Salomon athletes Kilian Jornet and Emelie Forsberg won the Zegama-Aizkorri Sky Marathon, the first of the Skyrunner World Series races, in Spain at the weekend.
The two are reigning Skyrunner World Series champions and just two weeks ago were both victorious at the Transvulcania Ultramarathon, La Palma. Spain’s Luis Alberto Hernando, 2011 world champion, also had a repeat performance coming an extremely close second in both races.
In a deeply stacked field of nearly 600 runners, the first half of the race was fast and furious, with many strong runners out fron, only to burn out on the descent behind the more experienced skyrunners over the 42 km course which features a gruelling 2,736m vertical climb.
Italy’s Marco De Gasperi, who has duelled with Jornet on various occasions, today led the race to the 21 km checkpoint, with Jornet pacing him just 1 minute 20 seconds behind. After originally cancelling his participation due to injury, De Gasperi turned up at the start line with just a few weeks of training to race his sparring partner, at least for half the race. He then dropped out to leave the downhill to Jornet and Hernando.
Jornet finished just 20 seconds short of Briton Rob Jebb’s 2005 record in 3:54:38 and Hernando, glued to his heels, finished only 28 seconds later. Third was an excellent Tadei Pivk from Italy in his first international race, in 3:59:07.
The intense ladies’ race was led in the early stages by American Stevie Kremer, in her first SkyMarathon. At 22km, Forsberg took over the lead, with Italy’s Silvia Serafini, third, followed by Celine Lafaye and Oihana Kortazar, 2011 world champion and last year’s race winner.
Nuria Picas, 2012 Skyrunner Ultra champion and fresh from her second place at Transvulcania, stepped up her pace from seventh position to seriously challenge downhill expert Forsberg all the way to the finish. Forsberg finished in 4:48:12, Picas, second in 4:48:55 and Kremer, third in 4:49:58.
No doubt we’ll be seeing the talented Kremer again on the podium in the rest of the series, especially after some downhill training. “I loved the uphill”, she said, “but the downhill was so technical. I had a hard time letting loose.”
Skyrunning is not just about fast ascents, but even faster descents – a technique that distinguishes the sport. Many strong runners new to the sport, like Germany’s Florian Reichert, Japan’s Toru Miyahara and South African A J Caltiz, who excelled on the uphill, will be honing their skills on the downhill for the next Sky Series race in Chamonix on June 30, the Mont-Blanc Marathon.
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1 Kilian Jornet (Salomon Santiveri/Spain) – 3:54:38
2 Luis Alberto Hernando (adidas/Spain) – 3:54:50
3 Tadei Pivk (Crazy Idea/Italy) – 3:58:07
1 Emelie Forsberg (Salomon/Sweden) – 4:48:12
2 Nuria Picas (FEEC/Spain) – 4:49:55
3 Stevie Kremer (Salomon Agisko/USA) – 4:49:58