The countdown has started for the first Skyrunning World Championships to be held in Scotland. Three disciplines will be disputed, hosted by Salomon Skyline Scotland in Kinlochleven from 13-15 September.
Skyrunning is where earth and sky meet and that’s where all the action will be on and around Scotland’s highest mountain, Ben Nevis, where the first mountain running race took place in 1895.
After four biennial World Championships held in Italy, France and Spain, the Scottish Highlands (or “Skylands”) will welcome 1,830 skyrunners from no less than 40 countries to race the Vertical, Sky and Ultra disciplines.
World titles and 27 medals are at stake which will be awarded to individuals and teams as well as a combined title based on the best results of the Vertical and Sky races.
Twenty-nine Official National Teams will compete for the country ranking, won in the 2016 World Championships by Spain (gold), Czech Republic (silver) and Japan (bronze).
Past world champions and skyrunning super stars will be competing. They include Kilian Jornet, Luis Albert Hernando, Pere Aurell, Jan Margarit, Laura Orgué, Maite Maiora and Sheila Avilés from Spain; Stian Angermund-Vik from Norway; Britons Jonathan Albon, Tom Owens, Holly Page; Hillary Gerardi, Sage Canaday and Dakota Jones from the USA; Ragna Debats from the Netherlands; André Jonsson and twin sisters Lina and Sanna El Kott from Sweden; Mira Rai from Nepal; Japan’s Rui Ueda, Yuri Yoshizumi and Dai Matsumoto; and recent UTMB winner Francesca Canepa from Italy.
2016 Vertical, Sky and Combined champion, the most feared and revered athlete in these categories, is Norwegian Stian Angermund-Vik. “I’m excited to be back to run my favourite race. I’m in good shape and hope to do my best performance of the season up the Mamores VK and in the Ring of Steall Skyrace. It’s fun to see that the level of the competitors is super high!” Angermund-Vik is also holder of the Vertical and Sky records set here last year.
Another great skyrunning world champion in 2014 and 2016, Luis Alberto Hernando representing Spain, had this to say, “I feel very motivated after the disappointment of having to retire from the UTMB after twisting my ankle twice. I was well-prepared physically with lots of kilometres of training so I hope to do well in Scotland. My legs are ready!”
From Spain’s Basque Country, Maite Maiora won the 2016 Sky and Combined world titles. “I’m looking forward to race day. I’ve trained hard and with passion for this Championship. I ran the Ring of Steall last year and loved it. This year I’ve opted for the Ben Nevis Ultra which I think will be very interesting because of the terrain…and the competition!”
Winner of many of skyrunning’s toughest races, Londoner Jonathan Albon is also an obstacle racing world champion who lives and trains in Norway. “I’ve been competing in skyrunning for four years now but have never had the privilege of racing in a World Championship event. It’s an exciting prospect to be toeing the line of my first championship in the UK and am looking forward to what is the main race of my season,” he commented. “I hope to represent Great Britain as best I can and hope for a strong performance from both myself and the team.”
Top skyrunner Holly Page will be racing for Great Britain. “I think I’ve raced every weekend since April but the week before the World Champs I’ll have a whole weekend without racing so hopefully my legs will be well rested and raring to hit the Highland ridges. It’s quite special to have the World’s top athletes coming to the UK – hopefully afterwards people will stop saying that the UK doesn’t have any mountains!.”