Top runners: Scotland has the best landscape
Skyrunners from across the world praised Scotland’s fantastic landscape as they competed in a prestigious series of extreme mountain races.
More than 2000 athletes came to the Highlands from almost 60 countries to race in the 2018 Skyrunning World Championships and a round of the 2018 MIGU Run Skyrunner® World Series.
It was the first time that Scotland had hosted the biennial Skyrunning World Championships, which comprised three of the four races over one September weekend.
The races included the VERTICAL – Salomon Mamores VK® race; the ULTRA – Salomon Ben Nevis Ultra™ race; and the SKY – Salomon Ring of Steall Skyrace.
The final challenge was the Salomon Glen Coe Skyline 2018.
Spain’s Kilian Jornet dominated, winning two races: The Skyrunning World Championships SKY race on Saturday and the Salomon Glen Coe Skyline on Sunday.
The 30-year-old smashed the SKY record by 20 minutes in the 29km Salomon Ring of Steall Skyrace, finishing in 03:04:34.
The race challenges athletes to race over four of Scotland’s highest mountains on a course with 2500m of ascent.
The Salomon sponsored athlete said: “It was an amazing race on a beautiful and technical course. I am very happy to be the winner.”
The next day, Kilian also triumphed in the Salomon Glen Coe Skyline.
In rain and strong winds, he raced a 32km “bad weather” course through the Scottish mountains, including a total ascent of 2700m.
He crossed the finish line in Kinlochleven in 03:37:17.
Kilian said: “I love to do races like this. Scotland’s terrain is world-class and offers a unique place for mountain running.
“It’s technical, the track is beautiful, which is what I love when I’m racing.”
Another of the world’s best Skyrunners, Stian Angermund-Vik, of Norway, declared Scotland to be “my favourite place to race”.
Stian was third in the SKY race and he also took bronze in the VERTICAL race.
He said: “I love Scotland and I am so happy to be here racing in the mountains. I will return again and again, for sure.”
American Hillary Gerardi, the winner of the women’s Salomon Glen Coe Skyline race and bronze in the VERTICAL, said she rediscovered her love for Skyrunning in Scotland.
She said: “Last year, when I raced the Ring of Steall, I’d been having a tough season. Scotland helped me to find joy again in Skyrunning.
“This year I am so happy to be back and to have won. Racing in the Scottish mountains is so much fun. It’s technical, muddy and the views are amazing.”
History of Skyline Scotland
It was in 2015 that Shane Ohly, race director of the Skyline Scotland Skyrunning festival, first saw his dream of a running race over some of Scotland’s most extreme terrain come to fruition.
The Salomon Glen Coe Skyline attracted a field of less than 100 athletes who raced 52km, including exposed Curved Ridge on Buachaille Etive Mòr and a grade 2 scramble of Aonach Eagach Ridge.
This year, the field grew substantially, with more entries demanded than places available.
In addition, the number of races at the annual Skyrunning event increased to four and included the World Champs.
Shane said: “It was just a dream at the start, to host a race that would attract some of the world’s best mountain runners.
“This year, so many world-class athletes came to take part in four world-class races that all took place in the mountains of a world-class landscape.
“It has been both humbling and inspiring and we are indebted to the support of our event sponsors and partners.”
The 2018 Skyrunning World Championships are managed by the International Skyrunning Federation.
The ISF was the brainchild of Italian mountaineer Marino Giacometti, who launched the first Skyrunning races in the early 1990s.
This year, Marino, the ISF president, chose Scotland for the 2018 Skyrunning World Championships.
He said: “We were excited to bring the 2018 Skyrunning World Championships to Scotland where there is the perfect terrain.”
Colin runs them all
One Skyline Scotland race was not enough for Scottish runner Colin Anderson.
The 42-year-old from Glasgow completed all four extreme mountain runs.
He ran a total distance of 71 miles (115km) and climbed almost 26,000ft (7900m) over four days of racing.
Colin, originally from Ayr, 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 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.”
Colin was one of only two runners who completed the four races without being timed out. The other was Thomas Wagner from Austria.
American Julian Jamieson also attempted the four but missed a cut-off time in the Salomon Ring of Steall race.
This article appeared in my Sunday Mail column.