ARRAN SKYLINE joins the 2020 Skyrunner UK and Ireland Series

ARRAN SKYLINE brought to you by Ultra Trail Scotland joins the Skyrunner UK & Ireland series for 2020.

The Ultra Trail Scotland team of Andrew Falconer, Noreen Devine and elite mountain runner, Casey Morgan bring an out-and-out pure mountain running experience that harks back to the heritage of skyrunning races in Italy.

READ MORE HERE

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Maga Ultra SkyMarathon 2019 – ISF European Skyrunning Championships

In a spectacular downpour that hit the village of Serina, near Bergamo, Italy, spirits were high as the six medals at stake for the Ultra at the 2019 Skyrunning European Championships were awarded to dominant Spanish podiums today at the Maga Ultra SkyMarathon.

Lauri van Houten, ISF, reports on the action from Maga Ultra SkyMarathon

The strong world-class field pushed the pace, smashing the standing records, with the top 13 men and 6 women finishing under the previous time.

The men’s gold medallist, Italian Cristian Minoggio, closed in 6h37’26” slicing an incredible 1h06’ off the previous record. “I still can’t believe it. Until I have the medal in my hand, I won’t believe it,” commented an ecstatic Minoggio. “It was a splendid race, a course I felt in my heart from the first to the last step. Now all I can do is repeat this performance at Veia!”

The silver went to Spain’s Manuel Merillas, who initially led the race, but was overtaken after the first summit halfway through the race by Minoggio. “I didn’t expect such a technical and demanding course, especially on the downhill. I loved it and congratulate Cristian who took the win.”

View the full Image Gallery HERE

Bronze medallist, Italian Daniel Jung, held a steady fourth throughout until third man, Sweden’s André Jonsson had to pull out after 45 km, leaving Jung in third. “I’m very satisfied,” said Jung. “It was a really tough race and spectacular at the same time with a very high level of competition. I hoped to do well, and a medal is the best way to celebrate!”

The women’s podium, all-Spanish, had Ester Casajuana up front from the gun. “The race was as beautiful as it was hard. I pushed from the first to the last meter and I’m really happy with this medal and also because two other Spaniards, two friends, won the other medals!” She finished in 8h19’11”, almost an hour faster than the standing record. The silver went to Sandra Sevillano and the bronze, Silvia Puigarnau. In second until km 30, last year’s winner, Italian Cecilia Pedroni had to settle for fourth, despite knocking 35’ off her own record time.

The race

Today’s Ultra discipline was disputed at the Maga Ultra SkyMarathon, a tough 50 km course with a gruelling 5,000m vertical climb across four mountains topping out at 2,512m altitude. In true skyrunning style, it features stretches with fixed ropes and exposed ridges. 15 nations participated in the race which counted 149 participants.

Race organiser, Davide Scolari, commented, “We’re very proud to have held the first event of the Skyrunning European Championships. We’d like to thank all the athletes, volunteers and sponsors for their enormous support, and we’re thrilled to have had such an important international field.”

Some 150 athletes representing official teams from 19 countries will fight for the 27 medals at stake in the Championships: Andorra, Austria, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Finland, France, United Kingdom, Greece, Hungary, Italy, North Macedonia, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Spain, Switzerland and Sweden.

Titles and medals

Individual, national and combined titles are at stake awarding 27 medals. Today’s Ultra awarded six individual medals to the top three men and women finishers from Europe, while the national and combined titles must wait for the conclusion of all three disciplines on September 7.

The National titles are based on the best four results scored by Official National Team members in each race, counting at least one per gender. After today’s Ultra, the country ranking has Spain in the lead with 336 points; Italy 318; Czech Republic 246; Portugal 198; Austria 146.

The Combined title is based on the best results of the top three men and women in the Vertical and Sky races. WADA anti-doping tests will be carried out at the finals where the Vertical and Sky categories will be celebrated on Thursday, September 5 and Saturday, September 7 in Piedmont, Italy at the Veia SkyRace® in a spectacular amphitheater surrounded by the Swiss 4,000m mountains.

View the full Image Gallery HERE

2019 Skyrunning European Championship medallists

Men
Gold: Cristian Minoggio (ITA) – 6h37’26

Silver: Manuel Merillas (ESP) – 6h52’03”

Bronze: Daniel Jung (ITA) – 7h0252″

Women
Gold: Ester Casajuana (ESP) – 8h19’11”

Silver:  Sandra Sevillano (ESP) – 8h33’35”

Bronze: Silvia Puigarnau (ESP) 8h41’11”

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Seven Sisters Skyline 2019 Summary

Kasia Osipowicz and Damian Gielty take victory in the Seven Sisters Skyline, the third race in the 2019 Skyrunner UK & Ireland Series.

Despite a heat wave and glorious sunshine for a week, Ireland was shrouded in mist and light rain for the 2019 edition of the Seven Sisters Skyline. Some did say, ‘It’s Ireland, what did you expect?’ But for the skyrunner’s, the cooler temperatures and light winds were almost certainly preferable to the intense heat of the previous week.

The 50km route is a beast of a race that has very little obvious paths to run along, boggy ground and a great deal of vertical ascent. From the 0700 start, Adam Quinn, Jonny Steede and Damien Gielty dictated the pace opening up a substantial gap by the halfw point from Marek Wojnarowski, Lonan O’Farrell and a string of other close contenders.

The rocky and relentless climb to Muckish providing a challenge for all and it was the end of this section were the runners re-traced and headed via and out and back course, the two significant changes coming at the end with a circumnavigation and climb of Errigal and then a route around the River Clady before finishing in Dunlevy.

Damien Gielty proved too strong for the competition going solo and taking a strong victory in 6:32:56 ahead of Jonny Steede in 6:49:38. Initially it looked like Adam Quinn would place 3rd and after Errigal he held that position. However, he had sustained a serious head wound in a fall and took time out at the final checkpoint before carrying on to place 5th. This opened the doorway for Lonan O’Farrell who rounded the podium in 7:12:04.

For the women, Kasia Osipowicz was head and shoulders ahead of the the other women running the race solo from the start to the finish. Her time 8:42:47 providing her with victory and now the overall female lead in the 2019 Skyrunner UK & Ireland Series. Kasia has shown great consistency placing 2nd in the previous two races in the calendar and now a victory. Her points tally is 260.

Rachael Nolan and Bernadette O’Kane placed 2nd and 3rd, both producing solid and consistent runs to finish in 9:06:51 and 9:17:29.

Post-race, much of the comment was about the toughness and severity of the course. “I loved this course, it suited me with all the wet and boggy terrain,” said Kasia. “The mist kind of worked in my favour, you can’t see what is coming so you put your head down and get on with it. I loved the final climb up to Errigal, it was magical!”

IMAGE GALLERY HERE

The next race on the calendar is Snowdon Skyline in September and importantly, the male and female winners will not only get valuable points for the Skyrunner UK & Ireland Series but they will also be granted entry in the SkyMasters which will take place in Limone, Italy towards the end of October.

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Royal Ultra SkyMarathon Gran Paradiso 2019 Summary

With 10-peaks to ascend and descend over a 55km course and 4141m of vertical gain, the Royal Gran Paradiso Ultra SkyMarathon is not an easy race, not by any stretch of the imagination. But add more snow, in comparison to the 2017 edition, searing heat and intense competition, it was fair to say that every runner who toed the line in the 9th race of the Migu Run Skyrunner World Series knew they had been in a tough edition of the race.

Starting at 0630, Andre Jonsson pushed the early pace ahead of Pere Aurell, Gautier Airiau,  Ruy Ueda, Cristian Minoggio, Hannes Hamberger, Dani Jung, Andy SymondsBenat Marmisolle and more. With the second peak coming at around 12km with just over 2-hours elapsed on the clock, they were all separated by minutes, each matching each others moves.

By contrast, in the women’s race, Myriam Guillot Boisset took a surprise strong lead ahead of pre-race favourite, Ragna Debats with Antoniya Grigorova chasing.

The summit of Colle della Porta at 3002m saw some key changes with the two early powerhouses of Andre and Pere showing signs of fatigue. It was Gautier Airiau who pushed the pace in the snow looking fast and impressive.

Now, we were seeing Cristian Minoggio and Ruy Ueda show their form as they worked through the field along with Hannes Hamberger, Andy Symonds and Dani Jung.

Myriam still led the women’s race but Ragna looked in control keeping her pace consistent, behind, Antoniya Grigorova chased followed by a group of four that included Oihana Azkorbebeitia and Silvia Puigarnau.

As the race moved into the latter third, Cristian Minoggio had taken the lead with Ruy, Gautier and Hannes hunting him down. Unfortunately Andre and Pere were now struggling, the duo both having bad days, but they did not give in, they both battled to the finish.

Ragna had now taken the lead for the women and the writing was on the wall, but, there was still a long way to go and the heat was getting hotter and hotter.

The 55km course wound through the Gran Paradiso National Park in the royal hunting grounds, hence the ‘Royal’ title. After starting at a lake at an altitude of 2000m at 0630am, the participants had traversed five passes with the magnificent Gran Parasido mountain providing a stunning backdrop towering over the race at 4061m. Moraine, rocks, streams and snowfields provided an ultimate extreme challenge but the end finally came to a conclusion next to the lake in Ceresole Reale.

Cristian Minoggio held off a late surge by Gautier Airiau, the duo crossing the line in 6:50:04 and 6:51:01 respectively.

Ruy Ueda completed the podium in 6:56:49 with Hannes Hamberger and Andy Symonds having a late surge to place 5th.

Ragna Debats flew over the course and in the process set a new course record, 7:52:40. Myriam Guillot Boisset most certainly was the courageous runner of the day having battle alone up front for so long, she obviously payed the price in the latter stage but her second place was well earned in 8:14:53. Third place went to Oihana Azkorbebeitia in 8:45:35 with Antoniya Grigorova and Silvia Puigarnau placing 4th and 5th.

FULL IMAGE GALLERY WILL BE LOADED HERE

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Monte Rosa Skymarathon 2019 AMA – Race Summary and Images

What a difference a day makes! The 2019 race should have taken place on Saturday, however, weather conditions through the Friday night made the high ground above 3000m dangerous and therefore the race was postponed to Sunday. The sister event, the AMA VK2 did take place – HERE.

Race departure on Sunday was brought forward to 0530 from the scheduled 0600 start, a loop of the village for the 400 runners from 25 countries provided a warm up before they were released onto the mountain. In essence, Monte Rosa SkyMarathon is a simple race. Start in Alagna, run to the summit of Monte Rosa and then return as fast as possible. With a positive incline of 3500m and a distance of 35km for the round trip, this event is extreme.

Runners run in teams of two and from a certain point on the course (weather and conditions dependent) they must rope together and use crampons. At key sections, they must also attach to fixed ropes using a via ferratta harness.

The early slopes are simple trail and then as one moves up the mountain, rocks and ridges giveaway to snow and ice. This year, due to Friday’s inclement weather, approximately 30-50cm of fresh snow had covered the upper sections making running and hiking considerably harder. Another factor to consider, the great weather on Sunday of ‘less cloud and more sky,’ brought with it plenty of sun.

As the day progressed, this sun heated the snow making for a very soft and tricky descent from the summit which was constantly monitored by the races’ mountain safety. Despite the sun, temperature at the summit was -5, with the strong wind, this felt like -20. It was cold.

The day was truly incredible, from the summit and throughout the course, the views were magnificent. In particular, the Matterhorn clearly visible.

Founded on the slopes of Monte Rosa in 1992 by Marino Giacometti, skyrunning is the epitome of moving fast and light in the mountains, Monte Rosa SkyMarathon is the flagship.

Marino Giacometti, founder of skyrunning also made the summit on race day – ‘for fun!’

Combining mountaineering, running and skimo, this race is alpinism without the clutter and as such, the assembled runners come from all three backgrounds.

In 2018, William Boffelli and Franco Colle blazed a trail up and down the mountain and until four day’s before the race, we were once again expecting the duo to lead from the front. However, Franco Colle had to withdraw from injury. This left William searching for a partner. Luckily, Jakob Herrmann stepped in – an experienced ski mountaineer who has partnered Kilian Jornet. It was a big ask of Herrmann, however, he stepped up to the mark and in 2018 style the duo were the first to the summit with a lead of 25- minutes ahead of Beccari and Felicetti. Known for strong uphills, Herrmann was tested on the descent as Boffelli set a blistering pace. ‘He is not used to running descents…’ Boffelli said, ‘…but he gave his all to keep up.’ Keep up he did. The team arrived back in Alagna in 4:51:58 some way of last years time and the fastest time recorded, however, in the conditions it was quite remarkable.

Beccari and Felicetti placed second ahead of Carrara and Montani, 5:10:41 and 5:30:02 the respective times.

The women’s race looked set to be dominated by Giuditta Turini and Laura Besseghini. The duo led from the start and were first to the summit. On the descent they were running so well and then Besseghini started to have problems, most likely from fatigue and the altitude. Unfortunately she took a fall and needed to be taken from the course.

This opened the door for Tomasiak and Solinska from Poland. They arrived at the finish ecstatic thinking they had placed second, only to be crowned champions. Just 16-seconds later, Witowska and Januszyk arrived for second. Quinteros and Campos completed the podium, the times for the top three were 6:38:14, 6:38:30 and 7:15:59.

It may have taken 25-years for skyrunning to return home to Alagna, but one thing is for sure, the AMA (Alagna – Monte Rosa – Alagna) is here to stay. In just two editions, it has become ‘the’ race to do like the iconic ‘Kima!’

While experience of the mountain may be required to participate, the dream to journey to a summit and back in less than one day is now well and truly alive. And if the summit is a step too far in 2020, there is always the AMA VK2 to whet the appetite.

RACE IMAGE FULL GALLERY AVAILABLE HERE

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Monte Rosa AMA VK2 – Summary and Images

The weather in the mountains can never be guaranteed, and this weekends Monte Rosa Skymarathon was today postponed one-day, to allow bad weather to disappear and hopefully provide an incredible day’s racing – albeit one day late!

However, the sister event, the AMA VK2 did take place as it did not reach the high points of Monte Rosa. However, the start was delayed from 0830 to 1000 to allow for a better weather window.

The race takes place on mountain trails with demanding uphill sections, exposed areas, steep pastures, scree and snow fields. Severe environmental and weather conditions plays a huge factor in the race. Starting in Alagna, the race covers 2000 vertical meters and concludes at an altitude of 3,260m.

It was a day of mood and atmosphere as the mist and clag moved in an out. The 30com of snowfall from the previous night making conditions wonderfully challenging.

VK specialist showed the whole race a clean pair of heals powering over the 2000m in 1hr 42 min (tbc). Behind was Givanni Bosio and Milesi Davide taking 2nd and 3rd place.

In the women’s race, Iris Pessey had a very tight battle with Corinna Ghirardi and Ilaria Veronese – the trio finished all within 1-minute – a really epic battle.

VIEW THE FULL VK2 IMAGES HERE

Tomorrow the Monte Rosa Skymarathon will go ahead with a revised start time of 0530 (originally 0600) and currently, the plan is the race will have a full route. Temperatures are expected to be very warm as the day progresses and of course this may impact on snow conditions.

Race website HERE

Race Facebook page HERE

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Episode 173 – Sondre Amdahl, Ultra Trail Scotland and Elisabet Barnes

Episode 173 of Talk Ultra is here… Casey Morgan, Debbie Martin Consani and Rob Sinclair talk all about Ultra Trail Scotland. Sondre Amdahl discusses Trans Atlas and plans for Ultra Mirage and Elisabet Barnes co-hosts.
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Speedgoat is currently on ‘The Longtrail” with Belz (his crewman from the AT)
Talk Ultra is now on Tunein- just another way to make the show available for those who prefer not to use iTunes – HERE  You can download the Tunein APP HERE
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NEWS
ULTRA TRAIL SCOTLAND HERE
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00:32:28  – CASEY MORGAN 
00:52:45 – DEBBIE MARTIN CONSANI 
01:19:00 – ROB SINCLAIR 
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TENERIFE BLUE TRAIL HERE
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TRANS ATLAS
Sondre Amdahl and Elisabet Barnes won in 30:14 and 34:15 for the 6-stage race in Morocco.
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WORLD TRAIL CHAMPIONSHIPS, PORTUGAL
Jon Albon is the world champ along with Blandine L’Hirondel. The podium was Julien Rancon and Christian Mathys for the men and Ruth Croft and Sheila Aviles for the women.
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COMRADES
Edward Mothibi in 5:31 ahead of Bongmusa Mthembu who was 2nd just 25-secs later – ouch! Nah Kazami was 3rd in 5:39. Gerda Steyn broke the record books with a sub-6 5:58 – the first time in the 94 year history! Alexandra Morozova 6:17 for 2nd and Ireland’s Caitriona Jennings was 3rd 6:24.
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MOZART 100km
Pau Capell Sally McRae took the wins in 10:54 and 14:38 with Aysen Soland and Colette Coumans 2nd/ 3rd for the women and Andris Ronimoiss and Gerald Fister rounding out the podium for the men.
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LIVIGNO
Great win by Florian Reichert who is in fine form this year! He was ahead of Tofol Castanyer and Marcin Swierc 6:04, 6:10 and 6:13. Magdalena Laczak 7:29 was ahead of Simone Schwarz and Juliane Totzke 7:44 and 7:50.
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ZUGSPITZ ULTRATRAIL
Pau Capell Sally McRae took the wins in 10:54 and 14:38 with Aysen Soland and Colette Coumans 2nd/ 3rd for the women and Andris Ronimoiss and Gerald Fister rounding out the podium for the men.
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01:53:34 – SONDRE AMDAHL 
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MONTE ROSA PREVIEW HERE
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VJ SPORT MAXx SHOE REVEW HERE
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DON’T MISS OUT ON EPISODE 172 with JOHN KELLY HERE
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02:13:23
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Please support Talk Ultra by becoming a Patron at www.patreon.com/talkultra and THANKS to all our Patrons who support us. Rand Haley and Simon Darmody get a mention on the show here for ‘Becoming 100k Runners’ with a high-tier Patronage.
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Monte Rosa Skymarathon 2019 Preview

“If you build it, they will come”

– the famous line from the movie ‘Field of Dreams’ with Kevin Costner.

The term has been used time and time again as a metaphor for reaching out, taking a risk and fulfilling a dream. Well, in 2018, Marino Giacometti and Lauri van Houten did just that! They harked back to the roots and the glory days of skyrunning and the race and mountain that created the sport that we all now know today.

It was in Alagna, on the slopes and summit of Monte Rosa that Marino pioneered the approach of ‘fast and light!’ It’s a simple concept, start in the town, go to the summit as fast as possible, turnaround and then run back.

1993, starting at 1192m in Alagna and reaching the Margherita Hut at 4554m and on the way passing Bochetta delle Pisse at 2396m, Indren Cable Car 3260m. Gnifetti Hut 3647m and finally the Colle del Lys at 4250m before the lung bursting summit.

It is pure skyrunning.

And today, the Monte Rosa Skymarathon retraces that pioneering route to spend time in less cloud and more sky.

It’s a route for the experienced only and unlike 1993, the race now requires teams of two, pioneered last year in the 1st edition. Snow fields, glaciers, exposed landscape the steep climb and descent of a couloir and all the time pushing the body and mind to the limit.

In the individual records date back to 1994 when skyrunning legends Fabio Meraldi and Gisella Bendotti completed the outa and back journey in 4:24 and 5:34 respectively.

 

Last year, 2018, the team of Franco Collé / William Boffelli completed in a stunning 4:39:59. The mixed pair team of Kilian Jornet and Emelie Forsberg completed in 5:03:56 – in the process, Emelie set the fastest time for woman.

The stage is now set for 2019 and the 2nd edition of the Monte Rosa Skymarathon, the route as in 2018 will be a full recreation of the 1993 original race with a total distance of 35km and 3500m+ and 3500m-.

From the Indren cable car station, teams (2-people) must be roped with: UIAA 105 approved harness, UIAA 101 approved 8 mm diameter dynamic rope 10m long, UIAA 128 approved rope with two carabiners, micro metal crampons must be worn and ski or cross country poles must be carried.

Top international athletes including skyrunning stars – past and present – and ski mountaineering champions will arrive in Alagna aiming to challenge the incredible records set by those before them. But records only tell part of the story, for a skyrunner or ski mountaineer, this race is more than a race, it’s a journey through time, it’s the purest form of the sport, a hark back to the roots and just toeing the line is a great achievement.

New for 2019 is the AMA VK2 – The course starts and finishes in Alagna Valsesia, 1,192m. It passes by the Bocchetta delle Pisse, 2,396m and summits at the Indren cable car station, 3,260m for a distance of 11 km and a total 2,080m vertical climb. The race takes place on mountain trails with demanding uphill sections, exposed areas, steep pastures and scree and snow fields, possibly subject to severe environmental and weather conditions.

A list of entrants for both races can be found HERE

Due to the nature of the events, equipment requirements are strict HERE

PROGRAM

FRIDAY 21 JUNE, PALAZZETTO DELLO SPORT, ALAGNA

10.00 Race Office opens

Registration, bib and race pack collection

18.00 Mandatory Briefing

19.00 Race Office closes

SATURDAY 22 JUNE, PIAZZA GROBER

6.00 Monte Rosa Skymarathon race start

In case of unfavourable weather conditions the race may be shortened to finish at Colle del Lys or postponed to Sunday, 23 June

08:30 AMA VK2 starts

10.30 Arrival of first athletes of Monte Rosa Skymarathon in Alagna.

On-site podium ceremony of first three men and first three women

16.00 Award ceremony – Palazzetto dello Sport

RACE WEBSITE HERE

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VJ Sport MAXx Shoe Review

I get asked a great deal what is the best shoe for trail, ultra and mountain running? Of course, there is never a definitive answer as so many variables come into play – gait, drop, persons weight, running style and so on and so on.

It comes a so secret that VJ Sport make two of the best shoes for running in the mountains, the IRock 2 (here) and the recent XTRM (here).

I thought with the XTRM that VJ had excelled themselves taking all the stunning features of the IRock2 and then adding them to the XTRM and providing a shoe that was better for running longer in the mountains.

The above two shoes were designed in collaboration with OCR and skyrunning World Champion, Jon Albon. The XTRM was specifically designed to meet Jon’s needs when running longer both time and distance.

Well, VJ and Jon have now collaborated again and come up with the MAXx.

Going back to that original question, ‘what is the best shoe for trail, ultra and mountain running?’

My answer will be now, go look at the VJ Sport MAXx first.

I have been in these shoes for a month on all sorts of terrain and they are now the only shoe I am using. VJ have nailed it once again. I don’t know how they do it…

If you like IRock2 and XTRM then the MAXx is just going to be immediately added to your shoe selection and quite simply you will then have a shoe for the following:

  • Fell and short mountain races – IRock2
  • Medium distance mountain and skyrunning – XTRM
  • Long distance mountain ultra, trail and skyrunning – MAXx

To put the above in context, Jon recently raced the 73km Transvulcania on the island of La Palma, he used the MAXx.

Everything that is perfect in the IRock2 and XTRM is replicated here in the MAXx – the only difference coming with the notable bounce and cushioning – I love these shoes!

Specs:

  • Medium last
  • Rubberized and protective toe cap
  • Rockplate for the length of the shoe
  • Kevlar breathable upper
  • 6mm drop
  • 4mm Butyl rubber outsole
  • Cushioning front 10mm and rear 16mm

Quite simply, VJ Sport make the best outsole for trail, mountain and skyrunning, no other outsole comes close to the sticky compound that VJ create. Many sponsored runners agree, and they use different brands!

The XTRM has 6mm outsole and here on the MAXx we have 4mm – this makes a logical sense to reflect the trail and ultra-objectives of the shoe. So, if you need a shoe for really muddy ground, you will be better off with the XTRM. However, if running long on trail, mountain, snow, ice, rock (wet or dry) then the MAXx is the shoe for you.

Feel when sliding the shoe on is just like the XTRM, the toe box is medium and works perfect for me. Sizing is true to size, I am a UK 9.5 and these are perfect with a thumb nail width above my gig toe. Toe box is wider than the XTRM.The upper is arguably the most durable there is without losing flexibility or breathability. Kevlar is going to outlast the outsole and several years of using VJ shoes, I have never had an upper fail or tear.

FITLOCK is just amazing as I have mentioned previously with the IRock2 and the XTRM. Here the FITLOCK is the same, it pulls in on the middle of the foot creating the most comfortable and secure feel of all shoes I have tried.

Toe box is really substantial and protective and ideal for any mountain race when collision with rocks is a high risk. The heel box is as on all previous VJ shoes, snug and secure.

The cushioning is the marked difference in the shoe, and it is noticeable immediately. I intentionally landed with my heel on some runs and the cushioning compressed beautifully and gave a lovely bounce and push in the transition phase. On road and hard trail, the shoes move along wonderfully and feel a great deal like my Nike Wildhorse (another favourite shoe). The cushioning does not lose feel for the ground though. I still have that contact and sensory perception that is really important for me when running off-road, especially if on technical terrain. Of course, there is less feel than the IRock2 and XTRM. There is more cushioning! On stoney ground, the rock plate is spot on providing that all important protection, especially important when running longer. We can all tolerate a little discomfort for an hour or two, but if running for 4, 5, 6, 7 hours or longer we need more protection and for many, more cushioning.

The great thing about the MAXx is its ability to be an everyday trail/ mountain shoe and this is a huge selling point. The MAXx will work perfectly for racing and everyday trail running, that for me is just perfect.

SUMMARY

I said I couldn’t find any faults with the XTRM and the same applies here with the MAXx. In all honesty, I think (for me) the MAXx is now my ‘go-to’ trail/ mountain shoe. The combination of elements makes it perfect. If I was a racing snake, I would line up the IRock2, XTRM and MAXx and decide on a weapon that best suits the race. But I am not, I am runner who loves to play in the mountains and the MAXx is just perfect for 1-hour runs or full-day outings. I think it’s worth noting that races such as the Dragons Back, Cape Wrath Ultra or say, Ultra Tour Monte Rosa when runners must spend long and multiple days in the mountains, the MAXx is perfect for this. This shoe is a complete winner and it is going to take a truly amazing shoe to come along and make me choose it for my mountain/ trail runs in the future. Yes, this VJ Sport MAXx is that good!

VJ Sport HERE

MAXx HERE

VJ was founded in 1981 to produce light weight and fast shoes for orienteers for all circumstances.

During the years we have built up our shoes in every category through feedback and continuous trial runs. Nowadays there are more sports we want to serve but our mission is still the same: we want to offer light weight shoes, which at the same time protect your feet and have #thebestgripontheplanet.

So whether your sport is orienteering, trail running, skyrunning, swimrun or obstacle course racing we are here for you.

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Ultra Trail Stara Planina 2019 Race Summary – Serbia skyrunning

Stara Planina which roughly translates to ‘Old Mountain’ is known to many as The Balkan mountain range which is in the eastern part of the Balkan Peninsula. The highest peaks of the Balkan Mountains are in central Bulgaria. Botev at 2,376 m the highest. On the border between Bulgaria and Serbia, the Balkan range runs 560 km from the Vrashka Chuka Peak eastward through central Bulgaria to Cape Emine on the Black Sea.

Stara Planina, one of the most beautiful and most authentic nature reserves that hides the highest mountain peak in Serbia – Midžor at 2,169 meters above sea level. Endless stretches of untouched nature, vast mountain pastures and forests rich in forest fruit and herbs, picturesque villages and interesting folklore.

Ultra Trail Stara Planina kicked off on Friday at midday with the 130km race which has a whopping vertical gain of 5870+. It was a race which was enveloped in mist and rain, but the relentless rain and storms that were forecast, thankfully did not appear.

On Saturday at 0700 three other races that make up Ultra Trail Stara Planina started from the Stara Planina ski resort – 36km with 2370+ the 57km 2350+ and 94km 3890+. The latter race would run till the early hours of Sunday morning and all other races would conclude on Saturday.

Saturday was a mixed bag of weather with dense fog and mist lasting through to midday and then an afternoon of glorious sunshine that allowed the amazing landscape that this area has to offer to finely shine through.

400 runners from over 25 countries assembled to experience Ultra Trail Stara Planina.

This area is a hidden gem. It’s remote, beautiful and wild. To run here, one feels truly remote and isolated from the outside world. The only glimpses of life coming from remote villages where time has stood still. Gostuša talking to a woman in her late sixties, she had never ventured from her village – she told me of how a now derelict building was once a disco. It’s hard to imagine that some 50-years ago a disco was required in a small isolated village. What was a local shop, now boarded up, closed and crumbling to the ground – the demand for supplies making the shop redundant as over the years, villagers have moved away leaving just 20 residing.

To experience the ‘real’ life of a place, one gains an insight into a journey. If it wasn’t for running and adventure, maybe these gems of Serbia would disappear completely?

Posters pasted on walls notify the passing of loved ones and it’s hard not to feel a little sad that in year’s to come, no posters will be posted as the locals, the core of the community will have all disappeared leaving ghost towns in the mountains.

Green lush vegetation with winding trails interweave through this area providing relentless challenging terrain that continuously goes up and down.

Then the arrival of a village, refreshment, a chance to stop, replenish and refuel before heading back out to experience more of the wilds of Serbia.

This area is very inaccessible by vehicle, just 10km’s can take over a hour by a 4×4 vehicle – the runners therefore are truly privileged to experience a testing and challenging journey with the experience of summiting the highest peak of Midžor at 2,169 meters above sea level. To get there though, this year, they had to experience dense mist and snow on the course.

Topli Do a hidden gem like Gostuša but there is more life here, the village is bigger and although much is falling down and wasting away, it has a raw and natural beauty.

Runners here arrive from different directions with Marshalls ever vigilant to ensure that they go in the correct direction.

A highlight, depending on which race you are running, is a technical descent from Midžor or equally, a technical climb for the 130km runners.

In the village of Gostuša an old hall is used as a major aid station where drop bags, a change of clothes and warm food is available.

Finally, for all races, Plaža signifies the final section of the race with stunning views over the mountains and for those who have time to stop, they can look back and trace the journey they have travelled.

Stara Planina ski resort, for all races signifies the end of a truly epic day or days in the heart of the Serbian landscape. The journey of 36km, 57km, 94km or 130km over.

Results:

130km

1 – Nedjalkov Balazs
2 – Jovica Spajić
3 – Danijel Loncarević

WOMEN RESULTS
1 – Nela Lazarević
2 – Ivona Velimirović
3 – Ivana Stanković

94km

1 – Dusan Bazic
2 – Duško Momić
3 – Mariya Nikolova

WOMEN RESULTS
1 – Mariya Nikolova
2 – Cecilia Papay-Sar
3 – Kristina Radović

57km

1 – Dejan Todevski
2 – Filip Todorovski
3 – Dimitar Todorovski

WOMEN RESULTS
1 – Snezana Djuric
2 – Agata Labedzka
3 – Tatjana Jovanović

36km

1 – Srdjan Mate
2 – Marko Popin
3 – Marko Ilic

WOMEN RESULTS
1 – Marija Djordjević
2 – Alana Munnik
3 – Lidija Radulovic

FULL RESULTS HERE

IMAGE GALLERIES AVAILABLE HERE

*****

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