It’s time for skyrunners aged forty or more to get a medal and a world champion title. The first ever Masters Skyrunning World Championships have been created just for this and will kick off this weekend, Sunday, July 30, 2023, at the ninth edition of the Royal Ultra SkyMarathon in Ceresole Reale, Piedmont, Italy.
Amid turquoise lakes and towering peaks, the course is set in the ex-Royal hunting grounds of the Gran Paradiso National Park near Turin. The punishing course is 55 km long with 4,141m vertical climb over seven summits, touching on moraine and snow fields to an altitude of 3,002m.
In these first Masters Skyrunning World Championships just one discipline will be contested – the SKYULTRA. The race is open, awarding medals and world titles to the first three men and women to cross the line. Official National Teams from 17 countries will also participate, battling for the gold, silver and bronze Country medals.
Eighteen individual medals are at stake. Team points are based on the four best results, at least one per gender, in the three age categories: Over 40 (40 to 47 years old), Over 48 (48 to 55 years old) and Over 56 (56 or more years old). Lining up for the medals and titles representing their countries are past champions and current medallists, including:
- Andy Symonds (GBR) – SKYULTRA silver medal at 2016 World Championships
- Tom Owens (GBR) – SKY silver medal at 2016 World Championships
- Anna Strakova (CZE) – multiple Skyrunner® World Series race winner and five-time winner of the Sierre Zinal and Mount Kinabalu
- Shiho Iwadate (JPN) – medal at Asian Championships
- Therese Sjursen (NOR) – multiple VK winner and now SKYULTRA runner
- Cleverson Del Secchi (BRA) – SKYULTRA silver medal at 2023 South American Championships
- Mariana Scarpelli (BRA) – SKYULTRA bronze medal at 2023 South American Championships
Joining them and aiming for the individual medals are, from Spain, Pere Aurell and Nuria Dominguez; and from Italy, Luca Arrigoni and Fulvio Dapit.
Andy Symonds, 42, from the UK, commented, “I’m really excited to come back to the Gran Paradiso SkyMarathon. I ran here four years ago and have great memories of a beautiful course over high mountain terrain with absolutely stunning views. The better the course, the faster I seem to run and the more I enjoy the experience! Gran Paradiso has all the ingredients for this recipe! I’m also looking forward to sharing some kilometres with my GB team mates and other friends from the skyrunning circuit!”
“If it’s a race or not, I’m a skyrunner whenever I’m in the mountains,” stated Japan’s Shiho Iwadate, 53. “In this race, I would like to make full use of the climbing skills and techniques that I have experienced as a skyrunner. Skyrunning is simple climbing and a lifelong sport. I think the role of the Masters generation is to show the ‘up to the sky’ mindset in a ‘fast and light’ style. Let’s enjoy ‘Less cloud. More sky’!”
Brazilian João Stresser, at 67 is the oldest runner representing a team. “My father was in Italy during World War II defending Brazil. I will wear my team uniform in his honour. Now it’s my turn to defend Brazil – in skyrunning. I feel good and will do my best.”
World-class veteran, Anna Strakova, 50, remarked, “I’m very excited to be a part of the Czech Masters Team and I’m looking forward to the race. I did a lot of training but have three small kids and live in a country with no big mountains…so I don’t know how well I can perform at high altitude. Running a race is like life – full of steep climbs and rocky downhills! As always, I’ll be running with all my heart and do my best on the day.”
Therese Sjursen, 47, representing Norway, added, “I’m really looking forward to the first Masters World Championships. I’ve been curious about this area of Italy for some time and I’m excited to test my strength and endurance on such a technical course. As a former VK runner, I have the uphill strength, but transferring this to strong downhill skills is something I continuously work on. I feel honoured to represent my country once again and it’s always a pleasure in beautiful Italy.”
Millet, the French outdoor equipment and apparel company, will be present as Official Partner 2023 Masters Skyrunning World Championships. The partnership highlights skyrunning’s mountaineering heritage and this year Millet has launched the first collection dedicated to the discipline.
Adding to the atmosphere, as in the 2017 event, two military bands will welcome the runners on the shores of the lake at the finish line – the Italian Military Air Force Band and the Italian Infantry Corps Band, (Bersaglieri), from Biella.