Some of the world’s top mountain runners will race on a rugged trail course in Colorado this weekend (Sept. 28) in the Ultra Race Of Champions (UROC) 100k, an event touted by organizers as the world championships of sky running.
The field is a who’s-who of ultra-distance running, with elites like Salomon athlete Kilian Jornet, Lake Sonoma 50 Mile winner Sage Canaday, Western States second place finisher Rob Krar, and San Juan Solstice winner Dakota Jones in the stacked men’s field.
Emelie Forsberg is a favorite in the women’s field, which also includes Kerrie Bruxvoort, Michelle Yates and Ashley Arnold, among other notables.
The list of incredible talent lured by $20,000 in prize money ($5,000 each for first male and female) goes on and on.
I, too, will toe the starting line and plan to choke on the dust of the elite field to glean as much wisdom as possible from the veteran ultra racers.
My goal is to finish under the 17-hour cutoff to earn a shiny belt buckle and learn a lot along the way. It is an awesome privilege to share the starting and hopefully finish lines with such an elite group of runners.
While many trail and ultra length foot races cover tough distances and terrain, sky running has some unique parameters and is defined as “mountain running at altitudes of at least 2,000 meters with inclines of at least 30 percent and climbing difficulties at or below grade two.”
This course definitely fits the bill, with an estimated 13,245 feet of vertical gain and 12,379 feet of loss. The maximum elevation is 12,408 feet (3,782 meters). The race begins in Breckenridge, Colo., and finishes in Vail, crossing four passes over 12,000 feet along the way.
“I love the portion from Frisco, Colo., to Copper Mountain Ski Area as runners cross the pass between peaks five and six,” said event organizer J. Russell Gill III.
With 19 percent of the course on paved road, versatile runners with lots of speed combined with technical climbing and descent ability can do well.
“We have big climbs, technical sections, then fast tarmac. This should help determine the best overall ultrarunners for 2013,” Gill said.
It is the first time the race will be held in Colorado. Last year it was in Virginia.
This year, the UROC 100 is the final of five races that determines a world champion in the Skyrunner World Series based on points earned in a competitor’s best three performances. Each of the races is quite impressive: the Transvulcania La Palma, the 100-mile Ronda dels Cims, the Ice Trail Tarentaise in Val D’Isère, and the mountainous Speedgoat 50k in Utah.
Of the male competitors, the favorite of many running pundits is Kilian Jornet. The Catalonian mountain runner has won pretty much everything he’s entered, set some incredible Fastest Known Time ascent records and is the series’ current points leader.
“Watch Rob Krar,” Gill said when asked who was his favorite to press Jornet.
Of the females, 2012 SWS champion and 2013 European Skyrunning champion Emelie Forsberg is the likely favorite.
The field of top runners has drawn some significant attention to the race, Gill said, adding that the television show 60 Minutes will cover the race as part of a look into the world of ultra running.
“This is exactly the type of coverage that will ultimately bring the sport of Ultra Distance Running to main stream media, and we are elated to be on the forefront of this transformation,” Gill said.
A thin layer of snow already covers the high peaks and weather will certainly play a roll in the event. More snow is predicted to fall the night before the race, which could make choosing shoes for the run a unique chore.
Top runners are expected to finish the event in some crazy fast times, with the first across the line expected by late afternoon.
I, along with the 150 or so non-elite racers who will watch the 70ish contenders disappear early in the race, will be packing a headlamp.—Sean McCoy