Almost 400 runners from 15 different nations, among them the winner of the Extreme Skyrunning World Series this year, Jonathan Albon, started the climb up to Lievarden in pouring rain last Saturday (October 20) for the Stranda Fjord Trail Race.
Lievarden is the first peak on the SFTR course and usually provides the runners with a unique fjord view as the course follows the ridge high above. But on this occasion the fog kept the view well hidden, and the rain made the trail muddier than previous years, giving the runners extra challenges on their way to the highest and most alpine peak of the course, Fremste Blåhorn. The rain had also made the rocks slipper, meaning runners had to play it smart and move at a controlled pace down the scree, descending the ridge down to softer ground on the marshes towards Vardnakken.
Here in the lower terrain the visibility improved and the runners could enjoy some softer ground on the way down to the village of Stranda at sea level, where cheering locals welcomed them along the course. After refilling on food and drinks at the food station, the runners had only 10km left until the finish line at Strandafjellet. But the climb up to Roaldshorn averaged 13% gradient.
Even though most runners really felt the last climb up to Roaldshorn in their legs and lungs, everyone was smiling when they crossed the finish line and could enjoy the view of the fjord as the fog had lifted during the day, the rain had stopped and the sun was peaking through the clouds.
Albon won the men's race with a time of 4 hours 5 minutes 40 seconds, while his wife, Henriette, won the women's race with 5:09:47.
The 2017 Vertical Kilometer® World Circuit closed with a new world record for the discipline at the Kilomètre Vertical® de Fully, Switzerland, Saturday, 21 October.
Italian Philip Goetsch sliced almost a full minute off the standing world record summiting the 1,000m lung-busting ascent in 28’53”.
Just to keep you inspired, we've found this cool video...keeps you motivated on a wet day!
Images from the 2017 UTMBRead More
Marco De Gasperi used his excellent descent skills to set a time that was 34 seconds quicker than the race record of the great Kilian Jornet at the Mattherhorn Ultraks 46k yesterday.
The Italian was even running on a course that was one kilometre longer than that covered by Jornet in 2013.
Meanwhile, Netherlands' Ragna Debats arrived at the finish line in Zermatt, Switzerland, as first woman in the race, which - despite the name - was over 49k.
As if 46k and 3600m of ascent and descent were not enough, changes to the course made it longer than the original. The tough climbs were compensated by the amazing Alpine views beneath the iconic pyramidic Mattherhorn.
De Gaspari clocked 4 hours 42 minutes 51 seconds to come home in front of Spanish runner-up Eugeni Gil Ocana (4:45:15), with Switzerland's Martin Anthametten (4:48:59) third.
Debats crossed the line with her daughter in her hands in 5:52:05, having had time to pick her up near the finish. The next woman was Spain's Lai Andreu Trias in 5:53:22 and third was Spain's Aviles Sheila (6:00:17).
De Gasperi was delighted to gain his first Migu Run Skyrunner World Series race victory. He said: “I’ve been second many times behind great champions like Kilian and other young guns that are now coming. It was a long race today. My feelings were not really my best as I expected but I had to manage this until the half part of the race because I knew that after that the race becomes very hard for everyone and in the last descent I managed a couple of minutes advantage I took.
“This gives me new motivation to go on. I’m 40 years old and it’s not really easy for old men to be on top.
“The course today was quite easy and runnable for everyone but the length of the course is key to the race - for people that are quite old and maybe can keep going til the end it’s quite important. Definitely I prefer when it’s more technical [than today]. But I like the Mattherhon course because the landscape you can see here is fantastic.”
Debats, who was horse trainer in England and Germany and didn’t start running until 2009, said: “At this time of the season I noticed that I am feeling tired a little bit. I started confidently but I noticed that I wasn’t feeling 100% but I still felt okay. So I just tried to run at a good pace to test the others.
“Towards the end of the race they were getting closer again I think so I was trying to be wrong mentally as well to keep up the pace then I noticed they weren’t getting any closer.”
The 46k offered bonus points in the 22-race Skyrunner series and was part of a two-day programme of races.
The 30k wins went to Switzerland's Stephan Wenk and New Zealand's Ruth Croft. The 16k event was won by Switzerland's Victoria Kreuzer and Portugal's Cesar Costa.
All abilities were catered for and also included were a 2.5km uphill-only race, relay and kids' race. However, with only around two thirds of starters in the longest race completing the course in under 10 hours, just finishing was a great achievement
Michael Jones and Sabrina Verjee were fastest male and female to conquer the iconic Lakeland 100 in Cumbria last weekend.Read More
If you're thinking of going far afield to take on a tough trail adventure, it might be worth checking out this video of the Invernal Chome, which took place last weekend near Concepción in Chile.Read More
Callum Rowlinson took victory at the Scott Snowdonia Trail Marathon, while GB mountain-running international Emma Clayton won the accompanying half-marathon event on Sunday.Read More
Participants brave challenging 56km of mountain running and rock-climbing with 4500m of ascent at the Lakes Sky Ultra in Cumbria. Andrew Berry and Catherine Slater take wins - race reportRead More
The world’s most extreme alpine adventure race has begun. No time for winding roads and obscure routes, competitors of Red Bull X-Alps must take to the air and trails along the most direct course to the finish. This unique straight-line distance race of 1138km traverses the Alps from Salzburg to Monaco, with seven turn points in seven different countries.
Today athletes swing past turnpoint six, with the finish line in (mental) sight. So what is happening right this moment? Christian Maurer (SUI1) is about to pass Turin and, in the lead with 155km to go, followed by B. Outters (FRA4), who is now traversing the Valle d’Aosta with 222km to go, and P. Guschlbauer (AUT1) is just resting on the banks of the Torrente Anza in third with 280km left.
Typically changeable weather conditions will take endurance to the extreme in this race and each athlete must have expert support with strategy and nutrition. It is impossible not to be inspired by the immense ambition of all 31 athletes, whose every move is being broadcasted by Live Tracking technology as we speak - have a look now!
Written by Kate Milsom
This is a race specifically not for beginners. The South Wales 100 is a 105-mile race that is 90% on trails and took place on June 23 this year. Last year only a quarter of entrants managed to finish, so no wonder it is a UTMB (Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc) qualifying race that will win a finisher six valuable UTMB points.
The race starts and finishes in Cardiff, following a loop across the South Wales Valleys and Brecon Beacons with several summits along the way. Interestingly, the race starts at 7pm, forcing participants to strap on their head torches after only a few hours and stride on into the night. Though there will be checkpoints for refreshment, entrants must otherwise be self-sufficient with navigation and fuelling, hence the experience requirement.
The course has in total around 6400m of ascent and must be completed in under 40 hours. Such tough conditions prompt some runners to band together in teams of up to four, not to break the distance into a relay but to offer support across the whole distance. The race this year was won by newbie Jack Galloway, whose previous longest race was less than half this distance. The winner of the women's category was Karen Nash, who has blogged about her victory here.
Those interested in the course may choose to take on the shorter SW50 challenge or join the SW100 walkers’ start. To get a better feel for this epic trail race, follow Jack to victory in the video below.
Written by Kate Milsom
For a mere 3km run you might ask what all the fuss is about - but in fact, this is a challenge of epic proportions. The race has an overall ascent of 970m, including an inconceivable incline of over 50%, so some may argue this is more a battle of gravity than anything else.
This past weekend, runners took to the slopes to scale Face de Bellevarde's 2798m summit. Returning champion Xavier Gachet upheld his title as king of the mountain with a time of 33 minutes 57 seconds, while another French national, newcomer Jessica Pardin (pictured below), took the women’s title in 43:08.
La Face de Bellevarde is an iconic, black-rated piste known throughout the world as the location for the first Criterium de la Premiere Neige, the World Cup Downhill ski championships. This race is part of the Vertical Kilometer World Circuit, a new concept acting as an add-on to the Skyrunner World Series, the fifth race of which took place in Val d’Isère this same weekend.
Written by Kate Milsom
With shockingly steep vertical climbs and slippery snowfields, the fifth race of the Skyrunner World Series is considered the highest race in Europe, and not for the faint-hearted.
Starting in the well-known ski resort Val d’Isère, the 68km course travels along the Odlo High Trail Vanoise to the summit of Grande Motte at 3653m, while touching upon the Col de l'Iseran at 2764m. Competitors encountered an incredibly technically challenging route that included striding over snowfields and glaciers.
This was a memorable year for the race as winners Luis Hernando and Megan Kimmel both set new records (Hernando pictured below). They currently both rank sixth in the series, whereas Dmitry Mityaev and Hillary Allen are in the lead at the fifth of eight stages. Competing with 300 professional ultra runners from more than 18 countries, this is no mean feat.
Written by Kate Milsom
Phil Martin is a British Masters V35 Half Marathon and Marathon Champion, who currently runs for Peterborough AC. He is this year's winner of the Giant's Head Marathon.
Words: Phil Martin
A trail marathon that can already, in its short 5 year lifespan, lay claim to having been voted the UK’s number one marathon seemed like the perfect place for me to make the transition from road to trail marathons. Described as a 26.2 mile-ish marathon on a very, very challenging hilly but beautiful course it certainly didn’t disappoint.
Starting in the lovely picturesque Dorset village of Sydling St Nicholas, the course is filled with amazing scenery and fantastic views of the Sydling and Cerne valleys. Just so you are under no illusions about how tough the course is going to be, less than half a mile in the climbing begins, and it’s tough. It’s sharp and steep and you continue climbing for around half a mile. Not far, but the gradient ensures your legs know all about it.
The rest of the course is a mixture of ups and downs across a variety of different types of surface, constantly keeping you on your toes and challenging you. On your third climb you finally see the Cerne Giant, a huge naked figure carved into the chalk hillside. Just in case you were in danger of missing it, the White Star Running Team's signage ensure you are aware there is a 35ft phallus coming up. This is just one of the many stunning views you get throughout the race.
The aid stations along the way are plentiful and have a superb array of goodies on offer to help fuel your marathon and are staffed by the best volunteers I’ve ever come across. They not only offer a variety of tasty treats but are fantastically vocal in their support of every single participant. The love station about 20 miles in is something truly unique and worth entering for on its own, however with the finish nearly in sight I decided to pass on the vodka shots.
From here there’s one more really challenging climb before you start the long glorious descent back down to Sydling St Nicholas and the finish line on the village green. Upon finishing you receive a buff, t-shirt and medal, all in keeping with the events unique appeal and it’s this attention to detail from the White Star Running Team that makes this a must do event which I can’t recommend enough.
On an overcast morning in the French Alps, superstar Kilian Jornet made a triumphant return to the trail running circuit with a win in his first trail race of the season at the Marathon du Mont Blanc on June 25 Just over a month after summiting Mt Everest twice in a week, Jornet outduelled an absolutely stacked field to win the 42km race, edging out Salomon athletes Stian Angermund-Vik of Norway and American Max King. Jornet finished in 3:45:45, followed closely by Angermund-Vik in 3:47:05 and King in 3:50:49 after the trio pushed the pace all morning.
“I’m really happy to have regained this level,” Jornet said. “It was a really tough race, given that the standard was so high. There were up to 15 runners on the starting line who had a chance of winning.”
On the women’s side, Salomon runner Megan Kimmel from the United States led a Salomon sweep of the podium as well, with Ida Nilsson and Annie Jean finishing second and third, respectively. Kimmel pushed the pace to beat Nilsson, last year’s winner, by nine minutes, finishing in 4:40:36.
In California, South African Ryan Sandes came from behind to win his first Western States 100-mile race on 25 June with a measured approach on a course that involved snow running in the early stages and scorching temperatures as they day wore on. After trailing the leader by nearly one hour at the halfway point of the esteemed race, Sandes closed fiercely in the latter stages to win by 28 minutes in 16:19:37.
“For me, Western States is my dream race to win,” Sandes said after the victory. “I’ve got my wife, my baby, my mom and some really good friends here, so it couldn’t be better. For me, it’s one of the greatest days of my life.”
On the women’s side, 25-year-old American Cat Bradley won her first Western States 100 in her first attempt. The Boulder, Colorado-based schoolteacher is making good use of her summer holiday. Like Sandes, she battled through the snow in the early stages and then grabbed the lead in the second half of the race, finishing in 19:31:30.
“I didn’t know what was going on up front for most of the day, but I was sick of getting passed in the snow, so I told myself I’m not going to let anyone pass me until the finish,” Bradley said in her finish line interview. “I didn’t even know what place I was in for most of the race. This race is so crazy because it has so many different elements to it. It’s unique in that way.”
ON THEIR FEET:
Ryan Sandes: Salmomon S/LAB Sense Ultras
Cat Bradley: Salomon Sense Pro Max shoes
Danny Bent is an author, journalist and adventurer, voted by the City of London to be one of the 50 most inspirational people in London, and one of the 100 happiest people in the UK according to the Independent on Sunday. He's cycled 9000 miles from London to India, raised $550,000 for victims of the Boston marathon bombings and founded Project Awesome in 2014 - a free workout in London.
I remember the snow biting my face, the wind pushing me off my sledge and the screams of joy that I assumed my own, bouncing off the surrounding hills dwarfing my child-sized figure. I was supposed to be at school, after all. It was my birthday. I don’t remember which one because every birthday was spent in the same manner before global warming stole the Peak District's annual snowfall.
At some point Mum and Dad moved to Essex for a new job and, as little people who knew nothing of survival, we had to follow them. We hated it. People spoke differently, our huge National Trust playground had been taken away and, worst of all, sledging on my birthday was never to happen again. We got used to the Essex life and I found new thrills in throwing bikes down muddy hills and donning tiny running shorts to explore the woods. It even snowed a couple of times and I’d be up at first light, grabbing my trail running shoes rather than a sledge, and revisiting the love I had as a child in making the first tracks in a brand new landscape.
In March this year I was lucky enough to be invited to Chamonix by a friend. The poor snow season had taken a turn for the better and powder lay deep in places. I took no time at all, packed my Salomon SnowCross shoes and caught the first flight out.
The snow was patchy at best in town but on the slopes it wrapped the mountain like a fur coat with only the wild extremities visible. Mont Blanc, the highest peak in Europe, stood over me like a white shadow, watching as my Dad had done when I was a kid.
I had no idea where I was going but set off uphill. First time skiers, hanging onto button lifts for dear life, dropped their jaws as I ran past them on the nursery inclines with a wave and a terribly anglicised ‘bonjour’. The 2000m altitude and steepening pistes soon had my lungs pushing against my ribs gasping for oxygen as lactic acid tore through my legs like glass. But a smile still peeked out behind my screwed up features. I knew what was coming…
At the top of the resort I wrapped my arms around me to keep the wind from pick pocketing my warmth and took in the surrounding mountain tops - jagged, rough but pristinely beautiful. The Peak District is always going to be my ‘most beautiful place in the world’ but I have to say the Alps ran them close that day. The magnetism of this view kept me stationary for too long and a shudder ran through my body. It was time to move.
A blue slope ran around the mountain, but even a blue slope offers you the chance to get your legs moving. I passed snowboarders edging down on their bottoms and skiers flew past me shouting in various languages ‘Bravo’, ‘Alle Alle’, ‘Hop hop’, ‘What a tosser’ (us Brits can be brutal). On a 5m wide path that negotiated a near cliff on both sides a sign blocked the way - seeing it as a challenge, I leapt over it only to read it in mid flight “Ferme, Closed, …, …. “ I had time in the air to worry but I needn’t have. The short fall ended in deep snow that exploded as I landed which in turn led to a black run I’d seen earlier.
It was the steepest slope I’ve ever run, a trip would have me sliding hundreds of feet, but my shoes held true and, hurling myself as if from a cliff, my legs rotated as fast as they could to keep me upright. Without a thought on anything else, my mind totally focussed on the present moment, I reached the bottom where the stares from onlookers and echoes suggested I’d been screaming for joy as I’d done all those years ago.
Making my way over to the lift, the only way out without wading through waist deep snow for hours on end, the lift handler looked at my bare, reddened legs and said “No skis, no lift” in that French accent that hits your eardrum like music. There was only one thing for it - I turned and started the lung busting run back up the slope.
Lying on my friend’s couch that evening after eating a raclette, consisting of a piece of cheese as big as my head, a bowl of potatoes and a basket of bread, my body sighed. Exhausted beyond measure, sleep washing over me, I just couldn’t wait to get back out there again tomorrow.
Images: Ben Arthur
Words: Helen Leigh
Having struggled with injuries all year, I battled hard just to be on the start line of the Salomon Glen Coe Skyline and was under no illusion that I was going to be anywhere near my best. I just wanted to enjoy a huge day out in a spectacular setting. It did not fill me with confidence that having drunk out of a stream on one of my final training runs I had had a bad stomach all week, and, leaving the rest to your imagination, arrived on the start line in a less than hydrated state!
The run over into Glencoe started well – feeling strong, I skipped down the Devil’s Staircase and enjoyed the fantastic scramble up Curved Ridge in beautiful sunshine. The brief hold-ups served as a nice breather and allowed a few sneaky looks at the view. I topped Stob Dearg in around 10th place and was still running well over Stob Na Doire, but climbing to Stob Coire Sgreamhach (try and pronounce that one!) I started to feel a little flat and my old hip injury began to nag. As I reached the top the views were fading fast and the clag and rain set in. It was a real slog round to Bidean Nam Bian and hard to gauge exactly where you were, given the poor visibility. The out-and-back was a nice chance to bump into folks, with lots of encouragement flying both ways.
I tried to banish the thoughts of bailing out that were creeping in as I slid back through the field, but with my hip hurting less on the downs, I was all the way back down in 47min to the last possible pull-out point at the Loch Achtriochtan car park. Lots of friendly faces greeted me and, most importantly, a loo and two cups of tea. Some friends had driven miles to support me, so after the longest break I’ve ever taken in a race, I pulled myself together and set off up the killer climb to Sgorr Nam Fiannaidh. Feeling like a tortoise could have hoofed up there faster than me, I just kept putting one foot in front of the other and arrived at the top, knowing that the hardest part was yet to come. Stubbornness is one of my stronger traits and probably the only thing that kept me going.
I had been across the Aonach Eagach ridge before, in glorious sunshine, but at that moment it was wet, moody and unforgiving. It’s one thing galloping across there on warm grippy rock, its quite another when you have legs like Bambi, and are in need of an immediate hip replacement and severely lacking in energy. I was careful, gingerly picking my way across the slippy rock, well aware of the massive drops either side and wishing I was functioning a bit more efficiently. All the way round the safety team and marshals were fantastic, looking pretty soggy themselves but being cheery and helpful to every weary runner. I was relieved to reach Am Bodach in one piece. A run, trot, shuffle got me back to the West Highland Way and my favourite checkpoint – the last one. With gravity finally on my side, I flew to the finish.It’s not often I get out of or close to the edge of my comfort zone, but conditions, circumstances and a brutally beautiful course certainly tested me in this race.
Huge thanks to my physio and coach Tim Pigott of Health and Performance Coaching. I finished as 16th placed lady and I05 overall. I’m a little less disappointed with this when I see that out of 217 starters, only 158 made it to the cut-off point, demonstrating the pure toughness of this rugged race.
Words: Claire Maxted
Cinnamon buns galore at every checkpoint, pink granite coastline routes beside blue seas, and enchantingly runnable forest paths. Surely this is the best way to see Sweden? I was back for this three-day race in Bohuslän, in the south-west, after my competitive side got away with me last year and I mistakenly plunged a leg into a deep drainage ditch, leading to stitches, a missed day and a limped final day’s walk.
This year I had unfinished business with the Icebug Xperience, but once again the odds were against me and a boring, long-term plantar fasciitis injury saw me walk/jogging the race and cheering on my running friends as they hammered sweatily past, eyes fiercely concentrated on the sharp, rocky paths. However, this slower pace gave me a chance to actually take in the truly jaw-dropping Swedish scenery, especially the second day: sun-drenched beaches; crystal-clear blue sea; sparkling pink granite rocks, and did I mention the cinnamon buns?
The atmosphere at Ramsvik holiday village was fun, friendly and food-filled. The buffet each evening was often organic, local, allergy- and special-diet-friendly, and very plentiful. After each race my injured foot benefited from us boiling in the free sauna then hurling ourselves, screaming, into the head-clearing sea. One evening there was a fascinating talk by Icebug Ambassador Markus Torgeby, who has just written a book about how he hermited himself away for four years in a self-made hut in the freezing forests of Jämtland. The following day we cheered as he tore past us. Perhaps hermitism should be on my next training plan...
Words: Sim Benson
The Lakes Sky Ultra tackles 56km of extreme running across crests and ridges, where the mountains meet the sky. Its vertical drops and rocky paths certainly aren’t for the fainthearted, but all this – combined with over 4500m of ascent and some exposed grade-III scrambling – make for a race that will live long in the memory.
I was invited to run by headline sponsors Salewa to test out its new range, including the brand-new Lite Train 14 bag and Ultra Train shoes, which gripped rock exceptionally well. That proved to be a blessing, as this course is scenic but serious, passing through some of the most dramatic Lakeland fells. Starting in Ambleside, it traverses the Helvellyn massif before dropping down into Patterdale. It’s a race of two halves, with two-thirds of the ascent packed into a technical first half. The rest is far more runnable, if you still have any legs left. It was a tough day, with plenty of miles but not enough of them in the mountains. Despite pushing me to my limits, it was an incredible experience and I’ll definitely be back. A big thanks to Charlie Sproson and his team of marshals!