Friday, May 25, 2012

Skyrunning comes to South Africa

Marino Giacometti, founder of the ISF

In 1991, an Italian man by the name of Marino Giacometti introduced the world to a brand new concept of running. Traversing some of Europe's highest peaks including Monta Rosa in northern Italy and Mont Blanc in France, Giacometti's dream was to create a series of unique and challenging mountain running events that encapsulated the true meaning ofrunning in the clouds. A few years later, and with the first high altitude trial hosted on the slopes of Mount Everest, Skyrunning was born.

Twenty years on, and as the interest in Skyrunning continues to grow at a rapid rate in both Europe and in North America, as well as in Asia and New Zealand, South Africa begins a new chapter in the development of off-road running as this dynamic sport makes its way to our country's mountain ranges.

In August 2011, the South African Skyrunning Association (SASA) was founded, becoming a voting member of the International Skyrunning Federation (ISF). As part of its mandate, SASA's goals and objectives include helping with the ISF's vision of growing and promoting the sport of Skyrunning on a global basis, introducing local South African runners to the idea of competing on a national Skyrunning circuit, and international runners to the opportunity of competing on South African soil.

So what is Skyrunning you ask? The ISF have introduced a unique criteria that defines a Skyrunning event. From specific cumulative altitude gain across the race route profile, to minimum and maximum elevations above sea level, Skyrunning events encompass a wide variety of mountain terrain. Comprising of events such as the Skymarathon®, Skyrace® and Vertical Kilomoeter®, as well as the newly introduced Skytrail, some 35 000 athletes world-wide enjoy National, European and World Series events. The Skygames®, which takes place every four years in the same year as the Olympics, also offers Skyrunners from around the world the opportunity to represent their country in a multi-disciplined format of mountain races.

Kilian Jornet at the 2011 Zegama Skymarathon 
As one of the primary objectives of SASA, its mandate includes identifying existing trail and mountain running events in South Africa that will be interested in hosting a national Skyrunning circuit event. Coupled with these existing events, the opportunity also lies in the introduction of new mountain running races as part of this national circuit, events that will continue to pioneer this new chapter in the county's mountain running scene, all gaining recognition as official Skyrunning races. There are many quality South African races which already exist and qualify to host a national circuit event,says James Hallett, founder of SASA.With a landscape that boasts some exceptional mountainous terrain, I feel that South Africa has the potential to become a world class Skyrunning destination.”

For the local runners, it's an opportunity to join SASA as a registered Skyrunner®, allowing them to enter and compete in these various national circuit events to accumulate points, much like a Formula 1 driver would throughout a racing season, in the hopes of being crowned national Skyrunning Champion.

We feel that the idea of competing on a national circuit will appeal to both elite athletes and regular runners alike, allowing them to challenge themselves and others each year. This will not detract from them being a regular trail runner, however with the added opportunity of being selected to represent South Africa at a Skyrunning World Series event, or even a Skygames®, it's something that we feel will encourage runners to join, opening up many avenues for aspiring athletes wanting to perform on the world mountain running stage.” says Hallett.

SASA will be hoping to announce the 2013 national Skyrunning circuit later this year, with negotiations having already begun with interested event organisers. Runners wishing to sign up as registered Skyrunners should keep their eyes on the official SASA website for more details as and when they break, including information about the events hosting the national circuit.

Should you wish to find out more about Skyrunning, please visit the SASA website or folllow our social media channels on Facebook and Twitter

You can also contact SASA by emailing