Scafell Sky Race 2018 – Jon and Henriette Albon take the victories.

The second Scafell Sky Race (SSR) brought not only a large international field of runners to the Lake District, but the strongest line-up of any UK mountain race so far this year. The SSR had increased significance in 2018 as it was a qualifying race for the 2018 Skyrunning World Championships that will take place in Scotland later this year.

Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, France, Greece, Ireland, Malaysia, New Zealand, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Romania, USA and Britain were the nations that made up 196 runners who started the 2018 edition.

The SSR line-up included two stars from the Great Britain (GB) team that earned a team silver medal at the 2018 IAU Trail World Championships, Tom Evans and Jonathan Albon, who placed third and fourth in Spain in May. GB 100K-runner and Dragon’s Back-winner Marcus Scotney, fell-running legend Steve Birkinshaw, and Lakeland 50 course record-holder Casper Kaars Sijpesteijn were just some of the other names in a strong field. The women’s field was equally stacked, with GB trail-runner Sally Fawcett facing competition from GB mountain-runner Georgia Tindley, experienced ultra-runner Sarah Sheridan, Jonathan Albon’s wife Henriette and his sister Beth, and last year’s Lakes Sky Ultra-winner Catherine Slater.

Like its big sister event, Lakes Sky Ultra, which took place on Saturday (read HERE) , 14 July, SSR is owned and organised by Glenridding-based Mountain Run Events. But unlike LSU, it’s designed as an introduction to technical skyrunning and entries are not vetted. The course, created by Charles Sproson, is designed to showcase the very best of the Lakes.

With a fast start on a short section of road then good trails, runners left Rosthwaite at 9am. After climbing past Sour Milk Gill waterfalls, up the Gillercomb Valley to the summit of Green Gable, technical singletrack led past the Napes Needle (where rock climbing originated, in the 1880s), to a classic, technical ascent of the highest mountain in England, Scafell Pike, via the Corridor Route.

After summiting Great End, crossing a boulder field, and almost summiting Bow Fell, a scree descent led to one the best singletracks in the Lakes. Next was the Climbers’ Traverse, then the Band, before runners descended into Great Langdale and a feed station outside the historical Stickle Barn pub.

After a hearty climb up Harrison Stickle, Stickle Tarn was passed, before some easier singletrack-running on the northern side of the Great Langdale Valley, with big views over Grasmere and classic Wordsworth country, leading to the finish in Ambleside.

As expected, in the men’s race Evans and Albon charged off the front, with Sebastian Batchelor initially keeping in touch. The GB trail-running stars arrived at Stickle Barn, about halfway into the race, together. Albon had a faster transition though and gradually pulled away, to arrive first at the University of Cumbria’s Ambleside Campus, in a course record time of 04.26:50.
“The Lakes is an amazing place to run,” said Norway-based Albon. “It was a lot of fun, especially the technical sections, when you get into your flow – if you ignore that there’s a drop off next to you. The second half was more runnable, but hotter – more bearable when we had some wind and cloud cover. The nice, open grassy fells were welcome. It’s interesting doing the techie stuff first – I loved the slabby section, I hadn’t run on stuff like that before – your legs get blasted by all the jarring around, and then you get the long flowy sections afterwards, so your legs need to be in good condition.”
“It was an amazing race,” said Evans, who placed second, in 04:39:57. “It’s different to what I normally do and a course of two halves: the first half was super-technical, and I was way out of my comfort zone, which is great. The second half is more runnable and more suited to me, but it got hot and I slightly misjudged my hydration strategy. I’m super happy though. It’s my first ever skyrace and it was great to race against Jon.”

Sebastian Batchelor (GBR) was third in 04.59:50.

In the women’s race, Georgia Tindley set the early pace, but dropped out after Harrison Stickle. Catherine Slater, too, was suffering on the big climb out of Langdale. Henriette Albon started conservatively but gradually moved ahead and took the win in 05:59:27.

“That was definitely one of the tougher races I’ve done this year,” said Albon. “There was a lot of undulating, rocky terrain, you constantly had to be focused. I was surprised by how much time it took. I remember looking at my watch 15K in and thinking, ‘Phew, this is going to be a long one!’ I liked the grassy sections at the end because I could get some speed, but I liked the rocky bits too. I started slowly and tried to pace it.”

“I loved the race,” said Sally Fawcett, who placed second, in 06:26:16, “even if I was out of my comfort zone for much of the first half. But I was in my element for the more runnable second half. It was pretty much six hours and 26 minutes of fun!”

Catherine Slater dug deep to finish third woman in 06:47:48.

About the race:

The Scafell Sky Race (SSR) is a 42km skyrunning race with 3,000m of ascent on challenging, often technically extreme terrain in the Lake District National Park, going over England’s highest peak, Scafell Pike (978m). Skyrunning in the Lake District is a combination of mountain running and mountaineering, which includes low grade rock scrambling. SSR is an introductory to intermediate-level skyrace and part of the UK Skyrunning Series.

FULL RESULTS HERE

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Skyrunning UK – Lakes Sky Ultra and Scafell Sky Race 2017 Preview

Following on from the V3K, a double bill weekend is ahead as the Scafell Sky Race and the Lakes Sky Ultra will take place. 40km and 2800m of vertical gain and 56km with 4500m respectively make the two races a pure Skyrunning challenge.

Taking place in the iconic Lake District, both races will offer points for the 2017 Skyrunning UK Series which currently has Sarah Ridgway and Oli Johnsson heading up the rankings after success at the V3K.

Sponsored by Salewa and organised by Charlie Sproson and the Mountain Run team, the two races are a highlight not in the 2017 Skyrunning UK calendar but the UK race calendar.

The Scafell Sky Race will take place on July 16th and offers a tough challenge for a novice or experienced Skyrunner with a fully marked course, 9 manned checkpoints and GPS tracking. By contrast, the main event of the weekend, the Lakes Sky Ultra will take place on July 15th. The LSU is a tough challenge with exposed sections, technical scrambling and quad busting 4500m of vertical gain – this race is not for novices and a strict vetting procedure is in place to ensure that those who take on the challenge are well placed to finish. Like the Scafell race it has a fully marked course, 13 manned checkpoints and GPS tracking.

In the words of the race director, Elevated ridgelines, breathtaking exposure, fast travel on technical mountain terrain. Definitive Lakeland vistas. Classic Lakeland scrambling. Fell running on additives. This is Skyrunning™. This is the Lakes Sky Running™ Weekend.

Both races will prove to be exciting and we can expect the LSU to see a potential male and female winner coming from the following:

Men:

Bjorn Verduijn was the Skyrunning UK champion in 2016 and therefore heads up the field as a hot favourite, he recently toed the line at the Dragons Back Race but complained that he had a lack of fitness – a question mark hangs over him for LSU.

Andrew Berry set the second fastest winter Bob Graham Round in January this year so we know he can handle the terrain and challenge.

Tommaso Migiuolo recently placed 5th at the V3K gaining valuable points for the overall ranking. A top placing at LSU may well see him top the leader board as we move into September and the Glencoe races.

Mark Davies placed 15th at LSU last-year so he has course knowledge. Importantly, he recently placed 10th at the tough and challenging Dragons Back Race.

Jean Tournaire will also be a potential for the top-5.

Women: 

Zoe Salt has raced LSU previously so knows the course and has recently had a good return to form placing highly at Transvulcania Ultramarathon – she is a great potential for the podium.

 

Jacqueline Toal may well be the lady to push Zoe all the way to the line, she is a key figure in mountain running in Ireland.

Sarah Harley recently won the V3K half distance race which didn’t qualify in the Skyrunning UK calendar but it does show some great form – the LSU is a huge step up though in course severity and distance.

Cat Slater placed 4th in recent Keswick Mountain Festival 25km Trail Race, like Sarah though, the LSU is quite a step up.

With 141 entries in total, the LSU will be an exciting race and the ladies field is proportionately large with 24 entries. With so many unknown it will be a good race to watch.

Countries represented are Poland, Holland, Ireland, France, America, Romania, South Africa, Italy, New Zealand and Sweden.

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The Scafell Sky Race has 83 entries and it is fair to say that the head and shoulders favourite is Australia’s Lucy Bartholomew. Lucy is one of the most talented female runners in the world and is very much a protégé of Emelie Forsberg. She has set many records and recorded many victories in the Southern Hemisphere and most recently she arguably had her biggest success making the podium at Mont-Blanc 80km. Read more HERE.

Ben Hukins may well be the first across the line, he was a main contender in the Skyrunning UK calendar last year and it’s interesting to see him drop down from the LSU to the Scaffell Race – maybe a tactical move for points?

Also keep an eye on Jo Kilkenny, Paul Barton and Gavin Sandford.

You can obtain more information from the race website HERE and don’t forget to follow @lakesskyultra on Twitter and go to the LSU Facebook page HERE.