Henriette and Jonathan Albon win the Scafell Sky Race

By Alice Morrison

Married couple Henriette and Jonathan Albon took the women’s and men’s titles today at the Scafell Sky Race (SSR).

SSR is a 42km skyrunning race with 3,000m of ascent on the challenging, often nightmarish, terrain of the Lake District National Park in the UK. The race goes over England’s highest peak, Scafell Pike (978m). 

SSR has been named as a qualifying race for the Skyrunning UK National Team for the Skyrunning World Championships and 196 runners were at the start line.





RUNULTRA_Scafell-Sky-Race_England_UK

Consequently it was a really strong line up: two stars from the Great Britain team that who silver medalled at the 2018 IAU Trail World Championships, Tom Evans and Jonathan Albon; GB 100K-runner and Dragon’s Back-winner Marcus Scotney; fell-running legend Steve Birkinshaw; and Lakeland 50 course record-holder Casper Kaars Sijpesteijn.

The women’s field was equally exciting, with trail-runner Sally Fawcett facing competition from mountain-runner Georgia Tindley, experienced ultra-runner Sarah Sheridan, Henriette Albon and last year’s Lakes Sky Ultra-winner Catherine Slater.

 

The start was fast on a short section of road and good trails.

RUNULTRA_Scafell-Sky-Race_England_UK

After climbing past Sour Milk Gill waterfalls, up the Gillercomb Valley to the summit of Green Gable, a very technical single track took the runners past the Napes Needle (Fast Fact: rock climbing allegedly originated here in the 1880s), to Scafell Pike, via the Corridor Route. 


After summiting Great End, crossing a boulder field, and almost topping Bow Fell, a scree descent led to one the best single tracks in the Lakes. 

A relief after all that scree. 

Next was the Climbers’ Traverse, then the Band, before runners descended into Great Langdale and a feed station outside the historical Stickle Barn pub – we wonder if any stopped for a cheeky half?

A climb up Harrison Stickle past Stickle Tarn and then the Great Langdale Valley, leading to the finish in Ambleside.

 

No surprises that in the men’s race Evans and Albon charged off at the front, with Sebastian Batchelor initially keeping in touch.

They arrived at Stickle Barn, about halfway into the race, together. This was a turning point as Albon had a faster transition and gradually pulled away, to arrive first at the University of Cumbria’s Ambleside Campus, in a course record time of 04.26:50. 





RUNULTRA_Scafell-Sky-Race_England_UK

The Lakes is an amazing place to run,” said Norway-based Albon. “It was a lot of fun, especially the technical sections, when you get into your flow – if you ignore that there’s a drop off next to you.

The second half was more runnable, but hotter – more bearable when we had some wind and cloud cover. The nice, open grassy fells were welcome.

It’s interesting doing the techie stuff first – I loved the slabby section, I hadn’t run on stuff like that before – your legs get blasted by all the jarring around, and then you get the long flowy sections afterwards, so your legs need to be in good condition.

It was an amazing race,” said Evans, who placed second, in 04:39:57. “It’s different to what I normally do and a course of two halves: the first half was super-technical, and I was way out of my comfort zone, which is great.

The second half is more runnable and more suited to me, but it got hot and I slightly misjudged my hydration strategy. I’m super happy though. It’s my first ever skyrace and it was great to race against Jon.” 



Sebastian Batchelor (GBR) was third in 04.59:50.





In the women’s race, Tindley set the early pace, but dropped out after Harrison Stickle. Catherine Slater, too, was suffering on the big climb out of Langdale. Henriette Albon started conservatively but gradually moved ahead and took the win in 05:59:27.





“That was definitely one of the tougher races I’ve done this year,” said Henriette Albon. “There was a lot of undulating, rocky terrain, you constantly had to be focused. I was surprised by how much time it took.

I remember looking at my watch 15km in and thinking, ‘Phew, this is going to be a long one!’ I liked the grassy sections at the end because I could get some speed, but I liked the rocky bits too. I started slowly and tried to pace it.”





I loved the race,” said Fawcett, who placed second, in 06:26:16, “even if I was out of my comfort zone for much of the first half. But I was in my element for the more runnable second half. It was pretty much six hours and 26 minutes of fun!





Slater dug deep to finish third woman in 06:47:48.



46 runners DNFed.


Congratulations to all the winners but particularly to Henriette and Jonathan Albon – matching his and hers medals definitely beats matching his and hers towels!

Winners:

  • 
(M) Jonathan Albon (GBR) 04:26:50 (CR)
  • 
(F) Henriette Albon (GBR) 05:59:27

Full leaderboard.


"the first half was super-technical, and I was way out of my comfort zone, which is great"

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