For years I have needed to correct people who call me a Skyrunning World Champion. Before last weekend I had won the Skyrunning Extreme and Overall World Series. To win a world series you have to turn up to and perform in a host of different skyraces, your performances earns you points, which go towards your overall placing. To become a World Champion you have to win a skyrunning world championship event, which only comes along every two years…
Lucky for me, the 2018 Skyrunning World Championships were relatively close by in Scotland. This would mean minimal travel time, terrain and weather that would suit me and in a roundabout kind of way, home advantage. There were three planned world championship events to choose from; VK, Ultra and Classic. I chose to try my hand at the ultra-distance race as this is the distance that seems to suit me the most.
Due to sickness in Andorra I will no longer earn an overall placing in the 2018 Skyrunning World Series. The World Championships therefore became my skyrunning focus and would hopefully be a saving grace where I could still earn a Skyrunning title…It would just be a case of beating Luis Alberto, who has won the previous 2 ultra world championships in 2014 and 2016.
Arriving in Scotland I felt that everything I could control was under control and even the weather Gods were playing ball. I was openly hoping for terrible weather to give me an advantage over the southern Europeans, but this soon blew up in my face.
Having just laid down to sleep the night before the race a knock on the door disturbed us…just a kindly notice that the bad weather route was being instigated changing the start time from 7am to 10am…
‘WTF?’ was the first thing that sprung to mind followed by, ‘where does the bad weather route even go?’
As opposed to the initial route of three major climbs totalling 52 km with 4000m of ascent, we would now do one major climb followed by a trail marathon…totalling 49km with 1800m of ascent.
How this would affect the outcome of the race I couldn’t guess but one thing was for sure and that was that the race was going to be really fast.
Usual pacing strategy out of the window I started fast but hoped I was keeping my effort controlled. With the climb done I was in fourth, sticking closely behind Luis. Hitting the downhill he waved me through and I made contact with the leaders. With 10km done it was now lots of runnable gravel trails, we still had 800m of climb but spread over 40km it reminded me more of Bergen City Marathon than a Skyrace.
I took the lead and instigated something like marathon pace.
My lead grew and I felt the running was fast and easy but winning was by no means guaranteed. I hadn’t trained to put my body through this kind of abuse. Perhaps a certain muscle group will start to buckle, maybe I’ll get a horrid stitch from the continues effort, I had no idea if my body would hold up but then neither did the others. None of us had trained for a course like this but out of all of them maybe I was the most suited to it, or the least specifically trained allowing me to cope with the sudden switch in styles. Whatever it was I wasn’t complaining.
Usually I count down mountains to the finish, now I was counting down kilometres…26 to go, 25 to go, 24 to go…painstaking when you just want to finish with your lead intact and the trail is a boring rocky thing that just undulates up and down.
With 5km to go some supporters gave me a time gap, 4 and a half minutes they said. ‘Thank God’ I thought, I could finally relax and coast into the finish knowing the hard work was done. I finally crossed the line in 3 hours 48 minutes, some 12 minutes ahead of André Jonsson in second and Luis Alberto in third.
I can now finally stop correcting people when being referred to as a Skyrunning World Champion…I’ll probably just have to correct them now by saying that it was only in the Ultra distance. Nevertheless, I couldn’t be happier.
Great photos by Jacek Deneka, Ian Corless, Scott Seefeldt and No Limits photography.