Skyline Scotland: Ultra running pair ‘do the four’
I watched in admiration as runners of all abilities, shapes and sizes and from across the world competed at Skyline Scotland this year. It was an honour to interview the podium runners – and humbling to see many other runners pushing themselves to their limits to complete these extreme mountain running races.
This year, Skyline Scotland, based at Kinlochleven in the Highlands, hosted the 2018 Skyrunning World Championships, including the VERTICAL – Salomon Mamores VK® race; the ULTRA – Salomon Ben Nevis Ultra™ race; and the SKY – Salomon Ring of Steall Skyrace.
The 2018 Salomon Glen Coe Skyline, itself a round of the 2018 MIGU Run Skyrunner® World Series, was the fourth race in the skyrunning festival weekend.
Each race comprised a huge challenge and there were some for whom that was enough. I get that.
Other competitors took on two races. Remarkably, top Spanish runner Kilian Jornet won two races back-to-back: the SKY: Salomon Ring of Steall Skyrace and 2018 Salomon Glen Coe Skyline.
But there were also three runners who entered all four races and two who finished the four without being timed out. These running heroes were Colin Anderson from Scotland; Tom Wagner from Austria and American Julian Jamieson, who sadly missed out when he missed a cut off in the Ring of Steall Skyrace.
Four extreme races in one weekend
Colin Anderson and Tom Wagner told me what motived them to do all four Skyline Scotland races over four days.
The total distance of the four races was 71 miles (115km) with an ascent of almost 26,000ft (7900m) with races on consecutive days. (Two of the races followed “bad weather” courses.)
Colin, 42, is originally from Ayr and now lives in Glasgow. He said: “I did the Glen Coe Skyline in 2016 and failed to finish inside the cut-off times.
“The next year, I trained hard and I was very pleased to finish the tough race. This year, when I saw there were four races I decided I had to try for them all.”
Colin admits that it was a very tough weekend but he was aided by his secret race weapon: Star Bars.
He said: “Completing the races was very satisfying although my legs became increasingly tired and sore running day after day.
“But the best thing was the camaraderie on and off the courses, from the other runners, to the supporters, organisers and particularly the marshals and volunteers. It was a fantastic weekend of racing.
Tom Wagner is 39 and lives in Graz, Austria. His background is climbing and when he stared running he described himself asa climber foremost. But gradually the balance of running changed to take precedence. Tom still climbs as part of his running training.
He says he does well in longer races. Tom adds: “I have won the occasional 100-miler and even set two course records: Istria 100 and Chiemgauer 100.
“My first ever trail race was a 56km and my third was a go at the UTMB back in 2006. I finished it then in 2007. I thought the Skyline Scotland races looked like fantastic routes and so I wanted to do them all.”
Tom tried to pace himself in each race. He says: “When doing the four races, you have to keep in mind that there is another day ahead and likely it is better to take the final downhill not at full speed.
“Each day, especially the last, the legs legs, and body in general, needed to warm-up. However, I always tried to enjoy the individual races and to give each a good go anyway. I managed to sneak into the top100 in all of the four races, which was pleasing.”
Tom enjoyed the weekend of running. He says: “It was super fun. The events were organised perfectly, the people so friendly and I simply had a good time out there.
“And I love Scotland. The mountains are not huge but the terrain makes up for it easily. I really enjoyed the landscapes and I like the idea of having four races that all start at one place, but still cover such different ground. Each of the races has its own charm and actually makes me curious about exploring more trails in Scotland.
“I want to recommend this great event to anyone who loves to run on trails and while they might be muddy and technical they are great fun. I will be back for sure.”