Get set for Skyrunning in SA

Me soaking up the exquisite view of the Valais Alps above the village of Zinal, Switzerland

It’s time to spice up South African trail running a tad. It’s time for some Skyrunning – that’s where earth and sky meet.

We’ve got it all in this beautiful country of ours – open veld, savannah, desert, rolling hills, beaches, gorges, cliffs and canyons, rugged mountains, deep valleys and high peaks, extreme conditions of temperature and terrain. We have short races, long races, stage races and ultras. And each year, there’s more on offer. (Soon, with any luck, we’ll barely have time to squeeze work in!)

That’s all good, but what we’re missing is a national championship series – one that presents a challenge for all distances.
And so enters Skyrunning. The trail is soon to be trodden – the Skyrunning Association of South Africa (SASA), affiliated with the International Skyrunning Federation (ISF), will soon be setting the stage for much trail excitement across the country. Watch your nearest trail space!

The Europeans have got trail sussed. Skyrunning is well established there, and I was fortunate to see it in action two weeks ago, during the Sierre-Zinal in Switzerland. The vibe, the fervour, the challenge, the action – it’s all a-go, and it’s brilliant. It adds another dimension to trail running, one that I know many SA trail runners yearn for.

Well, yearn not for much longer, folks, because Skyrunning in SA is not far away...

Ian Corless of Talk Ultra trots his stuff

Here’s a quick overview of the Skyrunning concept:

Definition of Skyrunning:   The discipline of mountain running up to or exceeding 2 000m where the incline exceeds 30% and the climbing difficulty does not exceed 11º grade.
Skyrunning, is a discipline conceived by Italian mountaineer Marino Giacometti who, with a handful of fellow climbers during the early 1990s, pioneered records and races on Mont Blanc and Monte Rosa in the Italian Alps. In 1993, skyrunning took off across the world’s mountain ranges with a circuit of challenging races spread from the Himalayas to the Rockies, from Mount Kenya to the Mexican volcanoes. Today Marino Giacometti (ISF president) and Lauri van Houten (ISF vice-president) continue to grow the sport of Skyrunning through more than 200 races across the world, spanning the following disciplines:

Main disciplines of Skyrunning: 
  1. SkyMarathon® – races with a min of 2 000m total elevation gain, and between 30-42km long. The course may be over paths, trail, rock or snow (must be less than 15% tar) and reach or exceed 4 000m altitude.
  2. SkyRace® - races between  2 000m and 4 000m, min 20km, max 30km (or 5% either way). In parts of the country where the altitude does not reach a 2 000m summit, races that exceed 1 300m vertical climb may be considered a Skyrace®.
  3. Vertical Kilometre® - races with 1 000m vertical climb over variable terrain with a substantial incline; not exceeding 5km in length. 
  4. SkySpeed® - races with 100m or more of vertical climb and more than 33% incline.
  5. SkyTrail® races over paths and trail (must be less than 10% tar) that do not fall within the parameters of other Skyrunning disciplines over 2 000m. Min distance 15km.

me slogging up an alp at 2900m

SASA aims to grow a Skyrunning series in South Africa. The concept will be an annual series, using races from the trail calendar (ie. Skyrunning associations around the world don’t organise their own races, they use already-established races to make up the series). Runners competing in the series clock up points per race, and champion titles are awarded to competitors based on the sum of their five best results (which must include any two races in the SkyRace®, SkyTrail®, SkyMarathon®, SkySpeed® and Vertical Kilometre® categories). 

So, get those lungs and legs pumped for some exciting action come 2013, for the introduction of a Skyrunning national circuit to SA’s shores (well, peaks really!)

         * photos by Ian Corless,

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