Lakes Sky Ultra & Scafell Sky Race

I’ve got a secret. Well, it’s not really a secret. More something to confess. I’ve had an entry to the Lakes Sky Ultra the past two years and not raced. First year, I had a clash with personal circumstances and the second, it was too close to another race, which I too didn’t race, as I was ill. So much for tapering getting you ready for the big day…..

So, the fact I managed to grab Charles’ ear, speaks volume for the man. Incidentally, I’ve signed up for the Scafell Sky Race this year, have cleared my calendar and all being well won’t come last in July.

The Lakes is well known for it’s mountain races, being fell, trail or ultra, but the Sky Race series has really taken this little pocket of England onto the international stage. This year see’s the Scafell Sky Race become the the qualifying race for those looking to run under the GB vest at the World Championships in Kinlochleven, Scotland, in September.

I sat down with Charlie to find out more about the race,s what competitors can expect and the man behind it all.

So big year of the Scafell Sky Race and Lakes Sky Ultra taking place in July, the former being the GBR selection for the Sky Running World Champs in September. How did that come about?

Yes a big year. LSU is in its 4th year now and is a regular fixture in the Skyrunning UK calendar. Its extreme and seriously ‘lumpy’ testing all the skills an ‘extreme’ skyrunner needs to possess. The SSR is in its second year and with being a ‘non-vetted’ field of runners allows it to be identified as the qualifying race in the UK series for anyone feeling they are ‘tough enough’ to become part of the UK Skyrunning Squad for the World Champs later in the year held in the mountains of bonny Scotland, a first for the UK and Skyrunning Org as a whole. A very exciting year. 2017_SSR_Lucy-Bartholomew1Images by © Guillem Casanova

I take it with a vest on the line this year, the starting field is likely to be the most competitive yet?

For sure, anybody who wants to qualify for the World Champs who hasn’t already shown the excellent form in 2017 will be racing for a top placement in the SSR. Its going to be super competitive. In the LSU there are certainly a few who will be racing to beat the ‘course records’ set by Sarah Ridgway and Donnie Campbell back in 2016.

If you could summarise the both races in a single line, which gave the essence of what a competitor can expect, what would it be?

Hard, total commitment, completely absorbing and unbelievably extreme in their nature show casing what the English Lake District has to offer to both entry level and experienced skyrunners. These races epitomise the roots of skyrunning, giving well thought-out, planned and intricate racing never letting up until the final race into the HQ. 2017_SSR_Lucy-Bartholomew2Images by © Guillem Casanova

How have both races evolved since 2015?

LSU has remained largely the same, with a few tweaks here and there to make the hardest and best racing in the Lake District yet. The combination of extreme mountain running and graded scrambling gives a fully extreme race, one to really aspire to.

The SSR being only in its second year has as well had a few minor tweaks to make this epic and truly absorbing foot race one to completely remember and come back year on year to test aspirant skyrunners to their limits. Extreme running with minor scrambles combines all the skills skyrunners should be training towards. The evolution of this race is to offer those without the ‘climbing’ skills the most technical race they could imagine. We have certainly a few nice surprises in minor course redesign for any skyrunner wanting to test their skills before heading out on the European circuit. A real race to train for and remember.

Scafell doesn’t require vetting, but is a true mountain challenge, for anyone thinking of entering (entries close 15th June 2018) what experience and fitness would you recommend?

Aspirant racers and entrants need to possess a full hand of skills for truly technical mountain running. This skill set includes the ability to move consistently across extreme and rock strewn terrain, excellent descending skills, minor rock scrambling ability, total agility and excellent footwork. Fitness needs to be at a complete optimum as although the race is only a ‘marathon’ distance, the course has a whooping 3000m+ of ascent and the same racks up with the descent, the terrain is very extreme and racers must possess a good level of mountain fitness even just to complete. We advise hill reps, descending and movement across extreme terrain to be incorporated into as many training session as possible, lest the racers tire and don’t manage the second and tamer half of the course.   2017_SSR_runner-scramblingImages by © Guillem Casanova

Who is the man behind Lake District Sky Trails?

Charles Sproson is the course designer and main man behind the scenes. His knowledge and understanding of the Lakes and what trails it has to offer to this type of running event are key to the races and the feel of the courses. Charles has shown his course designing skills over many of the Lakes most epic races since 2012 and is now concentrating on both of these events (LSU & SSR), plus offering skills sessions for those wanting to grow their abilities to either take part or excel year on year. Charles has shown his own capabilities for ‘extreme’ mountain/skyrunning with completions in such challenges as the Lakes Classic Rock Round, the Bob Graham Round and Charlie Ramsay Round to mention a few.

Given the changeable weather, picking kit that both meets the mandatory criteria but also offers genuine protection when the clag roles in, for the sake of 20 grams more must be key.

Completely. We expect the runners to be well versed with hard mountain travel and all that it pertains to. Runners must be able to differentiate between whether they choose the lightest kit for the day or decide that ‘race day’ is the day they need that ‘extra layer’ of protection or the ‘full protection’ of a heavier grade waterproof that the one that just passes race specs!

We completely understand the desire to travel as light as possible, but sometimes the ‘race spec’ waterproof top just isn’t up to scratch for 14 hours of battering on the Lakes Sky Ultra that the weather gods in the Lake District can throw at you. The ability to stay ‘comfortable’ on the course is a key element as to whether you will make the cut offs and keep on moving or have to pull due to suffering from the conditions. Transversely the Lake District can offer ‘Tropical Heat’ on the given day of the race and understanding hydration needs and how to achieve this are completely key, as water can be scarce on the tops and in a dry and hot spell it can take all that knowledge to stay hydrated and keep on moving through the mountains without failing on the course.

We expect all competitors to understand how to achieve these goals and advise ‘no skimping’ on race kit, as if you don’t have the right clothing and equipment at registration, then expect to be told you can’t race. We have no leniency at all here!

Where can we keep up to date with all things Lake District Sky Trails?

The best way to keep up to date with all things Lake District Sky Trails is either follow us on Facebook through the respective channels (Lakes Sky UltraScafell Sky Race and/or Mountain Run) or join the mailing list to keep up to date on any recent news and developments.

In the run up to the event competitors are kept informed by a couple of pre-event emails.

Of course if you follow the Lake District Sky Trails website, then you will get all the info you need there in regular updates –

A big thanks to Charles for the taking the time out of his busy schedule and I’ll be reporting back in July about my own experiences of the Scafell Sky Race.