Day 1: Murray and Katie impress in Salomon Ben Nevis Ultra
A sunny and exciting first day of mountain running saw Scottish runner Murray Strain take gold, while Yorkshire’s Katie Kaars-Sijpesteijn triumphed for the women – and came home third overall.
The sun shone gloriously in a vivid blue sky as 330 runners competed in the Salomon Ben Nevis Ultra today. A challenging course of 52km took in a total ascent of 4000m and included an airy traverse of one of Scotland’s most famous ridges, the Càrn Mòr Dearg Arête, leading to the summit of Ben Nevis.
Did the amazing Ultra today and just wanted to give a massive shout out and thanks to all the fantastic Marshall’s..!! Great encouragement. The whole event was super organised and the happy buzz all around was just fab
- Donna M
Scottish runner Murray Strain wins the Salomon Ben Nevis Ultra™ 2019 ©No Limits Photography
A tough and hot outing for Murray who sits down after the finish line ©No Limits Photography
Scottish runner Murray Strain was the first to cross the line in Kinlochleven in Lochaber after 7 hours, 51 minutes and 31 seconds of running.
Despite breaking a rib earlier this summer, the 36-year-old from East Lothian, ran a well-paced race finishing more than nine minutes ahead of runner up Francisco Javier Cabrera Valdes, a Spaniard living in Inverness. (8:00:54).
In third place in the men’s race was Vincent Richrath, of Germany, in 8:14:56, although he was not quick enough to beat Katie Kaars-Sijpesteijn, the first female and third overall.
Katie, originally from Yorkshire and now living in Cumbria, looked amazingly comfortable as she stormed home in 8:05:28.
She was well ahead of second placed female, Megan Arauzo, of the US, in 10:13:03 and the third female, Katie Sloane, of England in 10:28:31.
Brit Tim Morgan, who is only 22, showed huge promise in the mountains today and finished 10th overall and 9th male.
Murray reveals he raced "conservatively" ©No Limits Photography
Murray wins a steady paced race
Murray, who recently moved to Cambridge, England, looked surprised but delighted by his triumph in the Scottish Highlands.
The orienteering specialist is no stranger to the mountain racing podium, with wins including the Three Peaks Race in the Yorkshire Dales and the Snowdon Race in Wales. In 2018, he scored a top 10 in the World Long Distance Mountain Running Champs. But he has not raced as much as he would have liked this year after his rib injury.
He said: "This win feels like a great success for me, especially after this summer's injury. It’s also been difficult to find the right terrain for training now that I live in Cambridge. I am happy today."
Murray, a runner with the The Hunters Bog Trotters (HBT), revealed a fairly cautious early plan for the race. Murray said: “I wasn’t sure how I would run so I set out at a conservative pace. My aim was to make it to the summit of Ben Nevis as comfortably I could.
“I also saw Tim Morgan race ahead at the start. He is young and he was fast so I decided just to let him go. I didn’t want to try to keep up in the early stages.”
Murray suffered a few cramps descending the UK’s highest mountain and slipped several times. As he headed on towards Steall Falls in Glen Nevis – and then on to the Ring of Steall section of the race – he saw Tim again.
Murray said: “I was trying to keep a smooth but steady pace and then I spotted Tim and overtook him. Tim looked like he was struggling a bit although I wasn’t feeling like a spring chicken myself either.
“Winning this race is especially nice because I wasn’t sure how it would go and because it’s part of the internationally renowned Skyline Scotland series.”
Second home was Francisco Javier Cabrera Valdes of Spain ©No Limits Photography
Katie’s winning smiles
Katie, 35, could not stop smiling after crossing the finish line just 14 minutes after Murray. She said: “It was exactly the sort of race course that I wanted and I thought the weather was perfect.
“It was a brilliant and absolutely awesome route and third place overall is a nice result.”
Katie Kaars-Sijpesteijn is delighted to win. Credit: No Limits Photography
Katie is a regular on the mountain racing podium, taking third place in the Yorkshire Three Peaks this year and she is a previous winner of the Lakeland 50 and Lakes in a Day. She has also represented Great Britain in two World Trail Championships.
Katie revealed that she felt ready to run in Scotland’s mountains today. She said: “I was raring to go this morning and my legs felt fresh. I'd had a bit of a break from racing beforehand.
“I knew I was in sixth place, then fifth place and then some guys appeared in front of me so I chased them. It was great to chase down the boys!”
The Salomon UK runner’s third place overall is impressive amid a strong international field. Almost 40 countries worldwide were represented in the race. She was 10th in last year's "bad weather" course on the Salomon Ben Nevis Ultra.
She said: “The longer the race and the more technical the course, the more even the racing is between men and women runners.
“I loved racing today and it was great to see the Scottish mountains looking so beautiful. It is the first time I have actually seen the CMD ridge without cloud and that was really fantastic."
A runner in fancy dress enjoys the sunshine on the Salomon Ben Nevis Ultra course today ©No Limits Photography
What’s next in the Salomon Skyline Scotland race weekend?
Three days – still five races to go
There are still two days of races to be played out in the mountainous heart of the Scottish Highlands.
There are also three new trail races – 5k, 10k and 18k – launched for the 2019 edition of Skyline Scotland.
The festival of mountain running weekend includes a bigger and better Event Village, with free talks (Skyline Sessions), live commentary, BIG screen, giveaways, exhibitors and a Scottish ceilidh for the official After Party.
- Check out the full 'What's On' programme?
- Download the 2019 event schedule + map
- Check out the full Skyline Sessions programme.