US Skyrunning Series Announced; Other National Series In The Works

It’s here. Can you feel it? Skyrunning is coming to America in 2014. Big time.

For the last two years, Skyrunning has incorporated U.S. races into its World Ultra Series, the Speedgoat 50k in 2012 and 2013, and the UROC 100k in 2013. And, just 10 days or so ago, Skyrunning announced its 2014 World Series and three U.S. races are included, the Speedgoat 50k and The Rut 50k in the Ultra World Series and the Lone Peak Vertical Kilometer in the Vertical World Series.

If you’re up on your social media, you’ve probably heard some rumblings about the onset of even more U.S. Skyrunning races. You might have even heard that Ian Sharman has been named the U.S. Skyrunning Series Director. Today, U.S. Skyrunning announces multiple, national-level series for the U.S. which will be divided into the traditional Skyrunning disciplines: Vertical, Sky, and Ultra. What does this all actually mean? Generally speaking, it means that, if you’re from the U.S., you’ll be able to compete in Skyrunning-style races and series on your home turf. No international plane tickets needed. We’ll get to the specifics in a minute.

When asked about how and why Ian Sharman was charged with heading up the U.S. Skyrunning Series, the Executive Director and Vice President of the International Skyrunning Foundation (ISF) (Skyrunning’s governing body), Lauri van Houten, explains,

“Ian has been with us since 2012. He was at the ‘Less Cloud. More Sky’ seminar [after the 2012 Transvulcania] where we presented skyrunning to a new generation and to ultrarunners who were new to the sport. He was really interested and since then was on the ISF Athletes Commission and is now also on our Management Committee as well. It was clear from the beginning that, apart from his status as a top athlete, he knows his stuff; he’s committed; he’s dynamic; he’s serious.

But Skyrunning races in the U.S. aren’t a new phenomenon. In the 1990s, the Fila Skyrunning Circuit did a version of what the Skyrunning World Series are doing today: showing off stellar mountain courses all over the world. The Fila Skyrunning Circuit was organized by the Skyrunning predecessor, the Federation of Sport at Altitude. As part of this, the U.S. Fila SkyMarathon, U.S. Fila Half SkyMarathon, and U.S. Fila Vertical Kilometer took place in the Aspen and Vail areas of Colorado for a number of years. Runners like Matt Carpenter, Danelle Ballengee, Ricardo Mejia, and Corinne Favre were all over the U.S. races in the international Fila Skyrunning Circuit. In the early 2000s, all that went away in the U.S., and Skyrunning lapsed back to its roots in Europe. Says Lauri van Houten, “Those U.S. races grew and counted several hundred participants. When Fila crashed and the sponsorship with it in 2000, no one took over. The concept of investing in trail running, let alone skyrunning, just wasn’t conceivable at the time, so it just died right there and then.”

U.S. Skyrunning Series Races

But now it’s back and, apparently, after a couple of years of experimentation at the World Series level, with a vengeance. When asked about why Skyrunning is back in the U.S. and back in 2014, Lauri van Houten explains,

“Skyrunning never wanted to leave! 2014 because the time is ripe. It’s not a question of ‘re-alignment’ but having RDs that understand the concept, like Mike Foote and Mike Wolfe and Dakota Jones, who have all been to Europe and understand what skyrunning is really about. It’s not just the terrain. It’s the whole spirit and the passion of the organisers and supporters. Speaking to several RDs, there’s unquestionably interest. Runners are looking for more challenges the whole time–look at how popular ultras have become. Add elevation. Magic. It’s not that we ‘want’ the U.S. included; I think the U.S. wants to be included! Ask me the same question this time next year and let’s see where we are!”

According to Ian Sharman, the U.S. series is still in planning stages. As in, it’s happening in 2014, but all of the races within the series aren’t yet finalized. Here’s the current lowdown:
U.S. Skyrunning Ultra Series

U.S. Skyrunning Sky Series

U.S. Skyrunning Vertical Series

Ian Sharman also confirms that entry requirements for individual races will be at the discretion of the race directors, but for most events that will just be a willingness to take on a tough race. Sharman also says that anyone completing one or more races will automatically be part of the series and eligible to score points toward the overall series, the same way that the Skyrunner World Series currently works. (See the scoring rules at the bottom of this page.) Sharman says that each race and will have prize money and that the overall series winners will be monetarily rewarded, as well. Sharman says he doesn’t have any more details on prize money amounts yet.

Inner Workings of the U.S. Skyrunning Series

We wanted to get a feel for some of the cogs in the U.S. Skyrunning wheel. For example, what were the motivations of the players involved in putting the series together and what are the included races like?

Says Ian Sharman on how the series came to be from his perspective:

“I’m the organizer and promoter of the new U.S. Skyrunning Series… I’ve been involved on the Athletes Commission for a while and have a vote on the board. The reason I’m involved is because when I saw some of the races over in Europe, I couldn’t help but be inspired. I love running of all types and Skyrunning offers a slightly more extreme and spectacular style.

“Skyrunning has been around since the 1990s, but in the past year or two it’s really taken off thanks to growth in trail and mountain running, plus the exciting, competitive races they’ve enabled. Stars like Kilian Jornet and a growing cast of international runners have catapulted the sport forward, especially the more extreme and visually stunning races. The ISF approached me at the end of September with the concept of a U.S. Series and I’ve expanded the scope of what they suggested. Initially the idea was to start with just a handful of races but the U.S. has a huge running community so I wanted to include enough events for it to be more than a showcase. Many of the races are completely new, so I’ve been in discussions with many race directors and the response has been incredibly positive–it’s almost like they were waiting for an excuse to create even more spectacular events.
“Over time, these races will get bigger and the local communities will hopefully get behind them more and more to get a little closer to the European style of ‘Tour de France’ atmosphere, but my main priority in the first year is to have races that are authentically in the Skyrunning style, with beautiful, rugged terrain. I want runners and spectators to come away from an event wanting more and finding it as exciting as we all found Transvulcania when we first saw it at an international level in 2012.”

Jamil Coury, a race director for Aravaipa Running, a race-management company, will direct the 2014 Flagstaff Endurance Runs 35 Mile, 22 Mile, and VK as well as the Kendall Mountain Run 12 Mile. Here’s what he has to say on why he and Aravaipa Running are jumping onto the proverbial U.S. Skyrunning trail:

“When Ian [Sharman] asked me about which races might fit the series, I immediately thought of the Kendall Mountain Run in Silverton, Colorado and the Flagstaff Endurance Runs in Flagstaff, Arizona. I have used the motto ‘Run Steep Get High’ for my running in the mountains around Silverton and Flagstaff over the past couple of years and that fits in perfect with the Skyrunning principles.

“The approximately 20k Kendall Mountain Run is something that we took direction of recently, but will be in its 38th year in 2014. It has such an amazing history (originating from a 1908 bar bet to see how fast a miner could run to from town to the top and back) and includes a lot of vertical and a steep scramble at the top of the peak. The views from the 13,066-foot top of Kendall Mountain scream ‘skyrunning’ as you have a 360-degree view of the San Juan Mountains that is breathtaking.

“The Flagstaff Endurance Runs existed the past two years as a 50k and 50 mile that were on par with Zane Grey in terms of difficulty, but we are completely redesigning the courses to better align with Skyrunning principles… We are seeking to add more vertical on lesser-known trails as well as a final climb up and descent down the ski slopes of the Arizona Snowbowl ski resort which will top out at 11,600 feet (permits pending). The races in the past two editions topped out around 9,000 feet.”

Jenn Shelton - Kendall Mountain Run

Jenn Shelton running the Kendall Mountain Run. Photo: Ray Dileo

Mike Foote is Co-Race Director with Mike Wolfe for The Rut 50k, which took place for the first time at Big Sky Ski Resort in Montana this year. Next year, Mike Foote and Mike Wolfe will direct The Rut 50k again as well as the Lone Peak VK. The following are some thoughts from him on why they’ve chosen to join both the Skyrunning World Series and U.S. Skyrunning Series:

“Ever since the idea for The Rut came about two years ago, our goal was to have the event be a ‘Skyrunning-style’ race. We were inspired by many of the courses that had the Skyrunning stamp of approval in Europe and we wanted to bring a similar ethos and environment back to Montana and the U.S. We share similar values and philosophy with the ISF in regards to the sport of mountain running. We wanted to create an event that embraced and celebrated some severe and technical terrain. In addition, we are excited, long term, to grow the event into a weekend festival for all, while also developing the competitive end of the race. With those shared goals, our partnership with ISF fell in to place.

“The 50k fits the specifications of a Sky Ultra. The entire course falls between 7,500 and 11,166 feet in elevation and will have close to 10,000 feet of vertical gain. I don’t think there is another footrace in Montana that is higher in altitude. Also, we designed the course to integrate sections of extremely technical terrain in a harsh, alpine environment. We have been fortunate to work with Big Sky Resort on private property and we have been allowed more latitude while designing the course due to this, which I love. The day after the event this year I was scrambling up scree slopes and along knife edge ridges searching for more of this terrain to integrate into the 2014 edition of The Rut 50k. We are committed to creating a course which is truly unique and challenging.

“Will The Rut lose its character and quirky Montana vibe we tried hard to instill in the event in its first year? This was something we addressed early on in our conversations with the ISF. There were many e-mails discussing what control, if any, the organizer loses of their event, if they sign on with Skyrunning. We share similar goals with Skyrunning for The Rut and I believe our partnership will help the event without sacrificing the character we have worked hard to establish.  Montana pride is strong right now, and the energy is high to share that pride with so many folks from out of state and country. If anything, our partnership may be a catalyst for even more over-the-top, goofy, Montana-style additions to the race. (Camo race shirts anyone?)”

Here’s a video put together on the 2013 The Rut 50k:

Willy Syndram, the RD of the Cruel Jewel 56 mile, which joins the 2014 U.S. Skyrunning Ultra Series, says:

“When I was approached by Ian about joining the U.S. Skyrunnning Series I was shocked, mostly because Skyrunning focuses on tough races at high elevations. Then it hit me, people were starting to take notice of how tough my little race really was! On the East Coast we may not have the high elevations, but we do have some tough, rugged mountains. The Cruel Jewel, with its 17,000 feet of climbing, will make you see East Coast trail racing in a whole new light, and hopefully inspire you to run a few more East Coast races.”

James Varner operates race-management company Rainshadow Running. He directs Angels Staircase 60k and 35k, which will respectively be in the U.S. Ultra and Sky Series:

“I’m pretty excited for the new U.S. Skyrunning Series. The U.S. has some pretty gnarly races and it’s cool to see someone wanting to bring a bunch of them together into one series. Ian has been coming to our Gorge Waterfalls race the last couple of years and so he had a good idea of what our races are about. And then I think it was the Angels Staircase Race Report titled ‘The Never-Ending Climb’ by Jacqueline Windh in one of the recent issues of UltraRunning magazine that caught his attention and provoked him to get in touch with me. Angels Staircase 60k and 35k are the highest-altitude races in the Northwest and, with 11,000 feet of gain for the 60k and 6,000 feet for the 35k, they also have the ‘boatload’ of elevation gain that Skyrunning requires. We also discussed including our Yakima Skyline Rim 50k and 25k which has 10,000 feet and 5,000 feet of gain respectively but in the end they didn’t make the cut because the mountains the races are on aren’t high enough.

“I see being part of Skyrunning as a big benefit to the runners who do the races. Sure the average runners aren’t going to win any prize money or anything like that but every finisher will have some serious street cred. They’ll be able to say, ‘these are the hardest races in the country and I finished them!’ It also gives the runner who is more tough than fast their moment in the sun. And for the folks who like to see a real battle at the front of the race, the increased attention and glory will bring a higher and deeper level of competitive runners to each race, so that’ll be fun for fans to see.”

A video from the 2013 Angels Staircase races:

Skyrunning National-Level Series Expansions All Over the World

What’s happening in the U.S. in 2014 has been and is happening elsewhere, too. Prior to 2014, there have been 27 national-level Skyrunning associations. In some cases, like Italy, national-level races and series are, at this point, old hat. And, in other cases, the associations support maybe just one Skyrunning race in country. But next year, Skyrunning is expanding into other countries with national-level series. Says Lauri van Houten,

“Skyrunning has always been global since the start but not on a big scale of course. The vision has always been global– altitude permitting. Italy, the birthplace of skyrunning, counts over 120 affiliated races and more than 90 skyrunning associations, including a national circuit and national championships. We wanted to replicate the successful format of the Skyrunner World Series on a national level… The people coordinating the Series are not always the same as those running the National Association, but mostly the two go hand in hand. In most cases, they are people from marketing and media, in others from sport.”

Lauri van Houten says that Skyrunning intends to make a full announcement on the national-level series expansion into other countries at the beginning of 2014. In the meantime, we hear that talks/brainstorms are in the works for national-level series in the following countries next year (We also note the series organizers where we know who they are.):

A U.S. Skyrunning Team?

Ruminations, ruminations. The Skyrunning World Championships takes place every four years and the next one is scheduled for a three-race event in Chamonix at the end of June 2014, including the Mont Blanc 80k, the Mont Blanc Marathon, and the Mont Blanc Vertical K. Rumor has it that the U.S. is going to send its own Skyrunning team. According to Ian Sharman, “The U.S. will have strong representation from several of the big name ultra and trail runners who aren’t into 100 milers (yet). The runners haven’t been finalized yet but the top ranked U.S. athletes in the Skyrunning rankings are almost all going.”

Editorial Thoughts (from Bryon and Meghan)

  • In the U.S., national-level trail running series have been well-represented by the La Sportiva Mountain Cup for shorter distances and the Montrail Ultra Cup for ultra distances. The stakes for these series have been prize money and, in the Montrail Ultra Cup’s case, entry into the Western States 100. The competition for these series (as opposed to their individual races) has been present but generally not too deep. Why? It’s cost prohibitive to travel to races and the prize money for podium places in the series might allow a runner to recoup little more than his or her costs barring strong support from their sponsor. In the past, even a $25,000 cash purse has been insufficient incentive to draw deep, series-wide competition.
  • Since 2008, the La Sportiva Mountain Cup has been a national, mountain-running series. While there are no strict parameters for race inclusion, at least three and possibly more of the 10 scheduled races in 2014 likely fit Skyrunning criteria. Are the Mountain Cup and U.S. SkyMarathon Series races going to spread the competition? Or, will they provide additional, complimentary platforms for shorter-distance trail runners to garner additional recognition and support?
  • Is the Skyrunning concept being shoehorned into U.S. geography and trail running culture? Most of us like to run off road on a variety of surfaces. However, not many of us have access to training on the Skyrunning-style terrain. While the Skyrunning concept might seem cool because we watch America’s (and the world’s) highest-level runners race and run on that terrain, it might not be applicable for the rest of us. Alternately, there are undoubtedly American trail runners who do run in this terrain and additional ones smitten with the concept. Why not give them a forum to race and play?
  • Relatedly, is introducing the Skyrunning concept compatible with the American wilderness ethos? Yes, many trail runners visit wild places on foot. However, that dispersed use does not have the same effect as hundreds of runners traversing a race’s terrain on race day. Not to mention increased concentration of auxiliary use in training, marking, etc. An explosion of Skyrunning-style running outside of the racing environment in the U.S. could potentially have effects on a much larger set of time and terrain.
  • Some details still need to be ironed out before we have a full picture of what the series is. Regardless, the concept is exciting.

Call for Comments (from Meghan)

  • What U.S. Skyrunning race looks most appealing to you?
  • What do you think about the concept of Skyrunning expanding its model to a national-level circuit in addition to including U.S. races in their World Series circuit?
  • And, is such interconnected, global circuitry the future of trail running? What are your thoughts?

In light of challenges during previous, recent discussions related to the tour/circuit phenomenon, we add a note here calling for civility in the discussion in the comments section of this article. Feel welcome to debate, agree, and disagree, but please do so respectfully. Thank you!

Meghan Hicks

is iRunFar.com’s Senior Editor, the author of ‘Where the Road Ends: A Guide to Trail Running,’ and a Contributing Editor at Trail Runner magazine. The converted road runner finished her first ultramarathon in 2006 and loves using running to visit the world’s wildest places. For more information on Meghan and her adventures, please visit her personal website.

There are 52 comments

  1. FernandoNBaeza

    Its a very exciting concept, to incorporate ISF approved Sky, Ultra and VK into the American landscape. It will make the racing atmosphere the much more competitive bringing even more international talent to this side of the water. The Rut 50K in Montana put out by Foote/Wolfe looks like it will gain popularity due to its elevation and vibe; this is not to discount the Kendall Mountain run or the Flagstaff Endurance runs, as those races look phenomenol. :D
    From what I inferred, is that north american runners will not have to leave the U.S. to be incorporated into an ISF ranking based on the races done only in the U.S.? I'm pleasantly surprised either way, as the ISF embodies, in my opinion, what I believe to be legitimate, true mountain running. With American directors/ambassadors like Sherman, Jones, Foote/Wolfe, et al, I feel confident we will have some aggressive, steep and beautiful mountain courses to be integrated into the ISF circuit, with hopes of futures ones to be inducted as well.
    Fernando N Baeza
    San Antonio, TX

  2. Emir

    This is really exciting for the US trail community. While some people could care less about Sky running and these kind of races, there are plenty of others who yearn for that kind of terrain and experiences. Ian should do a great job running this series, and hopefully we will see it expand even more in the future. There are certainly other places in the country where more races can be added. Sucks to be on the east coast (Grrrrrr)

    PS. YES for the Camo race shirts at the RUT!

  3. lstomsl

    Meh…. It will be fun to see some competitive races but the only places in this country where there might be a possibility for large numbers of runners and spectators like they get in Europe will be ski areas. I'd almost as soon run on the road as run in a ski area. But that's just my personal preference.

    I ran Angels Staircase a few years ago. It was a great race with a great vibe. One of my all time favorites. I have no idea how they would get many more than 100 or so people to that venue, no parking, no lodging, etc. And I'm sure that the atmosphere will be very different. But there will be other low-key races to replace it.

    1. LukeDistel

      Completely agree with you. I have run a number of James' races and Angel's was by far my favorite, both from a terrain/course perspective and because it is remote and more secluded (very few people out there!). Will be interesting to see how that feeling can be maintained if the field gets much bigger.

    2. James_Varner

      Istomsl,

      I'm glad you really liked Angels Staircase but there have been a few changes to the race since the first year that you might not be aware of. The start/finish has been moved to allow for about 10-15 times as many cars(plus a shuttle from town is also an option if we need it to get allow for more folks on race day)–it also added another 1000ft of elevation gain. We also have split the race into 2 back-to-back days to which basically doubles the total number of runners. Grand total we should be able to accomodate 500 runners this year with those changes.

      And with this area being a world class travel destination there is more than enough lodging for everyone in the surrounding mountain towns of Carlton, Twisp, Winthrop and Pateros. And don't forget about the nearly unlimited free camping along Foggy Dew and Gold Creeks at the race start/finish area.

      Sure we won't be able to get thousands runners like some of the European races and it's unlikely there will ever be throngs of screaming spectators because the vast majority of the course is far from any roads/civilization. But with "More Sky, Less Clouds" and a very tough course I think Angels Staircase 60k and 35k will not disappoint the skyrunning aficionado. Hope to see you at the race this August!

      1. lstomsl

        James, I ran in 2012 which I believe was actually the new course. I have no doubt the course will satisfy everyone. It is stunning. I have questions about logistics but that will be your baby to deal with. If that is the direction you want the race to go I wish you every success. But I won't be there. In 2012 I also ran Speedgoat (and Kendall too which probably makes me the 2012 US skyrunning champ, haha). Angels Staircase was such a simple joy after the craziness of Speedgoat and it makes me sad to see it head in that direction. It's just my personal preference, nothing wrong with big competitive races. I like to follow them as a fan of the sport but they aren't for me to run in. I'll find a smaller grass-roots race somewhere. I'm sure I won't be missed.

        1. James_Varner

          Thanks for the feedback and congrats on the 2012 championship! ;) I certainly will be doing my very best to balance the added excitement and hoopla of being a part of the US Skyrunning Series with the laid back and intimate experience I've always tried to provide at our races.

          Have fun!
          James

  4. MikeD_

    In speaking about costs, the lack of East Coast races (only two are east of Colorado), does make it cost prohibitive for some. Hopefully, growth and interest will help increase the presence and inclusion of East Coast races.

        1. AaronKeller

          I was actually thinking the Southern Appalachians would be more suited to the Sky or Ultra series than VK (if you ignore the elevation requirement). Although I live in CO now, I grew up in western NC, and when Ian put out a request for an eastern VK, I racked my brain to come up with a suitable course back home. While there are numerous trails that achieve a 1000m vert, doing it within the required 5K distance is tough. There are probably some old gnarly logging roads out there that hit 1000+ft per mile for 3 miles.. If you know of any. . .get permits/permission and fire up a VK on them. I'm curious to see the NH course–I know nothing of the northern Appalachians except that they don't pronounce "Appalachian" correctly up there. It's a soft "a", people. . . soft "a" !

          1. lstomsl

            One thing the northern Appalachians have for the vk is large ski areas. Even in Colorado there aren't many places you can get 3280 feet elevation in 3 miles outside of a ski area or wilderness area. Even Kendall is only half that grade. Even the trails in the grand canyon are not anywhere near that steep.

            But I agree 100% that there are suitable places all along the Appalachians suitable for a very difficult long course if they can relax the absolute elevation requirement.

      1. throwerbt

        Johnny, i think if you came over and ran some of the high elevation trails in NC, you would retract that statement. Two areas that come to mind are the Art Loeb Trail (tops out at 6000ft, starts at 2000), Black Mountain Crest trail (starts at 3000 ends at 6700) which is practically on a ridgeline the entire time and crosses 5+ peaks over 6,000, the trails on Grandfather mountain (elevations range from 3,000 to 6,000) which have multiple ladders on cliffs faces follows razor ridgelines. These are just a few areas that come to mind that would be great for a Skyrunning event.

        1. Johnny

          Might check those out as I live close by in Virginia. Personally, I enjoy following these races/series more so than actually participating. So the fact that there's only one east coast race in it doesn't really bother me.

  5. barwic01

    Travel distance for races in the series may make it tough for the first few years. The VK stretches from Arizona to New Hampshire! The Ultra Series is Georgia to Washington! The middle ground Sky Series is at least based in the western US but will cost a pretty penny to make every race.

    Europe is closer together and has cheaper modes of travel making the series a better fit there.

    I will admit I am jealous of the whole series but happy to see something in Georgia which I will be more than happy to travel to!

  6. dragorbedragged

    This has our whole family going crazy with excitement! This is going to be an amazing year of travel! Now we don't have to dream of the far off future when we can afford to travel overseas for SkyRunning. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

  7. JaketheMince

    "Far" is a relative property. This seems to allow for an infinite set of possible distances that satisfy the necessary and sufficient conditions (if they exist, whatever they may be) for the term. However, the "far" in iRunFar, seemingly, culls the set of possible members. If I’m not mistaken, this website deals in ultras. An "ultra," as I have come to know it, seems to have a clear low-end limit, at the very least, >26.2 miles. Given that stipulation, we are still left with infinite set of satisfactory distances, but, it is a smaller set; it excludes those distances less than 26.2 miles. The concern that arises with the recent and anticipated focus on non-ultra skyraces is the compromise of this lower limit and, in turn, the risk of bloating our nice, lean infinite set. This would blur the (relatively) tidy referent of “far” (if it means anything, it distinguishes nothing) and, ultimately, mar the identity of our beloved media outlet. So the question becomes: Will iRunFar dedicate space to the small piles of “k”s that crop up all over the skyrunning scene or will “far” be reserved for folks with big appetites? It seems you’ve got a few options:
    1) Change the referent of the “far” in iRunFar. We just accept the relative nature of the term and the fact that a vertical K, in some regard, is… far.
    2) Change the name. iRunUltrasandSkyraces? (There may be room for improvement, here).
    3) Disregard the ramblings of an out of work philosopher and go on about yer business.
    I trust you’ll make the right decision. (It’s number 3)

    1. @WilliamsRunning

      This could all be a joke but I believe early on irunfar was established to cover all things mud, mountains, miles or more (taking that from their slogan of course). Not necessarily just the ultra distance. I personally like the idea of a one stop shop for all my trail running media. I also like the idea of giving some attention to some shorter, more challenging trail races. Races that I see adding value to a site like irunfar. Not taking away from it.

    2. Bryon of iRunFar

      The "Far" in iRunFar is entirely relative and was never intended to pigeonhole iRunFar as an ultramarathon-only website. I intend to keep that definition open to interpretation. One definitely doesn't have to run past a marathon to run "far." :-)

      While the majority of our race coverage in recent years has focused on ultramarathons, we've long covered sub-ultradistance races as well. I'm sure we'll continue in the future with the mix varying based on competitive concentration, interest, resources, etc.

      I can't imagine that Vertical Ks will ever be a focus on iRunFar, but we published a story on these races in April 2012: http://www.irunfar.com/2012/04/the-30-minute-kilo… . If we were at an event that included a VK and the competition was killer, I could see a one off story. Same goes for one from a first-person perspective. I did one last July and it was a beast! That outing didn't completely reorient my running or iRunFar's focus, but it was worth a try.

      1. JaketheMince

        Oh, no. My post was very much a joke. My apology.
        I'm actually very excited at the prospect of these American skyraces. I am huge fan of mountain running, in any form and I LOVE iRunFar; I'm always champing at the bit to read the next post. I'll be just as excited to read what you fine folks have to say about a competitive vertical k.
        This site has made it possible for me to become a fan of a wonderful sport that keeps me motivated and in awe of, not only the capability of some human beings, but the diversity and beauty of the landscapes that cradle their amazing achievements.
        I have no complaints. Consider me a fully satisfied consumer of iRunFar with bad sense of humor.

  8. ajoneswilkins

    Late to this party, I know, but I have two observations:
    First, on the whole East Coast/West Coast thing I am certain that given enough time and reasonable objective criteria someone on the east side of the US could come up with a beast of a Skyrunning series. Of course, that all depends on whether the Skyrunning organizers care about such a series. On that note, I would suggest that they should care as the east simply has many more people concentrated in a relatively small area (like Europe) and were those people inspired to compete in such a series they would. Oh yeah, and all these east coasters have lots of money to spend on running if the SkyRunning people care about that. To wit, a large West Coast based outdoor company that is popular with many in the sport has their five highest grossing stores, by far, located in three cities on the east coast.
    Second, as far as Skyrunning standards are concerned, I have to believe they are willing to compromise those standards simply based on the fact that they have new series in the United Kingdom and Australia.
    OK, I'll stop.

    1. @sharmanian

      Andy, one step at a time :) I wouldn't rule out an East Coast Series at some point but the aim is to include the whole country in a US Skyrunning Series not just a general trail series. In countries that don't have high elevation (such as the UK) the National Series will relax that element of the conditions. In the US we do have big mts so the majority of races need to be at high altitude, otherwise it's a watered down version of Skyrunning. The priority is to create authentically Skyrunning-esque races rather than just another series of trail races since there are already many great options for that.

        1. ajoneswilkins

          Ian,

          I understand where you're coming from. My point was that since many of the commenters on this thread were talking about the lack of East Coast options in the newly announced series I thought I'd suggest how it could help the effort. Truth is, there is a great untapped market in the east, especially at sub-ultra distances, and if you guys don't capture it someone else will (like the Tough Mudder guys did three years ago)

          That said, it's up to you to decide whether its a "relaxed element" or "watered down version" Either way, it would make sense to be ahead of the potential perception problem especially since, no matter where you are in the US, UK, or Australia, you're not in Europe.

        2. Ben Nephew

          Posted on Behalf of Ben Nephew:
          Ian,
          Should there be elevation requirements in those descriptions on the US page? While you have a point about the elevation of the races, which is not an absolute requirement, there are other elements of skyrunning races that might have more in common with east coast races, such as rough and steep terrain. A common comment from western runners going over to the Skyrunning races is that the terrain is steeper and rougher than what they are used to. I don't think the series would be watered down by including east coast events, they might be the hardest races in the series. The obvious challenges with the west coast courses are that many of the trails are not all that steep and non-technical, and off trail modifications to make courses steeper is not a likely option. Course design seems restricted even at the ski areas.

          Andy brings up a good point with the obstacle racing, but Tough Mudder is a non-competitive event which don't have Skyrunning type courses. The Skyrunning races in Europe are large events in terms of participation and spectators. At the Spartan Race in Killington VT this fall, they had about 10k participants, probably more. All they would have to do to have an extremely difficult skyrunning race with 12k feet of climbing over 29 miles is to take the ultra beast course and remove the obstacles to make it easier. In terms of marketing, NBC covered the shorter race.

          Other potential options would be Manitous Revenge, a 56 miler with about 15k of climb:
          http://www.manitousrevengeultra.com/

          and there will be shorter event on some of the same terrain it the fall, the Devil's Due. It'll be about 50k with 12k of climb.__
          The watered down terrain looks like:
          http://vimeo.com/69226209

  9. kjz

    i'm psyched! and I LOVE uphill races! can't wait to try a vertical K… then go race(well, run… but im' racing myself and the clock) a vertical k and a skyrunning race in Europe just to see how it is in person on the circuit. hoping to try a few from the US list… I don't need spectators or hordes of people–just tough climbs, a bit of aid, and beauty in nature to salivate at while I huff and puff. love the mountains. good luck to the RD's as you continue pushing towards your visions just as we do ours. :)

  10. Matt Smith

    Nice to see this come to the US, but – one race east of the Mississippi? Really?

    No so much 'US' Skyrunning as 'Western US' Skyrunning. Meh.

  11. curtisheck

    It's too bad that they didn't make it a North American Skyrunning Series. There would be more than a handful of awesome spots in Canada to race…

    1. Bryon of iRunFar

      Curtis,
      I've got no inside knowledge on this, but it appears that Skyrunning is trying to keep these series on single-country affairs for the moment, with Australia/New Zealand being the lone exception. Based on the success of this first round of national tours, I can see the concept spreading quickly to other countries, so maybe there'll be a Canadian Skyrunning Series in 2015.

      1. ajoneswilkins

        There are some folks in the UK who might quibble with the "single-country affairs" thing but they've been fighting those battles for 1400 years, at least. And, come to think of it, I kind of like the sound of the "Scottish SkyRunning Series"

        1. Bryon of iRunFar

          Oh boy. Who let THIS guy in here!

          If there's a Scottish Skyrunning Series, then there'd better be a Catalunya Cup, Tejas Trifecta, and Quebecois Quibble.

          Oh, and the Bourbon Battle Royal… just in case you meant Scotch Skyrunning Series… which sounds even better than the Scottish version!

          1. ajoneswilkins

            I think a series pitting the State of Jefferson vs the State of Franklin would be a good start here in the US. Then, in Europe, I imagine the Basques would pretty much take on all-comers. How about the "seccessionist series"?

            And, by the way, I DO like the Scotch series idea:)

  12. Ben_Nephew

    One idea for the US series would be t0 have it more regionally inclusive, and then have the top 3 finishers win trips to a national championship, where the top three could win a trip to the international championship. This is basically the model for international marathon competition, among many other sports. The funny thing is that TNF did this for a year or two with the regional 50 milers when those races were small. When the race weekends became much more profitable, they stopped providing paid trips to San Fran for the regional winners. This is a similar story to what happened with the Competitor group dropping funding of elite competition at marathons.

    I'm also curious to see where the VK on Mount Washington is. I'm guessing it won't be on Washington, it seems unlikely anyone could get a permit for that. Maybe it'll be up Wildcat?

  13. @sharmanian

    All, the feedback's very useful and I know there's plenty of hardcore racing on the East Coast too. These races are certainly closer to home for Americans than flying to Europe and this is only the first year – the main thing I hope people take away from this is that there are some excellent races that should be a lot of fun.

    Things will evolve over time and I already have plenty of thoughts for 2015 and beyond.

    1. @jeffhalsey

      Hi Ian,
      As a former Bendite, has there ever been any consideration for a VK up Bachelor? Always thought that would make a cool race and it fits the bill for vert. gain…I think.

      Looking forward to these races. Cheers.

  14. BuzzBurrell

    Excellent news! And good job writing it Meghan – this announcement was thoroughly described with comments from key participants.

    I don't wish to speak for Laurie or Ian, but I do wish to agree with Ben re East Coast venues and state my view of Skyrunning: it's not about gnarly terrain or the number on an altimeter. It's about starting in the middle of a lovely town, running to the top of a big mountain looming over it, then turning around and running back down with your heart pounding from effort, joy, excitement, and maybe a little fear.

    A great course is art, not a number. We paint by drawing lines on the earth with our feet.

    1. Bryon of iRunFar

      Hear, hear to the beauty and purity of non-standard distance races on natural routes. The Jupiter Peak Steeplechases and Laurel Highland Ultras of the world. Both on road and trail, New England probably more of these natural course (be it on a mountain or from town-to-town) than any other place in the lower 48. I know this wasn't the thrust of your comment… but I think it reinforces the importance of concepts (and art and beauty) over blind adherence to the tyranny of numbers, whatever the pursuit.

    2. Ben_Nephew

      That's the main reason I commented, Buzz. I never would have thought that anyone could get a permit for something like Manitou's that includes the Devil's Path, and now there are two races on it. Hopefully this is the start of trend of more races on outstanding terrain. I know there is concern about the environmental impact of races on protected lands, but I think it's possible to have these types of races without adverse environmental impacts. While there are alpine areas in Europe that have been drastically altered by man, I don't think mountain races were the cause. Maybe someday we will see a Presidential Traverse or Pemi Loop Skyrace!

      1. BuzzBurrell

        Whoa, now you got me going … I love the Presi Traverse and the Pemi Loop (and the Hut to Hut)! I even considered trying to start a Skyrace out there myself … I would simply do the Crawford Path, because of it's uber-classic nature (oldest trail in the US). Start at the beautiful Highland Center in Crawford Notch, finish in Pinkham Notch.

        Get this going, and I'll up my dosage of Vitamin I and come out and do it.

    3. lstomsl

      Sadly it appears that the reality of skyrunning is that it is mostly about starting amongst the giant condos at the base of a ski area and running through highly impacted artificial landscapes underneath chairlifts. I DO understand why this is but it's not for me. I will stick to wild country.

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