Emelie Forsberg and Kilian Jornet, the queen and king of skyrunning, made history yesterday on the 25th anniversary of the sport by placing third overall in the race that launched skyrunning at the foot of Monte Rosa in the Italian Alps. It was the first time they had ever run together.
The historic return of the Monte Rosa SkyMarathon saw 300 runners from 23 countries race in teams of two in Europe’s highest race – 35 km with 7,000m vertical climb to the summit at 4,554m to and from the village of Alagna Valsesia.
Forsberg commented, “I tried to do my race. I wanted to focus on my performance and to do my best time, so running with Kilian was a perfect idea because he’s stronger than me and I could test myself without help. I gave it all I had and am so proud of the result. I will definitely be back!”
Jornet added, “To do this race, I had to put a “skirt” on and follow Emelie! I always followed her as she wanted to do her race without me pushing, so I left her in front the whole time. This is one of the best races in the world!”
The first successful edition to the summit was in 1993 and in 1994 the standing records were set by Italians Fabio Meraldi and Gisella Bendotti in 4h24’ and 5h34’ respectively. A total of four editions took place from 1992 to 1996.
Mixed gender teams fall in the men’s category but Forsberg’s result was the best female performance over the course, beating Bendotti’s record which still stands thanks to her category status. The finishing time of the Forsberg/Jornet duo was 5h03’56”.
The men’s winning team was all-Italian with Franco Collé and William Boffelli who closed in 4h39’59” leaving Meraldi’s record intact.
Collé, an accomplished skyrunner from the Aosta Valley, commented, “An incredible race! William and I pushed each other at the right moments so that way we could keep the lead the whole time. This is what skyrunning is all about and I’m so happy to be part of it – even if we didn’t break Meraldi’s ascent record by only four minutes!”
Another Italian team, Alberto Comazzi and Cristian Minoggio were second in the super-strong international field, both skyrunners and ski-mountaineering champions.
The predicted podium position of Britons Tom Owens and Andy Symonds, recently back from injury, ended in an excellent fourth. “I wasn’t perfectly fit, but I had the chance to enjoy every inch of this course and this race. On the downhill I felt a little tired but we took it easy as there was no one chasing us,” said Symonds.
Owens commented, “This is a wonderful race – a spectacular course, very challenging, very demanding, but you enjoy every step. I can’t believe we came fourth, as we were convinced we’d arrived sixth! Altitude must have messed up our mathematical abilities!”
The strong USA-GB duo Hillary Gerardi and Holly Page led the women’s category from start to finish in a time of 5h51’32”. Page said: “I felt pretty bad for the first hour but Hillary was really strong. The other women’s team was in front of us but when I put on the crampons I felt fine. For me I’d never raced with poles, on a glacier, or with a partner, so they were all firsts.”
After pushing hard towards the summit, Gerardi commented, “I suffered the last 300 metres to the top. My hands got really cold, I didn’t drink enough and had a blood sugar crash and felt quite drunk. It was so beautiful but I didn’t have time to look at the view. We were surprised by how many people were on the course, supporters, ski alpinists, mountaineers – they were very respectful to the runners.
“It’s really nice to run with a friend so this racing in pairs is a big plus – unique, in a positive way!”
While Bendotti’s individual women’s record remains, yesterday, 25 years later, she placed fifth with her niece, Sabrina, who had been unwell with a fever just before the race, possibly compromising their position.
The recent abundant snow falls could have been hazardous. For safety reasons, on the upper stretches the runners must wear crampons and harnesses, roped together. As it turned out, it was a perfect day with perfect conditions.
Russian Vitaly Shkel and Shyngys Beikashev from Kazakhstan were certainly not afraid of the altitude or the heavy snow, but inspired to come to Italy to take part in this historic revival. Shkel is the record holder of Mount Elbrus, 5,642m and Lenin Peak, 7,134m. His partner, Beikashev, commented, “An incredible race! Very good organisation. This is for all athletes in the world who like mountain running and want a very hard race with glaciers, rocks. It was absolutely fantastic!” The pair placed fifth.
To close a glorious revival and mark the beginning of a new era, Italian Marino Giacometti, who founded the sport of skyrunning in 1992 with the first edition of the race, had this to say:
“Today, skyrunning returned to its origins. I don’t want to get emotional remembering that it was right here that it all started and that now, it’s a global reality, also thanks to my partner Lauri van Houten, instrumental in its development.
“The next challenge will be to make this a flagship event, the soul of skyrunning, in the birthplace of the sport. I want to thank everyone that made it possible, the organisers, the sponsors and yesterday’s and tomorrow’s skyrunners,” he concluded.
A case of back to the future for skyrunning and the Monte Rosa SkyMarathon.
- Franco Collé (ITA) William Boffelli (ITA) – 4h39’59”
- Alberto Comazzi (ITA) Cristian Minoggio (ITA) – 5h03’26”
- Kilian Jornet (ESP) Emelie Forsberg (SWE) – 5h03’56”
- Tom Owens (GBR) Andy Symonds (GBR) – 05h18’57”
- Vitaly Shkel (RUS) Shyngys Beikashev (KAZ) – 5h26’45”
- Hillary Gerardi (USA) Holly Page (GBR) – 5h51’32”
- Tatiana Locatelli (ITA) Giudita Turini (ITA) – 6h26’37”
- Nadezda Karolyatina (RUS) Oksana Stefanishina (RUS) – 6h58’56”
- Laura Besseghini (ITA) Cristiana Follador (ITA) – 7h12’17”
- Gisella Bendotti (ITA) Sabrina Bendotti (ITA) – 8h02’38”
Full results of Monte Rosa SkyMarathon and Alagna-Indren SkyRace®.
A shorter race for individual runners, the Alagna-Indren SkyRace® also took place with 81 participants from eight countries. The 22 km race reached 3,260m altitude with 4,000m vertical ascent and descent.
The AMA Organising Committee together with race organiser Manuel Gambarini and his team wish to thank all the volunteers, on and off the mountain, the sponsors: Cimberio, Crazy Idea, Polartec, Buff, Ultimate Direction and media partners: 4 Running, iancorless.com, Radio DEEJAY, Montagna TV, Il Sole 24 Ore.
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