Restoring mountain ecosystems is the theme of this year’s International Mountain Day, designated in 2003 by the United Nations on December 11 every year. Since then, skyrunning has been celebrating this special day.
Mountains cover around 27% of the planet’s surface and are one of the most fragile areas due to climate change, unsustainable development…and abandonment in remote areas.
As a sports federation whose playground is the mountains, the International Skyrunning Federation is directly involved through events held there, a hub for hundreds, thousands, of runners and fans who congregate at iconic venues across the world.
Skyrunning however, will never be a mainstream sport due to the obvious geographical limitations of mountain locations – the distance from cities, airports and train stations and the numbers of athletes able to face severe challenges over technical terrain at altitude. The Federation’s rules cap the number skyurunners both for safety – and ecological reasons.
Marino Giacometti, ISF President, was born and grew up in a small mountain village in Italy and has dedicated his life to the mountains, the foundation of the sport, and setting records at altitude across the world. “So, are mountains merely exploited or abandoned? Sustainable sports events contribute to tourism, bringing both notoriety and economic impact to the local communities, helping to maintain the population by avoiding migration,” he commented.
“The knowledge and effective evaluation of the impact on the local ecosystem helps to positively manage an event: How much CO2 does an event actually produce? And how can it be limited? We are currently concluding a study on the matter but in brief, the much-criticized use of helicopters necessary in high altitude events is a point in discussion. One helicopter releases 500 kg of CO2 in an hour, while ten cars which have travelled 200 km, emit the same amount…nothing compared to an aeoplane which produces 0.285 kg per person – for every kilometre!
“By creating awareness, every event can adopt eco sustainable measures by assessing the environmental impact and recompense the earth! Just for example, by planting two trees in the park for every athlete that crosses the finish line is a concept adopted by the organisers of the 2024 Skyrunning World Championships in Spain.”
In collaboration with the local Forestry Association, the 2024 Skyrunning World Championships organisers of the Desafío Urbión, have calculated the carbon footprint of each participant which will be minimised by the absorption capacity of the native trees which will be planted in their exclusive initiative.
Further skyrunning initiatives include the Monte Rosa SkyMarathon in the Italian Alps, birthplace of skyrunning and Europe’s highest race which was awarded an ISO certificate earlier this year for the sustainable management of skyrunning sports on Monte Rosa.
There is no human activity with “zero” impact, but it is possible to minimise and adapt human behaviour with respect to nature. Skyrunning is about running in nature, up and down the mountain, with just a pair of shoes, a hand-full of rules, and an important objective: leave no trace.
The mountains are the arena for this unique sport and since 2016, the ISF has joined forces with the UIAA (International Climbing and Mountaineering Federation) underlining skyrunning’s mountaineering heritage.
For skyrunners the world over today is a day of celebration where the International Skyrunning Federation, as a key player, joins in to raise awareness about our immensely beautiful but extremely delicate playground, this year, focussed on restoring mountain ecosystems. Less cloud. More sky!