Skyrunning in South Africa scoops its first Skymarathon®

Posted in At the Races on Fri 24 May ’13

© © Running The Cape

South African Skyrunning Association (SASA) has announced a new sanctioned event, the Matroosberg Trail Challenge. Organised by Running The Cape, the 36km race is set in the Matroosberg Private Nature reserve, two and half hours from Cape Town – near Ceres in the Western Cape…

Full SASA release

With the race distance meeting the International Skyrunning Federation (ISF) requirement of between 30km and 42km, and its elevation gain of 2 200m on mountainous 4×4 trails and rocky single track, the Matroosberg Trail Challenge qualifies as a Skymarathon®, guaranteeing a route packed with lung-burning climbs, incredible scenery and testing terrain on 26th of October, 2013.

As SASA’s second sanctioned skyrunning race, the event will be southern Africa’s first Skymarathon®, pioneering the way for South Africa’s first ever national skyrunning circuit.

© © Running The Cape

The route of the Matroosberg Trail Challenge will take runners up to the 2 249m Matroosberg Peak, the second highest peak in the Western Cape. Runners will overlook the Bokkeveld, Ceres, Droë Hoek, Koue Bokkeveld, and the Ceres Karoo, with views of the Witzenberg, Cedarberg and Du Toitskloof Mountains.

October weather in the Western Cape often brings surprises, and the chance of cold weather could even give competitors the opportunity to run in snow.

Running The Cape’s Ghaleed Nortje is confident the route will challenge every runner, even the strongest and most experienced.

“For the privilege of having spectacular views, the route will make runners pay – they’ll have to negotiate mountainous terrain, very steep climbs and descents, high altitude and unpredictable weather conditions. Near the top, the chance of snow will be good – a snow-covered track makes for smoother running, but will make the course even more challenging.”

Nortje sees the event’s association with skyrunning in South Africa as a tremendous boost, not only for the race but for national trail running as a whole.

“I’m really excited about the MTC being sanctioned by SASA, and by the prospect of it forming part of a national skyrunning circuit from 2014. Gone are the days when we trail runners have to drool over skyrunning events in Europe and the USA – our South African athletes can now be a part of that rich experience too, by participating in local skyrunning events.”

Being a SASA-sanctioned event, the Matroosberg Trail Challenge will also enjoy exposure to the international trail running community through SASA’s association with the ISF, potentially attracting athletes from outside of South Africa’s borders.

Defined as mountain running up to or exceeding 2 000m, where the incline exceeds 30% and where the climbing difficulty is not more than 11˚ gradient, the sport of skyrunning has taken the trail running world by storm in Europe, America and Asia over the past 20 years.

Skyrunning, a term coined by the ISF, 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.

Today, skyrunning has grown to span some 200 registered races worldwide, with about 30 000 participants from 54 countries.

Formed in 2011, SASA is an associate member of the ISF, and aims to promote and facilitate the growth of skyrunning in South Africa.

Event information will be posted towards the end of May, and entries will open during the second half of June 2013. For continued updates on the event, follow Running The Cape on Twitter

inov8 reach for the Sky

Posted in Dishing the Dirt on Thu 23 May ’13


“British-born sports manufacturing brand inov-8 celebrates its tenth anniversary in June, and it looks like there’s more than one reason to celebrate” – reports the ISF

As one of the Skyrunner® World Series Team Partners, together with Salomon, Arc’teryx and La Sportiva supporting the series, inov-8 is set to make a big impression this season. Renowned for its minimalist, ultra lightweight footwear, the company is making great strides this year, consolidating and introducing new shoe styles and launching an apparel range, they are topping it all off with an international Skyrunning Team to the fly the inov-8 flag.

Tafese and Clayton take Inter Counties

Posted in At the Races on Tue 21 May ’13

© Andy Holden

Swinburn and Tafese go hard on the early climbs at Settle Hills

Ethiopian Wegene Tafese and Yorkshire and GB international Emma Clayton took the honours at Sunday’s UK Inter-Counties Fell Running Championships in Settle, and both had to work hard for their victories…

The race was held as part of the Settle Hills fell race in Yorkshire over a testing 7 mile route, with conditions pretty good for fell running. Tafase won the mens race for Scotland West just ahead of Nick Swinburn, with Tom Adams over two minutes back in third.

© Dave Woodhead /

Tom Adams – a solid third

After a great winter of XC Clayton continued her good start to the fell / mountain season as she led Yorkshire to a 1,2,3 with Victoria Wilkinson just behind and Katie Walshaw making up the podium. Yorkshire laso won the men’s team crown.

Alastair Weymouth was first U23 man and Emma Gould was first U23 female, as European junior champ Annabel Mason and Max Wharton were U18 winners.

After her battle with Vic Wilkinson, Clayton told us:

“With the Inter counties being only a week before the European Trials, it was important to use it as a good final training run, whilst also saving the legs a bit for next week. The plan was simple, I knew I needed to hit the climbs hard in order to get one final work out before the trial race.

“Along with that I know at the minute i’m not as strong on the descents as I once was and didn’t want to get into a race on the descent. The realisation that i’m more of a European Mountain Runner than a fell runner is quite sad. With over a mile on the flat into the finish I was confident that if needed i’d have some speed in the legs to get me out of trouble.

“That’s pretty much how the race panned out, I felt strong on the climbs and managed to build quite a big lead by the top of the first climb. I relaxed on the descents so that I wouldn’t kill the legs and worked the next couple of climbs. It was on the final descent I started to feel the presence of Vic Wilkinson, it was a pretty steep descent and my main aim was just to get down to the bottom in one piece.

© Dave Woodhead /

Vic chasing Emma at the Inter Counties

“Approaching the last stile with 50m of the descent to go Vic came flying past and I thought for a minute i’d lost it. I steadied myself on the flat approach, almost to make sure my legs were still there but then kicked on a managed to take Vic and open up a small gap.

“Hopefully the legs will recover quick enough before the big one next week, where by all accounts the field will be stacked”.

Race results are here, with a great little race video via athletics here and some excellent images here and via Woodentops here.

Transvulcania 2013 – View from the Crew

Posted in Dishing the Dirt on Tue 14 May ’13


Last weekend I was privileged enough to be at the Transvulcania La Palma race. I was lucky enough to be on the inside too, behind the scenes and supporting some of the elite athletes and to soak up the amazing atmosphere that this beautiful race produces…

This article is courtesy of the Salomon Trail Tour website:

They say that behind a every great man, is a great woman. Reflecting on a yet another super-charged Transvulcania La Palma it should be added that behind every great individual trail running win, is a great team effort.

By now the media whirlwind around the 2013 event will have reached all 4 corners of the world with the news that this year’s race was a triumph for Kilian and Emelie. Their wins at Tranvulcania were both victories in the face of strong opposition.

© Jordi Saragossa

Kilian and Emelie – early leaders in the SWS 2013

For Kilian it was a win which buried the hatchet on his 3rd place at the race in 2012. A similar pre-race situation ensued this year, whereby the Catalan athlete came off a ski mountaineering season and came into Transvulcania with a single hand-full of runs under his belt. The situation was the same for Emelie, spending much of her winter and early spring in her home base of Tromso, Norway, and bar her excursion to Gran Canaria earlier in the year – and the Salomon Advance Week in Moab – Emelie came to La Palma with only a week or so of running in her legs.

© Jordi Saragossa

Kilian milks the La Palma welcome

This preparation seemed to work for them both, as first Kilian crossed the line for a new course record, breaking Dakota Jones’ best time from 2012 by around 3 mins, in 6:54, ahead of Luis A. Hernando and Sage Canaday. Emelie was shy of Anna Frost’s 2012 time by around 2 mins, winning in 8:13, some 3 mins up on Nuria Picas, with whom she had battled hard over the 83km hot kiliometres.

© Jordi Saragossa

Emelie and Nuria embrace after their battle…

The race reports and images at Transvulcania have been numerous across the net, indeed the media stampede at the start and finish areas was a busy as any event in the global ultra-trail calendar, with photographers, TV camera crews, journalists, bloggers and fans all vying for their piece of history.

© Jordi Saragossa

Emelie Forsberg

So, with this in mind, I thought I would bring a different perspective to what it is like to ‘crew’ for these guys, and act as a conduit for the media to get them what they want from a weekend which unless it is planned in fine detail, can all but pass you by in a blur!

My role as a community manager and brand ambassador for Salomon means that I get to travel to events like Transvulcania to process the media via our social channels, to aid the racers where needed on the course, to transport our photographer (in this instance the amazing Jordi Saragossa!) and to look after the UK media attending (Trail Running magazine).

From a dash across the island after a 6am start, through a scrum of cars and supporters, all trying to get to aid station X or view point Y, to support their runners or get that killer image, our day was based around supporting the Salomon runners of Kilian, Emelie, Cameron (Clayton), Francois (d’Heane), Philipp (Reiter) and Adam (Campbell). The additional staff of Arnaud Tortel, Joan Sola and all of the Salomon Spain team worked flawlessly in delivering gels, water and other nutrition on time to the team.

© Jordi Saragossa

Myself and Jordi then made sure that we got the right images to give a flavor of the event at the start, aid stations (El Pilar in this instance), and those all-important finish line shots. We also made sure that Claire and Jon from the UK Trail Running magazine got what they wanted, as they journeyed with us throughout the day – even down to an exclusive 15 minutes with Emelie and Kilian in the hotel later, chatting about the race, their philosophies, techniques and other interesting insights!

© Jordi Saragossa
© Jordi Saragossa

The athlete’s day was long, and full of amazing effort. Likewise, the supporting cast’s day was equally long, if not longer, and strenuous in a different way. As the sun went down across the glorious Canary Islands vista last night it was just as satisfying to know we had added our own little piece to the jigsaw of the day.

I’d also like to emphasise that these races are a global family of racers, brands and cultures coming together.

Laid back chat…

Posted in Dishing the Dirt on Tue 07 May ’13


Emelie Forsberg

Robbie Lawless is over on La Palma mingling with the racers ahead of this weekend’s Transvulcania, and caught-up with Salomon contenders Kilian Jornet, Emelie Forsberg and Cameron Clayton…

Sometimes the best interviews arent that at all, they are “laid-back chat in the sun about the race and the year ahead..”. Read the full Run Tramp feature here


This weekend…

Posted in At the Races on Fri 03 May ’13

© Al Tye /

Runners at the Red Kite Challenge

Fell and trail racing really kicks on this weekend in the UK with at least 17 races going ahead. From the classic and tough Stuc a’Chroin 5000 in Scotland, to the equally hard Annalong Horsehoe in N. Ireland, there is something for everyone…

With the fells and hills drying out a little in the southern part of the UK (it has been wet in Scotland and N Ireland!) and pretty good weather forecast for the bank holiday, numbers should be good as people get out there.

A full rundown of events and previews of some via the FRA, SHR, WFRA and NIMRA.


© Wilderness Response Team

Angela Mudge at Stuc a’Chroin

Ultra-trail stars head to Lesotho

Posted in At the Races on Thu 02 May ’13


On 30 November 2013, Skyrunners® from all over the world will toe the start line of the inaugural Lesotho Ultra Trail – Africa’s first Ultra Skymarathon® – ready to tackle the 55km, high altitude course through the Tsehlanyane National Park in the heart of the Maluti Mountains of Lesotho…


As the event continues to attract the keen interest of both the local and international trail and skyrunning communities, four of the world’s top international men’s athletes have already confirmed their entry into the race.

Americans Mike Wolfe (The North Face), winner of the 2012 Transvulcania Dakota Jones (Montrail/Clif Bar), and 2nd place finisher at the 2012 Hardrock 100 Joe Grant (INOV-8/Arc’teryx), will join 2012 Canadian ultra trail runner of the year Adam Campbell (Arc’teryx) in making the long trip across the Atlantic Ocean to go head to head with some of South Africa’s best.

Adam comments:

“One aspect that I love about mountain running is the opportunity to explore beautiful places around the world. I specifically choose races based on their aesthetic and the accompanying sense of adventure that they bring.


Adam Campbell

“Being able to compete in Africa’s first Ultra Skymarathon®, amongst some of the most stunning mountain terrain that I’ve seen more than satisfies that criteria. I can’t wait to experience the local culture and to race through the region’s mountainous landscape on foot.”

Mike Wolfe, having never travelled to Africa, is thrilled to be making the journey in November:

“The locale looks amazing, and I have always wanted to travel to South Africa to experience a new landscape and people. It is wonderful that the South African Skyrunning Association and the organizers of Lesotho Ultra Trail are enthusiastic about hosting international athletes. This kind of event helps our sport of ultra running grow on an international level, and continues to grow the international community of runners.”


Mike Wolfe

Amongst the top South African men’s athletes already securing their spots, is up-and-coming trail star AJ Calitz (K-Way/Vivobarefoot) joined by winner of the 2013 SA Ultra Trail Champs Nic De Beer and mountain running legend, and winner of the 2012 Otter African Trail Run, Iain Don Wauchope (Mountain Splendour).

Not to be out done, the women’s field is also stacking up to be a stellar affair with confirmation already coming in from local South African ultra running legend Linda Doke (Salomon South Africa), winner of the 2013 Women’s SA Ultra Champs Tracy Zunkel (Race Food), 2011 Otter African Trail Run winner Su Don Wauchope (Mountain Splendour) as she makes a firm come back after almost 8 months of injury, and 3rd place finisher 2013 Women’s SA Ultra Champs Chantel Nienaber.

On the international front, Canadian ultra-runner and winner of the 2012 Gobi March in China, Stephanie Case, will be making the journey from her newly-adopted home of Kyrgyzstan, ready to test the skills of the local girls.

Having raced at the 2012 Sierre-Zinal in Switzerland, one of Europe’s oldest Skymarathon® events, Linda Doke knows the excitement and prospects of skyrunning first hand:

“I’m thrilled to be doing the Lesotho Ultra Trail” explains Doke. “Not only is it a new ultra on the trail calendar, but it’s in Lesotho, which guarantees fantastic running. Also, being an Ultra Skymarathon® will see the start of skyrunning in southern Africa and having experienced it last year, it’s brilliant that it’s coming to southern Africa!”

Hosted by the luxury 5 star Maliba Mountain Lodge, the Lesotho Ultra Trail will encompass some of the most spectacular mountain trails that the Tsehlanyane National Park has to offer, affording runners the opportunity to climb to over 3100m above sea level while immersed in the rich culture of Africa’s “mountain kingdom”.

Further information at the Lesotho Ultra Trail site here

The Three Peaks 2013 – Joe’s view from the front

Posted in The Sweat on Tue 30 Apr ’13


Joe Symonds

Joe Symonds’ 2013 Three Peaks Race win on the face of it appeared to be a straight-forward exercise in dominant fell running. As the following paragraphs demonstrate, wins are never easy, and certain happenings in Joe’s life in the day before the race only underline the greatness of his achievements and the fragility of life…


Action replay of last year? Not quite.

Before the Three Peaks Race this year I was emotionally in a completely different place to where I was last year. Conversely, the feeling of elation on crossing the finishing line was almost identical to that of 12 months ago – and that is thanks to the powerful mystique of this awesome race, and to the incredible support of the crowds (and fellow runners) out on the course.

My training this past winter has been very different to that of 2011-2012, with my major focus of the spring being the Rotterdam marathon, which took place on April 14th. This was my first ever road marathon and my optimistic aim was to obtain the Scottish Commonwealth Games qualifying time of sub 2:19.

In the final weeks of build up things were looking very good – I’d managed to tot up 1300 miles of running in 13 weeks of training, put in some very strong endurance sessions (including a 38k run in 2 hours 7 minutes), and PB’d over half marathon, with 66:23 in March. However, in the Netherlands, it wasn’t to be on the day and I dropped off the pace with 5 miles to go, to finish with 2:20:52 – disappointed at the time, but on reflection a debut I am proud of.

Such was the intensity of my focus on Rotterdam that during the first three months of 2013 I was entirely unable to see beyond April 14th – even entering the 3 Peaks was something I omitted to do (until Tord Nilson of Salomon UK reminded me at the beginning of April).

Following the Dutch race, exhausted from the physical and emotional investment I’d put into it, I had to take a whole week off running. I went for a cycling trip round Northwest Sutherland and Assynt with my wife Esther – making sure we camped at the foot of Ben Hope on April 19th, 23 years to the day since my Dad set off from there on his continuous round of all the 3000 foot peaks in Britain and Ireland.

The following week, the week before the Three Peaks, I did a couple of runs, including one up Ben Wyvis, our local Munro. I felt sluggish on the climbs, and trepid on the descents, but fast and fluid on the flatter sections! Had I lost my mountain skills and become a road runner?

From Wednesday to Friday I was on night shifts at work. They were busy shifts, culminating with an utterly unexpected tragedy at 0630 in the morning on Friday, when we lost a nine month old boy who had been admitted with what appeared to be a simple case of chickenpox. After 30 minutes of resuscitation efforts we had to call off the battle for his life.

This wee lad was my first thought as I entered the finishing field on Saturday, and there is no doubt in my mind that I dedicate this victory to him and his devastated family.

Physically and spiritually exhausted, I made the long train journey from Inverness to Yorkshire on Friday, napping on and off as I went. Esther got off the train in Carlisle to stay with her parents, and I continued on the Clapham where the rest of the Salomon UK crew, and the two Spanish Salomon International runners (Tofol Castanyer and Oihana Kortazar Aranzeta). I arrived, wolfed down some tomato soup, some pasta with tomato and bacon, two delicious pints of Copper Dragon’s Golden Pippin, and slumped off to my bed for a very sound night’s sleep.

By Saturday morning I was well rested, but still feeling lethargic and not particularly up for it! I usually have a cold shower on the morning of a race to get me fired up, but this morning I wasn’t keen, so I turned on the hot tap. Then I realised that there was no hot water in my hotel room, so a cold shower it was. I had my usual pre-race breakfast of muesli, banana and wholemeal toast, but as an experiment I also included a bottle of “Beet It” organic beetroot juice, which turned out to be quite a challenge to my taste buds.

After arriving at the race venue, I plodded through my warm up routine and did some stretches, reflecting on how psyched I was it the same point 12

Joe and Jasmin take 3 Peaks titles back to Scotland…

Posted in At the Races on Tue 30 Apr ’13


Joe and Jasmin – Three Peaks champions 2013!

HBT and Carnethy runners Joe Symonds and Jasmin Paris showed why they are considered amongst the best fell runners in the UK on Saturday as they convincingly won the 2013 Three Peaks Race titles…

For Joe is was a virtual repeat of his 2012 win, only this time the Salomon athlete took the race on even earlier, winning by over 5 minutes after taking the lead from the gun and never really looking back taking the race in 2:54:39. Behind Symonds there was a titanic battle for the places.


Joe Symonds coming off Pen y Ghent

Carl Bell, Karl Gray, Tofol Castanyer, Andy Fallas, Oli Johnson and Three Peaks legend Rob Jebb swapped positions for much of the race. However, as Jebb looked clear in second leaving Hill Inn and heading up Ingleborough, it was Bell and Gray who rallied to take to two remaining podium places after a big descents off Ingleborough, sweeping past Jebby.


Rob Jebb


Carl Bell leads Karl Gray on the run in to Horton

By the time the Keswick and Calder Valley runners reached the field in Horton, Bell had a slender lead over Gray to take an excellent second place in 2:59:44 vs Gray’s 2:59:50. Consolation for Gray lay in the fact that he had once again broken the V40 record and the 3 hour barrier with it.

Rob Jebb finished 4th, with Carnethy man Fallas finishing a very good 5th.

Jasmin Paris is beginning to emerge as the woman to beat in the UK these days, with some impressive wins in 2012, and now perhaps her biggest win of all in Yorkshire. Her win (in her very first 3P race) was very different from Symonds’, only taking the lead on the descent from the last peak of Ingleborough by overtaking Spain’s Oihana Kortazar, who had led for the previous 20 miles of this 23 mile race.


A smiling Jasmin Paris coming off Ingleborough

Leaving Hill Inn less than 30 seconds behind Kortazar, Paris showed her strength and descending skills as she swept past Oihana on the run-in (who herself suffered a nasty fall), winning in 3:33:04. Kortazar held onto second in 3:36:29, with Paris’ Carnethy team mate Helen Bonsor taking third with 3:39:07.


Oihana Kortazar

Speaking on the microphone immediately after the race, a fresh-looking Symonds said:

“After only running the Rotterdam Marathon two weeks ago and not having raced on the mountains since last year, I didn’t quite know how it would go today. Luckily I felt strong from the start and seemed to get into my running on hills well up Pen y Ghent. We were pretty quick up there today, in under 29 mins, and Tofol was not too far behind.

“From there though I was on my own all the way back to Horton, and had to concentrate hard as I was running alone and not too sure what was going on behind. Compared to last year I was in better shape mentally and physically during the race. Last year I struggled over the last few miles, but today felt really strong and now (post race) feel pretty good and not as tired as 2012.


Joe Symonds

“It was a great day once again and I think this race is addictive! My dad won it three times, so I will be back again to see if I can make it three next year and no doubt will be racing here for many years to come!”

A nice race report from Brian Dooks can be found here, with full results via the Sport Ident site here. Lots of images around the net now online and as ever some of the better ones are via Sport Sunday and Woodentops.

Fellsman fails to fell ’em!

Posted in Dishing the Dirt on Tue 30 Apr ’13

© Guy Mawson

We often concentrate on the sharp-end of fell, trail and ultra running here at MST. But events such as this weekend’s Fellsman only go to prove just how much goes into these events for the ‘mid packers’ point of view too…

The exciting race was won by Adam Perry, less than a minute up on Ian Phillips. The Grough has a brief race report here. However, for me some of the most inspirational writing and stories have come via reading some of the numerous blogs out there, which detail the effort and adversities overcome.


Stolly at the Fellsman

Stolly, Guy Mawson and Simon Franklin are just three such blogs which offer some great insight into this 61-mile beast, and indeed may well inspire others to take on the challenge of this iconic event…

Reactions so far
  1. Guy Mawson
    May 3, 08:19 PM

    Thanks MST, if my blog inspires one person to get off the sofa and come and do Fellsman it’ll all be worth it!
    Glad you enjoyed the blog…!

High speed fell running with fellephant!

Posted in Through the Lens on Mon 29 Apr ’13


Fell running film maker fellephant has once again constructed a very individual film titled Fellraising. The speeded-up 8 minute film brilliantly depicts the very unique sport of fell running at a number of races in 2012 /13…

This is my latest fell running film called Fellraisers. Its been filmed in 1080 HD.

The inspiration for this film came directly from injury. My thought during injury was to make a film which represented the way I felt during that period. Notably the speed in which races come and go when I cant be in them.

The footage was filmed in 20122013 over the period of a year in Wales and England. I think I had two days where it didn’t rain during filming. It was a nightmare, but ultimately worth it because of the type of footage I acquired.

The race footage in the film comes from y Moelwyn, Ovenden, Barbondale, Great Lakes, Scafell Pike, Great Whernside, Foel Fras, Walsh Two Lads, Paddy’s Pole, Crowhill Reverse, Blisco Dash and Belmont Winter Hill.

So here it is, an off the wall take on fell running accompanied by my own music.

Watch Fellraising here.


Fling on film

Posted in At the Races on Mon 29 Apr ’13

© Ronnie Cairns

It was a big weekend for long distance races in the UK! What with the Fellsman and the Three Peaks occupying the Yorkshire Dales and the HOKA Highland Fling taking place on the West Highland Way in Scotland…

We’ll be pulling together reports and reaction where possible over the next few days on all of the above, but for now this film by Ronnie Cairns gives you some idea of just how great a place to run the West Highland Way is. Oh and the weather on Saturday looked just about perfect for the ‘Fling’!

For the record Lee Kemp and Tracey Dean were victorious – with results and reports via the Highland Fling site


Lee Kemp (left) and Tracey Dean cross the line

World Trail hopefuls head to the Fling

Posted in At the Races on Thu 25 Apr ’13


Ultra trail runners hoping to bag a GB vest for this summers World Trail Running Championships in North Wales will need to impress at the 53 mile HOKA Highland Fling race this weekend…

© Stu Stoddart

Ricky Lightfoot at High Cup Nick

In the men’s race the contenders will be Ricky Lightfoot (making what we think is his UK ultra debut) and Paul Tierney, who should have a good tussle with the 2012 winner Andrew James. Lakeland 50 winner from 2012 Tracey Dean goes in the women’s race, which should be very open.

The full entry list of the 590 runners is here with the Fling Facebook page here.

Reactions so far
  1. sheffieldnick
    Apr 26, 06:22 AM

    I’ve done a neat little pace/splits calculator for the race, which also shows the altitude profile of the course:

    Good luck to everyone racing tomorrow

Lizzy breaks Everest Base Camp to Kathmandu speed record…

Posted in Dishing the Dirt on Thu 25 Apr ’13


Lizzy Hawker

On Saturday 18th April at 10:10pm, the British endurance athlete and The North Face® ultrarunner Lizzy Hawker, 37, completed a 319km run from Everest Base Camp to Kathmandu, Nepal in 63 hours 8 minutes.

Hawker began on Thursday at 7:02am. She reached Jiri on Friday at 6pm where two support runners joined her until Kathmandu. During the 3-day run she rested frequently but slept, in her estimation, for just 4 minutes.

Internationally renowned Hawker remains the world record holder for the ‘Everest Mailrun’ the route taken by those carrying letters to and from expeditions at Everest Base Camp. It’s one of Nepal’s wildest trails that few have tried to claim. The route is brutally hilly with more than 10,000m of ascent and nearly 14,000m of descent on a mixture of rocky trails and tarred road.

When describing what drew her to completing the run for the third time, Hawker said:

“The stillness and beauty of early morning in the awesome mountains of the upper Khumbu. A dark, rainy evening approach to the pollution and gentle chaos of Kathmandu. Long stretches of being entirely alone. The precious company and support of good friends. Feeling rawness and vulnerability, and yet finding a strength in body, mind and spirit. Living in the moment.”

The whole experience was simply described as a “A wild and wonderful journey of contrasts”.

World champion endurance runner Hawker will remain in Nepal until the end of the month to race the 8-stages “Mustang Trail”, a multistage trail running challenge through the wild, spiritually rich landscapes of Upper Mustang.

For further information on Lizzy, click here

Reactions so far
  1. Tony Mollica
    Apr 26, 01:30 AM

    Way to go Lizzy! You are awesome!

    I got a kick out of the four minutes of sleep line.

3 Peaks 2013 – preview

Posted in At the Races on Thu 25 Apr ’13


Three Peaks runners on Pen-y-Ghent

Rather than try and better this Three Peaks Race preview, which would be difficult to be honest, we thought a simple link to the excellent article on the FRA would fill the gaps of who to watch in Horton-in-Ribblesdale this Saturday…

Snow may still be lingering in gullies on the mountain tops as runners line up for the start of the 59th Three Peaks Race in the Yorkshire Dales on Saturday.

A couple of amendments in the start line-up are absentees Tom Owens (injury) and Ricky Lightfoot (running at Highland Fling), but the none-the-less it should be a cracking race!

Check back regularly on Saturday for updates via the MST and FRB twitter feeds…

1250 trail runners tackle the Coffin Tail at Hawkshead

Posted in At the Races on Thu 25 Apr ’13


In the 8th year for the Lakeland Trails event at Hawkshead, taking place on Saturday 27th April, Over 1200 competitors will be tackling the infamous, mile long, killer climb of the “Coffin Trail”…

The record field will include runners from all over the UK, along with overseas visitors from Australia, USA, Holland, Germany, Belgium, France and Ireland.

The event moves to a new venue for 2013 at Hawkshead Recreation Ground, after last year’s wet summer has left the previous show ground venue waterlogged and unusable this year.


The day starts with the 10km Hawkshead Trail Run, setting off at 11.00am, with the longer distance 17km Hawkshead Trail competitors setting off in two waves at 13.00pm and 14.00pm. All take in the infamous “Coffin Trail” on Claife Heights with just over 3km to go before the finish. Everyone finishing with earn a finisher’s technical T shirt memento along with a Cartmel Sticky Toffee Pudding.

The Lakeland Trails are family friendly sporting festivals, taking place on environmentally sustainable bridleways. The fabulous Boom Dang samba drumming band and singer/songwriter Pete Lashley will be preforming live throughout the day, and there are trade & retail stands, food and drink stalls, children’s fun runs and a live commentary with MC.


Gary Priestley

Last year’s winner, GB International Gary Priestley (Horwich RMI), will return to defend his title in the 17km race. Oldest competitor will be 80 year old Malcolm Ball from Norfolk. Dave Wise, from national running website will be running the event with a video camera attached to his head and making a short film of the event for Trail Running Magazine.

The event is supporting the Fix The Fells charity, along with other regional and national charities and thousands of pounds will be raised for these charities from the event.

Event sponsors and partners included running brand ASICS, Cartmel Sticky Toffee Pudding Company, Pete Bland Sports, Mountain Trauma Rescue Services, Bowland Communications, James Kirby Photography,;;, Kendal Mountain Rescue and Hawkshead Recreation Ground.

More information and full start lists are available from the event website

Event Timetable

08.45am : Registration opens on Hawkshead Recreation Ground
11.00am : Start – 10km Hawkshead Trail Run (Event FULL)
11.30am : First finisher expected back from the 10km
12.30pm : Start – Children’s Fun Trails – entry on the day
13.00pm : Start – 17km Hawkshead Trail Challenge (Event FULL)
14.00pm : Start – 17km Hawkshead Trail Race (Event FULL)
14.20pm : First finisher expected back from the 17km Challenge
15.10pm : First finisher expected back from the 17km Race
15.30pm : Singer/songwriter Pete Lashley
16.30pm : Prize Giving


Tales from Y Moelwyn

Posted in At the Races on Wed 24 Apr ’13


Russell Bentley at Ras y Moelwyn 2013

Russell Bentley has made a big impact on the North Wales fell scene over the last few months and last weekend won one of the Welsh classics, Ras y Moelwyn. His win was all the more impressive as he also defeated 2010 British Fell Champ Tim Davies…

Here his fantastic writing style paints a picture of a warm spring day in Blaenau Festiniog, and a tough, but enjoyable, day on the mountains:

I have been looking forward to this race for a long time, literally, looking forward to it. Every time I walk out of my house the course is right there infront of me. The race traverses from Moelwyn Mawr to Moelwyn Bach and the ridge can be seen so clearly that I could almost plan my route between the rock formations whilst having breakfast.

There was a great atmosphere at the starting line with music, a bouncy castle (I was not allowed on it) and stalls selling homemade cookies (I was allowed on these). I was feeling nervous and unsure of myself before the race. I had been overcooking my training the past month, and felt so burnt out I had to take 3 days off running completely.

My girlfriend’s parents were up for the weekend and I had never won a race infront of them. Also, the course record holder, Welsh international and awesome descender Tim Davies was in the lineup. I raced against him in December and had to bash myself to bits to keep up! This race would be 10 miles over 3 mountains, and I decided I needed to build a big cushion before we hit the first and biggest of the three, Moelwyn Mawr. I set off with intent through the relatively shallow slopes of the slate mine.


Tim Davies on the climb

The course went through a valley and then up up up onto the boggy mountains. I was trying to cut corners across the winding beaten track but kept running into deep bogs that completely killed my momentum and sapped my energy. I hoped the guys behind me were making the same mistakes, and that I was too far infront for them to learn from mine.

As I got nearer to the peak of Moelwyn Mawr it got steeper and steeper. Many fell runners will break into a forced march when it gets this steep, and you really have to work hard if you want to keep running, otherwise you won’t be any faster than walking pace. Of all the contests I have been in, track, road, cross country…none have induced as much gut wrenching pain as racing up relentless mountains like this.

The burning in the thighs and calves would be unbearable enough, but is overshadowed by the crazy, lung bursting breathing. It was while I was in this state of duress, making a switch back on the steep path, that I saw a glimpse of a yellow vest behind me. I was in so much pain that I hoped I was just hallucinating, but then I heard the pursuer blow his nose and I realised Tim Davies was hot on my heels.
For me, the entire 10 mile race came down to the next 1 second. In the first half-second I found a thousand excuses to quit…


The Moelwyns route is rough and ready

Well I have thrown everything I can into this mountain, I have failed to create the gap I needed, it isn’t my day, I shouldn’t even be racing anyway, I’m never going to be able to beat Tim on the downhill, why carry on hurting like this for nothing? Better to give in now and save myself more suffering.

The next half second I thought to myself…there are still two more mountains to go, anything could happen. If he wants to beat me he’s going to have to hurt as much as I am, I can’t get beaten again infront of Nina’s parents, just get to the top of this hill first I put my head down, quickened my tempo, and found some more breathing capacity from somewhere.

I reached the top infront, and even though I felt like collapsing, was panting like a dog and hurting to my bones, I was gobsmacked by the breathtaking vista. The sea yawning out into the horizon and Snowdon standing above all the other mountains proudly showing off its sparkling snow cap. I didn’t have the time to take it all in as I was already heading down the other side towards the dreaded descent.

This was Tim’s territory I was in now, and so all I could do was try and take in

Fifty years of Three Peaks racing

Posted in At the Races on Tue 23 Apr ’13


The famous Ron Hill at Ribblehead

As part of our build-up to that classic of classics, the Three Peaks, we look forward to Saturday by first of all looking back. This article first appeared on MST a couple of years ago, and is a race history from 1954 – 2004…

You cannot fail to be moved by this heart-warming story of fell racing across the decades as it logs legend after legend amongst the Three Peaks roll-call. So, go and make a nice cup of tea, sit in your favourite chair, put your feet up and enjoy…

(With kind permission of David Hodgson

Fifty Years of Three Peaks Racing

Bill Smith

The 50th Three Peaks Race should have been held last year but because the 2001 event was cancelled due to the Foot and Mouth outbreak, this year’s race marks its Golden Anniversary. Yet the challenge of traversing the summits of Penyghent, Whernside and Ingleborough goes back much further than 1954, for like several other fell race routes, this one originated as a walk, the earliest recorded attempt dating back to 1887.

However, the first known circuits undertaken by athletes, as distinct from walkers, were not made until the winter of 1948/49 when three Leeds climbers, Des Birch, Jack Bloor (race winner in 1956 – certificate on centre page) and Arthur Dolphin, who were also members of Harehills Harriers, completed the course in times varying from 4hrs 27mins to 5hrs 20mins.

The man responsible for inaugurating the Three Peaks Race was a Lancastrian, Fred Bagley of Preston Harriers, a keen fellwalker and competitor in the Lake District Mountain Trial. Whilst the event now has a 600 entry limit, a ceiling which has risen steadily over the years, there were only six runners in that first race, all of them Lancastrians, of whom three completed the course.

The date was Sunday April 24th 1954 and the race began outside the Hill Inn at Chapel-Le-Dale, though the start was later moved to the field behind the Inn. Bagley took 26 min 30 sec to reach the mist shrouded summit of Ingleborough but then headed too far south, hotly pursued by his rivals, before eventually getting back on course at Sulber Nick.

The route from Horton to Penyghent then took a more direct line over the intakes and up the fell’s steep south western flank, between the crags. Stan Bradshaw of Clayton–Le- Moors Harriers attained the summit in second place and eventually caught up with Bagley at High Birkwith, though they took different routes beyond Nether Lodge, Bagley taking the road whilst Bradshaw kept to the fields.

Bagley arrived first at Ribblehead after 2.5 hours running but then struck a bad patch on the steep ascent of Whernside, reached via Winterscales Farm. This did not deter him, however, and his triumphant return to the Hill Inn was accomplished with a time of 3hrs 48 mins, Bradshaw taking second place in 4hrs 06mins after descending from Whernside too early and emerging into rough boulder fields, whilst his Clayton clubmate Alf Case finished 3rd in 5hrs 12mins.

The latter pair were to become closely associated with the event for many years, Bradshaw completing 24 races and afterwards serving as a course marshal until his late eighties and then continuing to attend as a spectator. Case became involved in the organisational side in 1956 and served as Secretary of the Three Peaks Race Association from its inauguration in 1964 until the 21st race in 1974, after which Doug Croft gave sterling service in this post for the next 25 years, afterwards becoming a Life President.

Preston Harriers again promoted the 1955 race but the next eight events were organised by Clayton-Le-Moors Harriers, one of whose members, George Brass, set new records in both 1955 (3:28:45) and 1958 (3:08:25), whilst Jack Bloor (Leeds Harehills), who had helped to pioneer the route as a run in 1948/49 triumphed in 1956. Brass went on to win the 1961 and 1962 Mountain Trials, being the only competitor to finish in the severely inclement conditions of the latter year.

The 1959 winner Frank Dawson (Salford) who hailed from Ambleside, created a Three Peaks landmark the following year by becoming the first man to complete the course inside 3 hours, clocking 2:58:33 after a well paced run in which he progressed from 5th on Penyghent to make up a 4 minute deficit.


The start from Hill Inn, early 1960’s

Runner up on this occasion was Dave Hodgson (then with Leeds St Marks but now of Fellandale), a position he was to achieve thrice more, whilst 4th man home was Geoff Garnett (Bingley), who once finished 2nd in the Pikes Peak Marathon in Colorado and has since

The Fellsman – the original ultra!

Posted in At the Races on Mon 22 Apr ’13


Competitors cross Kingsdale Beck

There aren’t many ultra races out there that are over 50 years old. The Fellsman is a classic toughie and attracts the hardened fell and ultra runner to over 11,000ft of ascent in its 61 miles, and all on the same day as the Three Peaks Race!

The Fellsman will see 500 competitors set off from Ingleton at 9am this Saturday (27th April) on the grueling 61 mile (96km) route where they will climb over 3350m, traversing very hard rugged moorland on their way to Threshfield.

The Fellsman is a high level traverse covering more than 60 miles over very hard rugged moorland. The event climbs over 11,000 feet in its path from Ingleton to Threshfield in the Yorkshire Dales. Most of the route is over privately owned land, the use of which is secured by the organisers for the weekend only.

This being the case, the route does not follow well defined footpaths, so the entrants’ navigational skills with a map and compass are tested as well as their physical fitness. Because of this, only fit and experienced walkers or runners should enter.

The faster runners will be striving to beat the current record, held by Jez Bragg, of 10 hours 6 minutes but some competitors will take closer to the time limit of 30 hours to complete this difficult course.

Full event info here

© Tim Burton

Jez on his way to a third Fellsman win

Reactions so far
  1. Dave Driver
    Apr 23, 01:37 PM

    Mark Hartell no longer holds the record. Jez Bragg beat it two years ago with a time of 10:06.

  2. Matt MST
    Apr 23, 10:53 PM

    Thanks Dave! Amended…

Around the Worlds in 80 days…

Posted in At the Races on Mon 22 Apr ’13

© Gwynfor James

With just 80 days to go until the opening ceremony of the 4th World Trail Running Championships – which will be held in North Wales on the 6th of July – the countdown to the Championships has begun in earnest.

The event will see over 150 athletes from over 20 countries descend on Wales for a festival of trail running, with an international flavour.

The host venue of Llanrwst (Conwy) is deep in preparation to host the event in the spectacular north-west Wales location of Gwydyr Forest, which will extend a programme of World Championship and open trail running races.


The event is set to receive worldwide media coverage and will be the highest profile trail running event staged in the UK in recent years. It is also part of the legacy that saw North Wales host the extremely successful Commonwealth Mountain and Ultra Distance Championships some two years ago.

The Commonwealth ultra-trail event at those championships was a huge success for Wales in terms of medals too, and saw Welsh international Richie Gardiner lift the men’s Commonwealth crown on a 55km course in Newborough, Anglesey.

© Al Tye /

Richies Gardiner takes the title

The championships in July will see runners tackle a demanding 75km course of forest trails and mountain-heathland in the stunning Conwy Valley, with supporting open and junior events running in tandem with the international event.

Speaking about the plans Cllr Graham Rees, Cabinet Member for Tourism, Marketing & Leisure at Conwy County Borough Council comments:

“Conwy County Borough Council is extremely excited about bringing these championships to the area. The effects of the event will be felt on the economy, our sporting culture and the youth of the County – which is very important to us. Additionally, the competitors will be staying in the County for a number of nights, bringing great economic benefits.

“It is also pleasing to be once again working in conjunction with the IAU, Welsh Athletics and the Welsh Government, and we feel that collaboration on these types of events can only be good for the future of sport and our relations in general.”

The Welsh Government is supporting the event in a public sector partnership with Conwy, and is fully supported by the International Association of Ultra runners (IAU) and by the sports Governing bodies Welsh Athletics and British Athletics.

The Welsh Government Minister for Economy, Science and Transport, Edwina Hart, said:

“The World Trail Running Championships in North Wales is yet another example of Wales’ ability to hold world-class sporting events. This is the first World Championship in the sport of athletics to be held in Wales. Additionally, it shows the confidence of the IAU in our abilities as a nation to hold such championships.

“We will build on our success in hosting the Commonwealth Mountain and Ultra Distance Championships in 2011 and we look forward to working with our partners to deliver a memorable event which will have a positive impact on the local economy.”

Welsh Athletics have also been instrumental in event support and organisational work, with Head of Development Steve Brace adding:

“We are very proud to be hosting a World Championship event on home soil. Trail running is in a boom period in the UK and this is reflected in the IAU’s confidence in our abilities to put on an event like this.

“The Commonwealth championships were inspirational for us all. Seeing three Welsh men filling the podium on that Sunday afternoon ultra-trail race filled me and many others with pride, and it would be great to see some British vests medalling once again July.

“Working with three such professional and capable bodies as Conwy County Borough Council, the IAU, and of course the Welsh Government, will also be instrumental in demonstrating to the world of trail running what we are capable of here in Wales”.

Finally, Hilary Walker, General Secretary of the IAU, stated:

“We see the 4th edition of the World Trail Running Championships in North Wales as an amazing opportunity towards realising our goal of world-class trail running events.

“The initial preparations for the championships have been impressive, and the athletes, along with the participating federations are looking forward to competing in these very popular championships in their racing calendar – and visiting Wales to tackle some of the world’s best trails with one of the world’s warmest welcomes!”