, I guess this was due to the dry conditions?” Albon said post-race. “This route was technically more challenging and slower. You need both hands on many occasions. It’s such a great race!”

Yading SkyRace winner and Royal Gran Paradiso champion, Bhim Gurung from Nepal put up a great fight for Albon. The duo much stronger than the rest of the competition. The technical nature of Tromso suits Albon and his obstacle racing background, whereas for Gurung it’s a new challenge. Something he learnt last year when he won the iconic Trofeo Kima in 2016 with a course record.

Albon crossed the line in 7:01:01 and Gurung 7:08:58 – it was that close! We then had to wait 20-minutes before France’s Michel Lanne placed 3rd. He had been at the front of the race all day and he went on to say afterwards, “Wow, what a race. This is why I love Skyrunning! I didn’t have the legs today but I ran this race on my mind. The views, the landscape, the terrain is just so amazing. I am looking forward to a return to Skyrunning – I hope to go to Glen Coe!”

Lavaredo winner Fabien Antolinos placed 4th and Reynaud Gael 5th, their times 7:32:06 and 7:32:46 to Lanne’s 7:27:26.

The ladies race was dictated by pre-race favourite, Maite Maiora who is having an incredible year. She arrived at Hamperokken ridge in 1st. Looking relaxed and composed but without doubt focused on the technical terrain.

Over the final half of the course Maite extended her lead and victory was never in doubt.

Ragna Debats followed looking good and Nuria Picas was in 3rd.On the descent, Picas passed Debats who was having some stomach issues. The first three ladies all close within 10-minutes. Maiora though was too strong and maintained a lead at the front and she went on to take victory in a new course record 8:21:21.

Debats rallied behind and her stomach issues improved allowing her to once again pass Picas. She was pushing Maiora but it wasn’t enough, she finished 2nd in 8:24:43 (also under the old course record) just over 4-minutes behind Maiora – a great battle! Picas rounded out the podium in 8:39:17 with Malene Bikken Haukoy and Maija Oravamaki placing 5th.

One thing is for sure, Kilian and Emelie have created something quite special in Tromso, it has set the stage for the Salomon Glencoe Skyline and the conclusion of the Skyrunner® Extreme Series a race that both Kilian and Emelie will participate in. The ‘Extreme’ series may not be for everyone but Skyrunner’s can dream to achieve the skill level and fitness required to take part in the ultimate mountain running experience.

Tromsø SkyRace® 2017 Preview – Migu Run Skyrunner® World Series

Skyrunning goes EXTREME this weekend with the Tromsø SkyRace® the second race of the 2017 Migu Run Skyrunner® World Series in the Extreme category which also includes the Royal Gran Paradiso and the Salomon Glencoe Skyline in the UK which will take place in September.

A weekend of Skyrunning starts with the Blåmann Vertical Kilometer® on Friday and the Tromsø SkyRace® on Saturday – both races are designed by Kilian Jornet and Emelie Forsberg.

Tough, challenging, leg hurting, lung busting, the Blåmann Vertical Kilometer® climbs 1000 vertical meters over the short distance of 2.7km. Encompassing the sea-to-sky concept, the race starts on the shores of the sea and concludes at an altitude of 1044m at Store Blåmann.

Saturday’s Tromso SkyRace® is an inspiring course that has plenty of vertical, technical terrain, exposed ridges and demanding descents. It covers 53km and has 4600m of vertical terrain, the race really is a challenge for those taking part.

MEN

The line-up for this year’s race is high quality and will include Skyrunner World Series Extreme 2016 Champion, Jon Albon. Albon was the winner of the race in 2015 ahead of Luis Alberto Hernando. A recent victory and course record at the Ultra SkyMarathon Madeira shows that Albon is in form.

Bhim Gurung won the Royal Gran Paradiso recently with a stunning descent in the final kilometers. He did the same earlier in the year at the Yading SkyRace in China. For sure, Gurung is a contender for the podium and the win.

Eirik Haugsness has had a quiet year so far and it’s difficult to know his current form? However, he did win the first edition of the race and knows the course well.

Rolf Einar Jensen is also racing on local ground and made the Tromso podium in 2015. He was also in the mix in 2016 and he will make his presence felt this year I am sure. Like Haugsness he has local knowledge and course experience.

Kiril Nikolov raced at Comapedrosa SkyRace last weekend and damaged his foot. At this stage, I am unsure if he will start the race and if he does, what impact last weekend will have on his performance. If he is fit and healthy, he will be in the mix for the top-10 and if he has a good day, top-5 is a distinct possibility.

Kim Collison had injury issues earlier in the year and withdrew from Scenic 113k. He did toe the line at the Royal Gran Paradiso but just for a finish. With some solid training, Collison will be in the mix here in Tromso. He likes rough and gnarly terrain, he has pace, he can climb and descend and technical exposed ridges cause no problem for him – one to watch!

Hector Haines is having a good year having placed in the top-10 at Transvulcania and the Royal Gran Paradiso. Like Collison, Haines can handle the ‘UK’ like Tromso terrain and he will almost certainly be a contender at the front of the race.

Michel Lanne is a great addition to the race and although he seems to have raced little in recent months, he loves mountain and technical terrain. He will almost certainly be a surprise addition to the elite men and quite rightly, his competitors should keep a keen eye on him – he has all the potential to win the race. In past years he has won Mont-Blanc 80km,Andorra Ultra Trail, 4th at Zegama and 5th at Trofeo Kima.

Pere Aurell is racing strong this year and looked great at the recent Royal Gran Paradiso – he made the podium. He has had some RnR recently and that will bode well for a strong race.

Matt Shyrock from the USA (Alaska) will be a dark horse in this field and to some of the Europeans may well be unknown. I am unsure if he has raced outside the USA and therefore how adapted he will be to the unique terrain Tromso offers. Having said that, Shyrock has excelled at the USA’s Rut (2nd and 3rd) and the climb and descent to Lone Peak does pose some similarities to Tromso. He has also placed 6th at Mt Marathon.

Fabien Antolinos may well throw a few surprises at this year’s race. He is having a good year so far with a solid victory at Lavaredo. From a Skyrunning perspective he has raced well at High Trail Vanoise, this will put him in a great place for Tromso.

Alexis Sevennec always races well on tough and challenging races. Kima, the Dolomites, Glen Coe – the transition and crossover from SkiMo puts him in a great place. He will be up there at the front.

Cody Lind has had a series of top-5 places recently notably at Broken Arrow SkyRace, Flagstaff SkyRace, Power of Four 55km and Moab’d Red Hot 55km – Tromso will test his ability on technical terrain,

Ones to watch:

Leo Viret, Roger Vinas, Martin Gaffuri, Jose Carlos Del Toro, Paul Riera, Alexis Toda Mas, Bjorn Verduijn, Eric Moya, Marc Puig , Marc De Leon and Javier Bodas.

 

LADIES

The ladies race is without doubt going to be an interesting race and we see a return to Skyrunning for Nuria Picas and Emelie Forsberg (?) kicks off her 2017 campaign.

Maite Maiora heads-up the female competition with victories at Zegama-Aizkorri, Livignio SkyRace and the recent Royal Gran Paradiso – she is on fire now and will be the one to beat. 

Megan Kimmel has equally been on fire with a victory in China at Yading SkyRace and victory in France at High Trail Vanoise. Last weekend Kimmel raced at Comapedrosa and had a below par performance not making the podium. She did comment post-race that longer races are suiting her now, so, the Tromso SkyRace should go well. However, the technical terrain may well interrupt Kimmel’s running form and speed.

Ragna Debats goes from strength-to-strength and this year has joined Kimmel and Maiora with a string of strong performances. She can mix speed with technical terrain and this will bode well for a strong performance in Tromso.

 

Emelie Forsberg will toe the line (*she is on the start list but may not run?) in her own race. Forsberg has been quiet in 2017 so far. She raced at Zegama-Aizkorri and was off the pace, she also did a road half-marathon but in the weeks and months between these races she has been focused on training – I think we will a fit and motivated Forsberg on the start line. For me, she is the potential winner of the race. *Emelie has confirmed she will run the VK and not the SkyRace.

Nuria Picas on her day is still one of the best female mountain runners in the world. It’s been sometime since Picas toed the line in a Skyrunning race and I for one am happy to see her back. She races hard and will most definitely push Debats, Kimmel, Maiora and the other ladies for a fast race – we may well see a course record this year and victory could be Picas’!

Hillary Allen is having an awesome summer racing in Europe. She consistently is in the mix at races of varying length be that the shorter classic distance or ultra. One thing that is important for the USA based runner is vertical and technical terrain – Tromso is not going to disappoint Allen and we may well see her have her best race so far.

Malene Bikken Haukoy is an ever-present at the Tromso SkyRace and has been on the podium. She also excelled at Glen Coe last year with a strong performance. Racing on home ground is always an advantage and top-5 is likely.

Japan’s Kaori Niwa was 8th at the 2016 UTMB maybe someone to watch as a dark horse.

Ones to watch:

Natalia Tomasiak, Kristina Pattison, Martina Valmassoi, Nuria Dominguez, Sarah Ridgway, Maija Oravamaki, Olga Lyjak, Natalia Nescheret and Desislava Hristova

Both Blåmann Vertical Kilometer® and the Tromsø SkyRace® are capped for safety and environmental reasons. It’s an important element of running in such a stunning part of the world and they are both ecologically sustainable.

Gnarly, grueling, technical, beautiful and challenging; Skyrunning goes EXTREME this weekend, don’t miss it!

SKYRACE COMAPEDROSA Preview – 2017 Migu Run Skyrunner® World Series 

Andorra will host the seventh stage of the 2017 Migu Run Skyrunner® World Series with the SkyRace® Comapedrosa coming just one week after the Dolomites SkyRace and VK that took place in Italy.

Arinsal, a small ski resort within Andorra will have 300+ runners toe the line to take on the challenging 21 km course that includes a brutal climb of 1000m to the summit of the iconic and beautiful Coma Pedrosa at 2942m. The climb even more difficult and spectacular due to its overall distance of just 2km – yes, it’s a 50% gradient!

The opening miles are road and ease the runners into winding forest trails all the way up to the Col de les Cases (1958M), a wooded area follows and from this point the runners will encounter a stretch of ridge. Pic de les Fonts at 2748m and the Pla de l’Estany follows.

Now the beautiful and challenging climb begins, a true vertical wall of more than 1000m of positive difference in about 2km. A VK within a race! Without a marked path, the runners follow markers to the summit of Comapedrosa at 2942m. Pure Skyrunning – Less Cloud, More Sky.

The descent is by the traditional route through the Estany Negre and Coma Pedrosa refuge, until reaching Arinsal where the race started.

2016 Youth Skyrunning World Championships, Italy. ©fabriziopoliti.it

The Skyrunning World Youth Championships will also take place on the same weekend. The first edition took place in 2016 in Italy and it was a great success. Two events, the KV Arinsal which is the classic Vertical Kilometre will take place on July 28 and the SkyRace will take place on July 30. On offer are 54 medals distributed across three age categories – 16-17yrs, 18-20yrs and 21-23yrs. Read ISF release here.

The Contenders Men

Aritz Egea is on form this year and had a great race at Comapedrosa in 2016. He has already placed 2nd at Livignio and Buff Epic and won Olympus Marathon. He is the hot favourite in Andorra.

Jan Maragrit Sole won the iconic 20th edition of the Dolomites SkyRace last weekend and I am unsure at this moment if he will race the Youth Championships or the Migu Run Skyrunner World Series? Either way he is a hot contender for victory.

Pere Aurell Bove had a great result at The Royal Gran Paradiso recently and although this event is considerably shorter and faster, he should be in the mix. He won the race in 2015.

Kiril Nikolov placed highly at Olympus Marathon and the shorter distance events suit him, he has proved this before at races like Limone.

Hassan Ait Chaou like Egea had a great race in Andorra last year and although his form doesn’t appear to be as good as 2016, you can’t rule him out!

Eugeni Gil Ocana is having a great 2017 with strong and consistent running, Comapedrosa will suit the Spanish runner. He is top-10 potential for sure and top-5 on a good day.

France’s Adrien Michaud may well stir up the front of the race but Benat Marmisolle is a likely podium contender after a strong and solid race at The Royal Gran Paradiso – the question will be if he has recovered?

Andorran brothers Oscar and Marc Casal Mir will be focused on this race and they know the course like the back of their hands.

Breaking news may well see a last-minute entry by Skyrunning legend Marco De Gasperi. If the Italian toes the line, I would predict a podium place and I have a feeling that victory is on the cards… De Gasperi has some great form now as we saw with his 3rd place in the Dolomites, just 45-seconds behind the winner.

It’s a stacked field and other names to watch are as follows:

Nicolas Bouvier Gaz, Brice Delsouiller, Jose Larralde, Jokin Lizeaga, Inaki Uribe-Etexbarria, Aitor Aiuria, Anartz Artola, Paul Riera, Sintu Vives, Ismail Razga, Pere Rullan, and many more runners from FEEC.

The Contenders Ladies

Laura Orgue just won the Dolomites SkyRace and is the defending champion at Comapedrosa. Orgue and Kimmel will have a real head-to-head battle for top honors.

Megan Kimmel is on fire this year and she loves the classic SkyRace distance. The 22km race will suit her down to the ground and as she has proven time and time again, she is the hot favourite victory.

Denise Dragomir had a very strong race in Livignio – she placed 2nd. She was strong on the climbs and fast on the descents which makes her a podium favourite.

Anne-Lise Rousset recently missed High Trail Vanoise through injury but if recovered with good training miles, she will be a definite contender for the podium.

Celia Chiron had a solid 2016 and it was a breakthrough year on the Skyrunning calendar. She has raced a great deal already in 2017 and I see her as a podium, top-5 for sure. *upadate: Celia will not run, confirmed 26th July. 

Hillary Gerardi has been a revelation in 2017 with a solid run in Livignio and just last weekend she placed 2nd at the Dolomites behind Laura Orgue. She is a good friend of Celia Chiron (the duo race together) so we may well see an interesting dynamic in the Comapedrosa race.

Anna Comet this year is racing shorter and faster races instead of the ultra-distance, she had a tough race in the Dolomites but it’s all learning curve – I think we will see an improved performance in Andorra.

Maria Zorroza is another contender for the top-5 and almost certainly the top-10, she will however have some strong competition from Aitziber Ibarbia and Oihana Azkorbebeita.

Laia Andreu rounds out the top-10 contenders and we can also expect Silvia Puigarnau, Paloma Lobera and Nuria Dominguez to be in the mix.

Race website HERE

2017 Migu Run Skyrunner® World Series HERE

Royal Ultra SkyMarathon® Gran Paradiso Race Summary and Images – 2017 Migu Run Skyrunner World Series

With a course profile that looks like a shark’s dental record and with 10-peaks to ascend and descend over a 55km course, the Migu Run Skyrunner World Series went EXTREME For the first time in 2017! 4287m of vertical gain awaited the runners in the stunning location of Ceresole Reale, Italy, a stunning mountain location towered over by the stunning 4000m peak of Gran Paradiso.

Starting at 0630, a stunning day of blue skies welcomed the runners, the early morning chill soon swept away with the arrival of the sun.

Andre Jonsson who last weekend placed 4th at High Trail Vanoise was showing incredible powers of recovery leading Zaid Ait Malek, Pere Aurell,  Bhim Gurung, Benat Marmisolle, The five ran together over the first high-peak in the National Park and the second peak coming at around 12km with 2-hours 15-minutes elapsed on the clock. They were separated by seconds matching each other’s moves.

By contrast, Zegama-Aizkorri and Livigno SkyMararhon champion Maite Maiora, was showing all the ladies a clean pair of heals. She took a grasp of the race very early on and despite being chased by Katie Schide, Ekaterina Mityaev and Natalia Tomasiak amongst other.

With 4-hours elapsed, the summit of Colle della Porta at 3002m saw a surge from Pere Aurell as he ran fast through the snow fields that followed the tough climb to the summit – Andre Jonsson, Bhim Gurung and Beat Marmisolle all followed with less than a minute separating them. Following and hoping to bridge the gap was Dimitry Mityaev, Zaid Ait Malek and Hector Haines.

Maite Maiora arrived in the same location, her lead was now extended beyond 30-minutes to Katie Schide and Ekaterina Mityaev following over 10-minutes back.

The race was now on in the men’s race, the quartet watching each other and at times changing lead like in a cycling peloton however Andre Jonsson was still pushing but the elastic wouldn’t snap. Passing Colle del Nivole they had a short decent and then climbed to Colle Della Rocca Bianche at 2670m. Again, less than a couple of minutes separated the four front runners but the long descent took its toll and with the final climb to Colle del Nel at 2551m to come, the pressure was on.

Andre Jonsson and Bhim Gurung took the lead but Jonsson started to feel the pressure and although Gurung complained of feeling tired, he unleashed his incredible descending ability on the final 1000m to drop to the line to open a huge gap and take victory just like he did earlier in the year in China at Yading Skyrace. Jonsson earned an incredible 2nd place 10-minutes back, 6:51:37 to Gurung’s 6:41:24. Pere Aurell fought cramps to finish 3rd and Benat Marmisolle held off a charging Cristofer Clemente to finish 4th.

Maite Maiora crossed the line in 8:05:28 having dominated the ladies’ race. It was a stunning victory and confirms her as one of the best female Skyrunners in the world. Katie Schide finished 2nd and Ekaterina Mityaev finished 3rd, 8:37:02 and 8:48:23 respectively.

The 55km course wound through the Gran Paradiso National Park in the royal hunting grounds, hence the ‘Royal’ title, runners will compete with ibex and chamois. Starting at a lake at an altitude of 2000m, participants traversed five passes – the magnificent Gran Paradiso mountain provided a stunning backdrop towering over the race at 4061m. Moraines, rocks, streams and snowfields provide an ultimate extreme challenge.

Next race in the Migu Run Skyrunner World Series is the Dolomites SkyRace that will celebrate its 20th edition – a pure Sky Classic!

all images ©iancorless.com

A full image gallery will be uploaded to iancorless.photoshelter.com HERE

Santana Vertical Kilometer® #SVK – Vertical Kilometer® World Circuit

Ferran Teixido (Andorra) and Ekaterina Mityaeva (Russia) took top honours at the Santana Vertical Kilometer® on the island of Madeira. The VK is part of the new 2017 Vertical Kilometer® World Circuit – an off-spin from the Skyrunner World Series.

Starting the Vale da Lapa at an altitude of 780m, in the heart of the Laurissilva forest, the 4.8km course goes all the way up, 1003m to be exact through the impressive Madeira Natural Park.

Departing at 1-minute intervals on the stroke of 0900, the runners pushed their legs and lungs to the max as they took on this impressive race – a first for the island of Madeira.

The final part of the route consisted of a techn