Skyrunning in the USA

……and what the American Trail Running Association doing to help support the sport.

As a member of the International Skyrunning Federation (ISF), the American Trail Running Association (ATRA) has had a connection to Skyrunning since its early years with the late 1990s U.S. Fila Skyrunner Series. The American Trail Running Association (ATRA) is a 501(c)3 Colorado-based non-profit corporation founded in 1996 whose mission is to promote trail running, mountain running, ultra running on trails, and to provide resources for race directors and participants in our sport – including Skyrunning.

We recognize that off-road running encompasses a very diverse community in the U.S. and that Skyrunning is an important stakeholder. We support all defined disciplines of off-road running as well as those that choose not to align with any specific style, or those who create their own unique style.

American mountain and skyrunning legend Matt Carpenter in a 1998 Denver Post article. (News clipping image courtesy of Nancy Hobbs)

Our executive director Nancy Hobbs organized Skyrunning races in the United States in the 1990s and was instrumental in forming the first partnership with the ISF’s predecessor organization, the Federation for Sport at Altitude (FSA).

“The Skyrunning program went through a few iterations in the 90s,” recalled Hobbs. “For a few years, we focused on staging events in Colorado with Aspen, Vail, and Telluride serving as host venues to showcase three disciplines within the program – Vertical Kilometer, Skyrace (shorter than marathon distance), and SkyMarathon.”

“One goal of the events was to attract high level competition that would translate to media interest. Through the program, top athletes would compete to make a traveling team to participate in the World Skyrunning Championships.”

Top women’s finishers at the 1999 Get High Sky Half Marathon in Telluride, CO. (Photo by Nancy Hobbs)

“We then branched outside Colorado to create a series with races in California, Idaho and other Western U.S. states. What started out as a program primarily for elites shifted to include more of the masses and encourage others to experience the trails through Skyrunning.”

Learn more about Skyrunning’s history and check out this video from the 1999 U.S. FILA Sky Marathon.

This past Fall, our Director of Marketing Richard Bolt travelled to Limone sul Garda, Italy for the ISF General Assembly meeting and to observe the Limone Extreme Skyrace. Richard met with ISF executives to reaffirm ATRA’s commitment to Skyrunning, the Skyrunner USA races and American teams competing in world championship events.

Steep trail of the 2018 Limone Extreme VK this past October. (Photo by Richard Bolt)

“Experiencing a Skyrace in its original European environment was awesome,” said Bolt. “Seeing the local community get behind this event and how the Skyrunning course takes advantage of the steep, lakeside mountain terrain was helpful in understanding the roots of the sport and what makes it unique. I look forward to using this experience to build stronger connections between the ISF, our Skyrunning partners in the U.S. and the broader American off-road running community.”

Membership for Skyrunning race directors and participants:

We offer a variety of membership types; individual, race, club, specialty run, and corporate (brand). Membership is not required to access published content available on our website or received via email. Individual members can benefit from discounts on trail running magazines and are eligible for free race entries distributed through our e-newsletters.

Race and club members are eligible to participate in our event liability insurance program. Race, club, specialty run, and corporate members receive visibility and promotion via our website, email newsletter and social media.

We have national and international runner members, over 200 race members and over 40 corporate members. With the addition of recent programs, we also have a small, but growing number of club & speciality running store members as well.

Skyrunning and Skyrunner USA:

In 2018, we proactively worked with Ryan Kerrigan and Rob Goyen to support their efforts to grow Skyrunning and Skyrunner USA programs in the United States. With Ryan’s input, we’ve published and shared criteria for US team selection for Skyrunning World Championship events here and here. We also outreach to potential junior candidates who may be interested in the U.S. mountain running teams and the Skyrunning junior team – here and here and here.

US Junior Skyrunning Team at the 2018 Skyrunning Youth World Championships in Italy. (Photo by Ryan Kerrigan)

With Rob’s help, we’ve published his 2019 Skyrunner USA Series press release and added and updated all of his events in our online calendar. This online calendar is our single most popular feature on our website and includes more than 8000 event pages dating back to 1996 providing a historic record. This calendar features international races as well as those staged in the United States and is viewed by users from all around the globe. Nearly 3000 events on this calendar are active at any given time in the year.

Recently we’ve updated all the events associated with Skyrunning to include a 2019 race date. These include Skyrunner World Series, Skyrunner National Series, Continental Skyrunning Championships and Youth Skyrunning World Championships.

The American Trail Running Association supports the International Skyrunning Federation’s anti-doping efforts which follow the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) code. Learn more about anti-doping from ATRA’s “Clean Sport and MUT” series of articles.

In 2019, ATRA will be working with our athletics federation, USA Track & Field, to bring WADA-compliant anti-doping tests to the 26 km Broken Arrow Skyrace. In addition to being part of the US Skyrunner National Series, this race is part of the World Mountain Running Association’s (WMRA) 2019 Mountain Running World Cup. The WMRA is also a strong supporter of WADA-compliant anti-doping tests.

Franklin Mountains Trail Run – ATRA member race and final event of the Skyrunner USA Series. (Photo by Franklin Mountains Trail Run)

Best practice tools for Skyrunning race directors:

Our Event Standards Program is our primary best practice document useful for race directors organizing all styles of off-road running events. This is a voluntary no-cost program for event directors. We also have an Event Standard Partner Program for brands interested in providing products and services to race directors.

Recently, we published a Trail Running Camp standards document and now offer T.R.I.P. – an event liability insurance program for race directors. ATRA membership is required to participate in this program. Currently over 170 trail running races use our T.R.I.P. insurance.

For runners we offer many free articles and resources including “How to get started,” a list of trail running coaches and camps, and how to help maintain trails.

Whiteface Mountain Skyrace in the Adirondack Mountains of New York. (Photo by GF Media)

Social media, email newsletters and search:

We large followings on social media and subscribers to our email newsletters. In addition to regular social media posts and engagement, we send a minimum of 20 email newsletters per year with a monthly email newsletter geared specifically to race directors, and produce a quarterly newsletter, Trail Times, now in its 24th year of publication.

As important as our social and email products are, we derive the vast majority of our audience referrals from organic search. To ensure trail runners and race directors can find races, news, how-to articles and resources on our website, we’re actively engaged in a search engine optimization (SEO) program. This program includes optimizing around keywords most relevant to our users including trail running, ultrarunning, mountain running and skyrunning.

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