Skyrunning General Assembly Plants Seeds for Global Growth in Italy

More than a dozen countries were represented at the International Skyrunning Federation (ISF) General Assembly last weekend in Limone sul Garda, Italy. Held alongside the successful Limone Extreme Skyrace, this meeting gave Skyrunning leaders the opportunity to set direction for the sport, refine rules governing races, welcome new members and network with other national federations.

A group of 25 national federation representatives, ISF officers and staff took part in the meeting where the highlight was an announcement that the Gran Sasso Skyrace intends to host the 2020 Youth Skyrunning World Championship. Dr. Giulio Sergio Roi presented ISF President Marino Giacometti with letters from the Italian Skyrunning Federation and mayor of Gran Sasso confirming their support for the championship. Dr. Roi is head of the Italian Skyrunning Federation and just finished a 4-year term as ISF Vice-President.

Marino Giacometti (left) and Dr. Giulio Sergio Roi (right).

Also on the subject of youth, new age groups were proposed by the ISF Youth Commission. Pending approval, next year’s Youth World Championships, would have four age groups; 15-16, 17-18, 19-20 and U23. Currently there are three age categories: A (16-17 years), B (18-20 years) and U23 (21-23 years). US teams and races for youth are organized by Ryan Kerrigan through US Skyrunning. Kerrigan has lead medal winning young American runners to all the previous Youth Skyrunning World Championships is race director for the Highlander Sky Vertical coming up on November 3, in Waitsfield, VT.

Another exciting announcement came from Dr. Roi confirming that ISF will begin WADA compliant out-of-competition anti-doping tests on athletes in 2020. This will be in addition to in-competition WADA testing which ISF has conducted at their World Championships since 2016. In mentioning one of the benefits of being part of the International Climbing and Mountaineering Federation (UIAA), ISF Vice-President and Executive Director Lauri van Houten said,“We do proper WADA anti-doping tests.” Just like USA Track & Field here in the United States, UIAA is a signatory to the World Anti-Doping Agency code.

On the commercial side, it was announced that ISF had signed a new licensing agreement with SkyMan SA. SkyMan is responsible for organizing the Skyrunner® World Series (SWS), Skyrunner® National Series (SNS), Vertical Kilometer® World Circuit (VKWC) and holds the Skyrunner® and Vertical Kilometer® trademarks. In the United States, ATRA member Trail Racing Over Texas (TROT) founder Rob Goyen has been working with SkyMan to organize the Skyrunner USA Series.

As part of an effort to ensure Skyrunning maintains its distinctive characteristics and races conform to its rules, the ISF has launched new Certified Course (CC) and Qualified Race (CR) labels. The CC label is awarded to courses compliant with ISF definitions. A number of parameters, together with the GPX data, are evaluated and an exclusive algorithm is applied. The CR label, the main factors taken into account include, english language version of the event website, international field and international level organization, benefits for top ranked athletes and having had at least two editions of the event. There are currently 40 events with the certified course label. Labels cost either 100 euro for VKs or 200 euro for longer events and must be renewed annually.

Another topic that came up in the meeting was the status of national federations and their responsibilities as ISF members. ISF has 43 full voting members. For the United States that is US Skyrunning lead by Vermont-based Ryan Kerrigan. ISF has six associate members which includes the American Trail Running Association. Representing future growth opportunities, the ISF also recognizes 11 aspirant members including Israel, which was elevated to full voting member status at the meeting.

While General Assembly participants were talking about the sport inside the Tourist Information Center, there was plenty of skyrunning action taking place outside. That evening the Limone Extreme VK was taking place on the steep mountain slopes overlooking Lake Garda. The next morning longer Limone Extreme Skyrace events started in downtown Limone sul Garda along the picturesque lakeside. These included the invitation-only SkyMasters race – video of the start below.

Founded by Marino Giacometti in 1995 as the Federation for Sport at Altitude (FSA), the sport of skyrunning was born in the Italian Alps as a high elevation running sport where the mountains meet the sky. Today, the sport is governed by the International Skyrunning Federation (ISF), which took over from the FSA in 2008, and is a unit member of the International Climbing and Mountaineering Federation (UIAA).

According to Lauri van Houten, “What is Skyrunning and why is it different to trail running? We’ve done this by joining the UIAA, as a unit member to underline the fact that we are a mountain sport, we are not athletics, we are not part of the IAAF.”

This point of differentiation from mountain and trail running came up several times during the meeting. As International Association of Athletics Federations (soon to be known as World Athletics) works towards a combined 2021 IAAF Mountain & Trail Running World Championship, the ISF wants to be sure the sport of Skyrunning maintains its unique, steep, mountainous and technical character. This uniqueness has always been part of the sport and can been seen in the video below about the 1998 Skyrunning World Championship; a 42 km race to a maximum elevation of 4165 meters at the Breithorn.

One of Skyrunning’s great successes since its inception has been creating compelling visual content for fans of the sport. According to Lauri van Houten, “The visual aspect of skyrunning has always been very important to us. Since the very beginning we hired top photographers. The best way to explain our sport is in great images. This dates back to 1993 we worked with UK based Transworld Sport to create television programs.” This high quality visual feast continues with shorter form videos on YouTube and other social media channels like this Skymasters Limone video:

The next Skyrunning General Assembly will be held in July, 2020 at the Buff Epic Trail in Spain. This event will host the 2020 Skyrunning World Championships.

Learn more about how the American Trail Running Association is working with Skyrunning in this Trail News article.

The steep mountain terrain rising up from the lakeside town of Limone sul Garda are perfect for skyrunning.

Tags: , ,