Glen Coe Skyline athletes – from first to fabulous
There were the awesome athletes who took the top places in the Salomon Glen Coe Skyline ultra race this weekend – but there were also the incredible runners who were “simply” participating and hoping to complete the long-distance high-level course in the stunning Scottish Highlands.
On Sunday, I took the opportunity to cheer on more than 200 competitors as they ran the 55km route with 4,750 metres of ascent. The #skylinescotland course takes in an exposed Grade III scramble of Curved Ridge and a full traverse of the Aonach Eagach ridge, which includes exposed Grade II scrambling.
I spectated at various checkpoints, including the start and finish at Kinlochleven, and what I saw was both inspiring and moving.
Kilian wins Glen Coe Skyline race
Ultra runner Kilian Jornet was the favourite to win the Migu Run Skyrunner World Series’ Salomon Glen Coe Skyline – and he did in an impressive record-breaking time of 6.25.39.
The Spanish runner, who took second place in the Ultra Trail del Mont Blanc (UTMB) just two weeks before, led for most of the race with runner up, Jonathan Albon doing his best to challenge. Jonathon, who triumphed in 2016, came home just six minutes after Killian (6.31.45) and also took the title of the overall champion of the Migu Run Skyrunner World Series, of which the Glen Coe Skyline was the third and final race.
Killian had huge praise for the Scottish landscape and course. He said: “The Scottish terrain and the ridges were really beautiful. This is the type of terrain that I really like to run in.”
He added: “It was a tough race and I was worried about how well I had recovered after the UTMB. I ran a lot of the race with John and that was good. He was very close to me on the ridge. I was super happy to win this great race.”
Glen Coe Skyline reported that Kilian also said: “This race is pure Skyrunning and the kind of race that I have always dreamed about. Glencoe Skyline is absolutely one the one to do.”
Jonathan said: “I am pretty happy with my second place and the overall series title. I tried to run my own race but also compete against Kilian. I caught up on the ridge but then I got a bit of a stitch and felt very thirsty.
“The views were stunning though and this is such a great course. It was also great to have everyone out there cheering us on. Thanks to everyone for that.”
In third place was the French runner Alexis Sévennec in 6:40:34.
Emilie wins Glencoe Skyline 2017
In 15th place overall and first for the women was Emilie Forsberg. The Swedish runner won the race in its first year in 2015 and returned after an injury-prone 2016 to win again. This time she broke the record set by Jasmine Paris last year to finish in 7.53.30.
Megan Kimmel, from America, was also faster than Jasmine this year and finished in 8:14:57 to take 18th place overall. The Dutch runner Ragna Debatstook third for the women – 19th overall – in 8:22:55.
The winner of the Migu Run Skyrunner World Series was Spain’s Maite Maiora.
Emilie said: “I am super happy to be back in Scotland. The terrain is like the perfect mix of Swedish and Norwegian landscape. Scotland is such a great place to run.
“I am very happy to be over my injury and to be back racing. It was close with Megan for a lot of the race and then when I got on to the [Aonach Eagach] ridge I started to push ahead. I didn’t look back and just ran on. I am super pleased to have won.”
Megan said: “This is a really fun race and it felt longer than I thought it would be. I felt tired towards the end and that is when Emilie ran ahead of me to win.
“It was still such an awesome experience and thanks so much to everyone for their support. You are lucky in Scotland to have such beautiful landscapes.”
The first Scot home was Alasdair Anthony in 14th place in 7:52:11 with second place for Scotland, David Kerr in 8.33.55. Craig Tweedie was the third Scot and finished 53rd in 9:51:32.
And the ‘ordinary’ doing the extraordinary
Of course, every top competitor starts out as an “ordinary” runner and puts in many long hours of challenging training to make it on to the podium. But it is the people who have decided to make the Skyline their year’s goal or lifetime achievement that most impressed me this weekend.
Many talked of the desire “simply to finish” or of a race they never thought they would start, let alone finish.
I watched as they pushed themselves to their limits but still with a smile on their faces. They ran what they could and fast hiked the rest. They gave each other encouragement and found whatever reserves they could to keep going on a very tough and technical course.
While the winners were breaking records, some of the other competitors were out for almost 14 hours. The final man and woman to finish (there were about 40 who did not finish) were Neill Martin in 13:43:34 and Emma Smyth in 13:56:41.
This is a very challenging ultra run and some say it is one of the toughest skyrunning races. Most people would hope to complete the 55kms over a few days of hiking let alone run it all in one race.
So, to finish a race in the awesome Glencoe terrain, whatever the position is hugely impressive. Huge congrats to all the fabulous finishers.
A weekend of ultra running races
As well as the Glen Coe Skyline race there were three other endurance running races held from the base at Kinlochleven at the weekend. Entries across the race totalled more than 1000 men and almost 300 women and from more than 30 countries.
The Salomon Mamores VK was held on Friday followed by the Salomon Ben Nevis Ultra and Salomon Ring of Steall Skyrace on the Saturday.
Tradition seems to be that many of the runners in the other racers also compelte the VK (vertical kilometre) race, too.
First for the men was Stian Angermund-Vik, followed by Sam Tosh and Alexis Sévennec. First for the women was Laura Orgué, then Beth Hanson and Emelie Forsberg,who went on to win the Skyline race on the Sunday.
The new Ben Nevis Ultra is 120km with a total ascent of 4000m including the summit of the UK’s highest mountain.
Scotland’s Donnie Campbell was first followed by Casper Kaars Sijpesteijn and Michael Jones.
For the women, Mira Rai came home first with Andrea Huser in second and Moreda Gabaldon Eva Maria third.
John Hammond was second home for the Scots in 17th place.
The Ring of Steall Ultra is 29km and 2500m of ascent. In first place was Stian Angermund-Vik, who also triumphed in the VK race, followed by Pascal Egli and Kris Jones.
Laura Orgué was first women with Sheila Avilés second and Oihana Azkorbebeitia third. First Scot home was Iain Manson, who came 28th overall.
Find out more at Skyline Scotland.