ISF Skyrunning World Championships, Scotland

Gale force winds, torrential rain, freezing cold and the occasional burst of sunshine tell the story of the 2018 Scotland Skyrunning series of events. For the first time, the ISF skyrunning world championships were held on UK soil combining of the classic VK, SKY and ULTRA distances. On the 4th day, the event center in Kinlochleven was transformed for the skyrunner world series, Glen Coe Skyline – 4 days, 4 events and 1000’s of runners; a truly memorable experience for running in the UK.

MAMORES VK

The Mamores VK kicked off the weekend under some of the toughest weather conditions. Torrential rain throughout the day had made the ground sodden and as the first runner departed the event center, the rain started to fall, and the wind picked up. At the summit, temperatures were below zero causing tough and extreme conditions for runners and race staff.

345 runners from 30 countries took part in the severe challenge which climbed 1,000m to the Munro summit, the UK’s only Vertical Kilometer® and valid for world titles and medals.

ISF Skyrunning World Championships

Reigning VK World Champion, Laura Orgué from Spain and Switzerland’s Rémi Bonnet took the gold medal crushing the previous records in 39:23 and 51:35.

“It was really a tough race with the weather conditions,” said Remi post-race. “A lot of mud and also a lot of people cheering. It was good to come to Scotland and run a good race.”

In a surprising return to form after a long time away from the sport, Thorbjørn Ludvigsen (NOR) placed 2nd in 41:49 and Stian Angermund-Vik (NOR) placed 3rd in41:50.

ISF Skyrunning World Championships

Laura Orgue suggested that she no longer felt like a VK specialist post-race, but the result proved otherwise, “I don’t feel like the same Laura of some years ago. I still know the kind of effort it takes to do a VK. It was a hard race because of the weather but the outcome was fine,”

The silver and bronze medals were taken by two new names in the world of Skyrunning who in 2018 have excelled week after week, Lina El Kott Helander (SWE) and Hillary Gerardi (USA) their times, 52:34 and 52:53.

ISF Skyrunning World Championships

BEN NEVIS ULTRA

Overnight weather continued to beat the Scottish terrain and considering the Ben Nevis Ultra would take in two very dangerous sections, race director, Shane Ohly made the tough call of choosing the bad weather course. This changed the dynamic of the ultra-race with considerably less vertical gain, less technical running and more importantly, less distance. The reduced course resulting in a distance of 47 km with 1,750m vertical climb avoiding the summit of Britain’s highest peak, Ben Nevis. (The original course designed especially for the occasion was 52 km long with a vertical climb of 3,820m).

ISF Skyrunning World Championships

Experience counted on the day with Skyrunner World Series Champions 2017, Jonathan Albon and Ragna Debats producing two dominant performances ahead of world-class fields. The duo dominated their respective races taking victories with at least 10-minute margins, Albon winning in 3:48:02 and Debats 4:36:20.

Ragna was crowned IAU World Trail Champion earlier in the year, so, the gold here in Scotland was extra special. Only Luis Alberto Hernando has achieved similar double success in previous years.

ISF Skyrunning World Championships

“I decided to start fast right from the beginning and see if anyone would follow me,” said Debats. “I saw nobody was close to me, so I just kept on going, reserving just a little energy just in case somebody came up behind me. The medal means a lot to me, my season couldn’t be more perfect!”

Gemma Arenas from Spain moved from way down the field to finally battle with Maria Mercedes Pila from Ecuador. At the line they were separated by just 4-seconds, 4:50:32 to 4:50:36.

For the men, André Jonsson from Sweden who took the silver ahead of Spain’s Luis Alberto Hernando, 2014 and 2016 skyunning World Champion, he took the bronze just one minute later, their times 4:00:35 and 4:01:21 respectively.

ISF Skyrunning World Championships

RING OF STEALL SKYRACE

In three days of uncertain and often extreme weather conditions, the Ring of Steall participants were treated to a full course. It was the largest event of the weekend with over countries represented and 879 athletes.

Records were smashed both in the women’s and men’s races. It may come as no surprise that Kilian Jornet topped the podium, but he had a fight on his hands for the gold! Tove Alexandersson was the female champ who took many by surprise, however, she proved her ability at the 2017 Limone Extreme race in Italy after a dominant performance.

ISF Skyrunning World Championships

Despite sodden ground, occasional rain and strong winds, the top ten men and seven women finished below the 2017 course record. Kilian recorded 304:34 and Tove 3:48:28.

“What’s particular here is it’s very muddy, very wet, slippery. The terrain is similar to my home in Norway,” Kilian mentioned post-race. “I fell in the mud on the last downhill. This year it was good for me, such a good field with so many strong people.”

Second man, Italian Nadir Maguet had pushed the Catalan throughout the race and despite Kilian’s dominance over all distances in 2018, many wondered was an upset on the cards?

ISF Skyrunning World Championships

“I came here hoping to do well. Obviously when you see a start list with a very high level, you ask yourself how it will go. My dream was to race with Kilian, to feel strong, and that was how it went… In the second half of the race and on the last descent I tried to push but you know Kilian is strong on the downhill. It was impossible to catch him, I tried.”

Nadir finished in 3:06:05 ahead of Norwegian Stian Angermund-Vik, who took the bronze in 3:09:05, he summed up the emotions of many, “This race is more technical than most…I love the ridges and the mud and everything. On the second ridge I just had to stop and look around it was so beautiful.”

Tove Alexandersson, a multiple Orienteering World Champion from Sweden cut an incredible 19 minutes off the previous record to take the gold and the new Skyrunning World Champion title.

ISF Skyrunning World Championships

“It was a bit more muddy and slippery than I expected but otherwise it was just perfect. I felt strong all the way. I didn’t have much time to see the views because it was quite technical. On the downhill you have to be so focused. I think that’s my biggest strength, so I had a good feeling.”

Victoria Wilkinson is a fell running legend in the UK and recently broke the long-standing female Ben Nevis record. For the Brits, Victoria was always going to be a dark horse and she didn’t disappoint running an incredible 2nd and seizing the silver in a time of 3:54:01.

Holly Page has had an incredible season in the Skyrunner World Series with a string of victories and high places. In the early stages of the race she was way off the pace and looking to be having a bad day; “At the top of the first climb I think I was 15th and I felt really unhappy and horrible. But then I got into a downhill and it ‘smelt’ like a fell race, it felt like home. I overtook lots of people on the downhill which gave me quite a confidence boost.”

Scotland Skyrunning

Holly closed the gaps and finished on the podium taking bronze in a time of 3:57:57.

Individual world titles and a total of 27 medals were awarded in the three disciplines as well as a combined title based on the best results of the Vertical and Sky races.

ISF President and the founder of skyrunning, Marino Giacometti concluded the weekend awarding medals. He quite rightly thanked Scotland for the challenging weather and Ourea Events for hosting an incredible event.

“Now among the new world champions we have not only Kilian, but Jonathan Albon (an Obstacle racing champion), Tove Alexandersson (an Orienteering champion) and Nadir Maguet (a ski-mountaineering champion). I like to think that skyrunning inspires athletes from other sports too!”

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  1. […] Jagged mountain peaks break through the ground as if they want to torture the landscape. Sharp rocks and boulders are interspersed with snow and ice. It’s the Hamperokken mountain range and the most exposed and technical section of the Tromso SkyRace – an extreme category race in the 2017 Migu Run Skyrunner Extreme Series. The race is the inspiration of mountain and Skyrunning icons, Emelie Forsberg and Kilian Jornet. It does not need a creative mind to understand that any course or race organized by this duo will be challenging, tough, dramatic and memorable! The Tromso SkyRace does not disappoint. It’s a race that harks back to the early days of Marino Giacometti, the creator of Skyrunning. Back in the late 80’s, Giacometti pioneered a sport of fast-and-light, a sea-to-summit or town-to-summit project – it’s about going fast to the summit and returning as quickly as possible. Monte Rosa, Mt Blanc, Kinabalu – yes, Fabio Meraldi, Bruno Brunod and Giacometti laid the foundations for the modern-day sport that is now called Skyrunning. The Tromso SkyRace is a personification of those early formative years and Jornet is the modern-day exponent of the original ethos of fast and light. The Catalan needs no introduction. His five-year project called ‘Summits of my Life’ was very much a personal extension of racing as a Skyrunner; this journey culminated in his final summit, Everest. In Skyrunning and mountain running, Jornet is a rock star. He’s a modest star and one who shuns the spotlight and attention his incredible ability attracts. He is one of the most gifted and natural runners of our time – no doubt. His partner, Forsberg, is equally an inspiring role model for the sport and the duo are the dynamic duo of the sport. Imagine turning up to a local tennis match to find Nadal and Williams running around helping, organizing, setting things up and manning a registration desk… yes, it’s hard to imagine! But, the Tromso SkyRace is exactly this. Forsberg and Jornet, along with a dedicated team of helpers, run one of the most incredible Skyrunning events on the calendar. Jornet runs in the mountains placing flags, setting up the routes and Forsberg is back in Tromso making sure that all logistics are in place. It’s amazing to see and it really does make one realize what a great community this sport is. Now in its fourth edition, the race has grown as one of the pinnacle races of Skyrunning. It’s not a race any runner can undertake. The course is 57km in length and a whopping 4600m of vertical gain – but this is only a small part of the story. Featuring two peaks, the Tromso SkyRace is by any standards – extreme! The Hamperokken ridge which is a key feature of the race is at the midpoint of the race and features an exposed, technical and at time knife edged arête that will require even the most experienced Skyrunner to use four points of contact to traverse the ridge and its summit. Followed by snowfields, challenging terrain, and a steep climb – this race is the ultimate challenge.   It’s a bucket list race! The 2017 edition of the race saw a return of the 2016 champion Jon Albon. Albon was the 2016 Skyrunner World Series Extreme Champion and recently won the Ultra SkyMarathon Madeira. In addition to his exploits in Skyrunning, he is a multiple world champion at Obstacle Racing. Competition for the Brit was going to come from Nepalese sensation Bhim Gurung, Lavaredo Ultra winner, Fabian Antolinos, Michel Lanne, Zaid Ait Malek, Hector Haines, Cody Lind and a host world-class talent. In the ladies’ race, 2016 champion Jasmin Paris was unable to race leaving the door open for an in-form Maite Maiora who is in incredible form in 2017. Equally, Ragna Debats would toe the line along with Megan Kimmel, Hillary Allen, Nuria Picas, and Marlene Bikken Haukoy. Known for inclement weather, for once, the sun gods shone on Norway allowing everyone a dry and relatively clear day to enjoy the mountains, fjords and incredible views that this part of the world offers. Darkness does not come to Norway at this time of the year, the race, therefore, started 0800 with no pressures on the arrival of darkness. With the race underway, the early miles were dominated by Maiora and Albon as they dictated the pace. Albon was followed by a strong group including Gurung and Lanne. Maiora, by contrast, was out on her own followed by Debats and Picas. The Hamperokken ridge coming midway into the race is a significant marker and it was here that Albon and Maiora extended their leads. For the ladies though, Debats was going through a tough time and on the descent from the summit she was passed by Picas – the race was on. Gurung made his move in the men’s race leaving Lanne and Antolinos and went off in pursuit of Albon. For the ladies, Debats did not give in, her stomach issues eased and she re-caught Picas and passed her. She then chased Maiora using her natural run speed to close in on the leader. Maiora was too strong though, she took victory just 4-minutes ahead of Debats, both runners going under the old course record set by Jasmin Paris. Picas placed 3rd. Albon lead from the front and looked relaxed, he once again took an incredible victory 8-minutes ahead of Gurung. Lanne placed 3rd over 20-minutes later with a beaming smile, content with an incredible day in the mountains. Just one race is now left in the Extreme Series of the 2017 Migu Run Skyrunner World Series. Maiora cannot be beat with two victories. However, for the men, Gurung and Albon have one victory each – it will all come down to the last race. It’s a nail biter!   Information on the Migu Run Skyrunner World Series HERE   Extreme Series Races: Royal Ultra SkyMarathon Gran Paradiso HERE Tromso SkyRace HERE Glencoe Skyline HERE   Credit ©iancorless.com […]

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