2021 Race Director's Report
Once again, Salomon Skyline Scotland® has absolutely delivered on its promise of a weekend of world-class sky, mountain and trail running in the Scottish Highlands. The events reputation has been building with each edition and it is widely acknowledged as the UK’s biggest, and most challenging, weekend of high-octane off-road running. It is only right and proper that I recognise the enormous contribution that the event team, participants, and local community make to the success of the event - Thank you! For much of the weekend the event village was buzzing with an atmosphere more usually seen on the streets of Chamonix. It was brilliant to be there and share the experience with you all.
A fantastic atmosphere and crowd for the first male in the Salomon Ring of Steall Skyrace™ Sebastian Batchelor ©No Limits Photography
My weekend highlights
Some personal highlights over the weekend for me included the exciting head-to-head racing between Eleanor Davies and Isobel Oakes in the Ring of Steall Skyrace™, which eventually saw Eleanor snatch the win. In the same race Sebastian Batchelor sealed a dominate win. In the Glen Coe Skyline® Georgia Tindley secured her second consecutive win (2019 and 2021), with Andrew Fallas taking his first win after previously finishing 6th in 2016. It is natural to focus on the athletes, but the overall impression I have taken away from Skyline Scotland® is the absolutely amazing effort of the team at Ourea Events to deliver a complex event at the end of an exhausting sequence of events. I am talking about the permanent staff at Ourea Events, our dedicated freelance team, and the awesome event volunteers. What an incredibly talented and motivated group of people.
The event team setting up the event village on the Friday afternoon before the weekend action kicks off! ©No Limits Photography
Salomon Skyline Scotland® was our fourth major event in a very short period because of the re-arranged 2021 schedule due to COVID-19. When we are working at this tempo, we are heavily reliant on the preparation work we have completed in advance of the event. This typically starts 12-months out, i.e., we go straight into the details and arrangements for the next event in the weeks after the previous event. Detailed plans, checklists, workflows, and contingencies are drawn up and it was these that we were relying on over the weekend to keep everything moving forward safely and fluently. We didn’t get everything right – my apologies if you noticed or were directly affected – but the very fact that we did get almost everything spot on, and can deliver a complex event like Salomon Skyline Scotland®, days after the Montane Dragon’s Back Race® demonstrates the quality of the entire team working on and supporting the event. Thank you all again.
Careful event prep months in advance, allowed us to be ready to welcome many hundreds of runners to the Scottish Highlands over the event weekend ©No Limits Photography
No-show rate and drop-out rate
Both Salomon Skyline Scotland® and our other most recent event, the Montane Dragon's Back Race®, had a much higher no-show rate and drop-out rate then normal years and some of the observations I’ll make here apply equally to both races. Further relevant observations on event participation are included in my 2021 Montane Dragon’s Back Race® Race Director's Report.
Firstly, the no-show rate. As an example, entries for the Ring of Steall Skyrace™ peaked at over 1,000 this year but we had 538 starters… that’s a 50% no-show rate! I believe this is due to a combination of the following; many international participants being unable to attend due to various travel restrictions, some participants being less attached to a deferred entry from 2020, concerns over fitness after little racing opportunities and disrupted training, and finally, because of last minute COVID-19 illness or isolation instructions.
It is clear that the reduced opportunities to race affected everyone and many of our participants were also unable to join their regular training groups and clubs, and many more were unable to get into the mountains because of the COVID-19 restrictions. These mountain days are essential for building the fitness and strength required for our three big mountain races (Ring of Steall Skyrace™, Ben Nevis Ultra™ and Glen Coe Skyline®). Consequently, these races had a higher than usual drop-out rate. It is also important to note that the start times for these three races changed as well, in some cases, potentially affecting the completion figures.
- The Ring of Steall Skyrace™ previously had a mass start of 10:00 for everyone, but this year we had five wave starts between 09:00 and 10:00. There was no change to the cut-off times so this gave those in the earlier waves more time to complete the course.
- After the 2019 edition of the event, we made a commitment to move the start of the Ben Nevis Ultra™ and Glen Coe Skyline® later - to reduce noise disruption on Kinlochleven residents (recall the rousing rendition of bagpipes before the start of each race). The Glen Coe Skyline® moved from a 07:00 to a 07:30 start time with no change to the cut-off times.
- Another change from 2019 to 2021 was the condensing of the event format from three days to two. We did this because we wanted to add atmosphere to the arena area with a greater concentration of participants and spectators throughout the weekend and this certainly worked. But it did mean that the Ben Nevis Ultra™ needed to start after the Glen Coe Skyline® at 08:00 rather than 07:00 as in 2019. Obviously, this gave participants less time to complete the course within the unchanged course closure time and corresponding cut-offs.
In 2021 there was less time to complete the course for the Ben Nevis Ultra™ ©No Limits Photography
Course closure times and cut-offs
Perhaps at this point it is worth pausing to remember why we have the course closure time and cut-offs. It is all about safety and the plan to have all but the backmarkers safely off the hill as darkness falls, and for those backmarkers to be well on their way off the serious mountain areas at nightfall and descending back into Kinlochleven (usually escorted by our returning hill staff). Hand in hand with the cut-offs, and part of the safety planning, is the mandatory clothing and equipment required for all the races.
I appreciate that some of our runners will be less experienced and have perhaps not been subject to the routine kit checks that occur at most fell and hill races across the UK. One of the worst jobs as a Race Director is arguing with a participant about the suitability of their clothing or equipment as the minutes tick down to the start of their race.
Anyone who has read any of my Race Director reports over the years will not be in any doubt about my desire to create safe, fair and logistically fluid events and having rules, and the resolve to apply them universally, is a critical part of the systems and process that allow a complex event like Skyline Scotland® to happen safely.
Event team carrying out kit check before the Ring of Steall Skyrace™ ©No Limits Photography
Over the weekend we conducted two emergency extractions of participants from two different races. In both cases the participants had slowed down, become cold, slowed down more and eventually become sufficiently cold and exhausted that an emergency response was required. If anyone was to suffer an injury – just a sprained ankle is sufficient – you’d most likely become stationary and very quickly (minutes not hours) succumb to the cold. Please don’t give me the nonsense line that, ‘you’d rather crawl off the mountain before calling for help’ if you got injured, that only happens in Hollywood. All my experience as a race organiser and mountain rescue volunteer confirms that injured people remain stationary and get cold.
Our clothing and equipment requirements scale up and down depending on the seriousness and remoteness of the race, but please be under no illusion that a rescue will occur quickly and you’ll likely to need to be able to look after yourself during that time. The requirement for both waterproof trousers and waterproof jacket is to enable a slow moving runner (minor injury) to evacuate from the course, and a survival bag is to stop a stationary runner (major injury) dying from hypothermia.
Please check out this excellent video from Scottish Athletics and Trail Running Scotland demonstrating how important the right clothing and equipment is, and how cold runners get when they become stationary.
Cold conditions on the Ben Nevis Ultra™ meant mandatory clothing and equipment was essential for safety ©Steve Ashworth
There was one example of deliberate sabotage to the waymarking over the weekend which we are still investigating. It happened on the Ben Nevis Ultra™ and only affected the leading runners. Fortunately, we spotted their GPS tracks taking the incorrect route, and we were able to correct it within minutes whilst these runners found their back onto the marked courses. It had no impact on the overall positions by the end, but it is frustrating for all concerned.
Wave starts on the Ring of Steall Skyrace™
Jumping back to those start times, course closure times and cut-offs, what worked really well was the wave starts for the Ring of Steall Skyrace™. I think an obvious change to the 2022 edition of Skyline Scotland® could be to introduce wave starts for both the Glen Coe Skyline® and Ben Nevis Ultra™, AND start these races simultaneously to give the Ben Nevis Ultra™ runners more time on the course. I’ll ponder this over the next few months.
The Ring of Steall Skyrace™enjoyed more space and smoother logistics in 2021 thanks to the wave starts ©No Limits Photography
Thanks to the 2021 Event Team
Preparing the Skyline Scotland® event village ©No Limits Photography
Event arena team
Christiaan Le Roux
Event team working on registration ©No Limits Photography
Operational support team
Ourea management team
Event team working on the info point in the event village ©No Limits Photography
Start / finish team
Support point team
Technical services team
Our event team ready for action at Skyline Scotland® 2021 ©No Limits Photography
Thanks to our event sponsors, partners and local stakeholders
We would like to thank our event sponsors, Salomon and Event Scotland. We would also like to thank our event partners, JAHAMA Highland Estates, the John Muir Trust and National Trust for Scotland. Also, thanks to all the brands who came along to the event village and contributed to a wonderful atmosphere all weekend!
Film and photo
Watch the 2021 event films here and enjoy re-living all the action from Skyline Scotland® 2021!
No Limits Photography were on the ground every day capturing some amazing shots for the official event photography - to be used on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, here on the website, and in the press.
Stunning shots captured out on the course by event photographers No Limits Photography ©No Limits Photography
Participant photos - ready to be viewed and purchased
Bib Number Photography were also in attendance, and there were plenty of photographers out on the course taking photos of all participants at each event.
These photos are now available to be viewed (and purchased) here:
- Grey Mare's 5km Trail Race
- Loch Eilde Mòr 10km Trail Race
- Three Mealls 18km Trail Race
- Ring of Steall Skyrace™
- Mamores VK™
- Ben Nevis Ultra™
- Glen Coe Skyline®
Use the selfie search to ensure you don’t miss any photos!
Remember to grab your free finisher photo too! Just follow the links above!
Feedback is very important to us. Whatever you have to say, positive or negative, we are keen to hear your thoughts. Whilst we don’t promise to incorporate every piece of feedback received, we do promise to read and consider it carefully. Participant feedback has helped refine and improve the event from one edition to the next and it has been instrumental in polishing the details and the event is better for it. So, please don’t be shy and send any comments you have using our contact form or email us directly.
Happy runners at Skyline Scotland® 2021 ©No Limits Photography
Looking for some future inspiration? Take a look at some more events from Ourea Events below:
2022 SILVA Great Lakeland 3Day™
A relaxed and friendly 3 day mountain journey around the beautiful fells of the Lake District. 4 courses will be on offer from Cafe to Expert so something suitable for every level and experience. This is often cited as a brilliant event to build on multi-day racing experience and mountain navigation, but to also enjoy a warm, welcoming and sociable atmosphere.
Entries are now open for the 2022 event, taking place on 30th April - 2nd May (the early May bank holiday weekend).
Enjoying some fantastic trails around the sunny Lake District on the SILVA Great Lakeland 3Day™ ©Steve Ashworth Media
2022 Cape Wrath Ultra®
Interested in a multi-day racing experience? Well come and join us for 8 amazing days of running through the stunning Scottish Highlands on the epic Cape Wrath Ultra®. This is our expedition race that starts in Fort William and winds its way through some iconic Scottish landscapes to finish at the Cape Wrath lighthouse, the most north-westerly tip of the British Isles.
There are still a few places left for the May 2022 event, taking place on 22nd - 29th May.
Explore the remote and wild Scottish Highlands on the Cape Wrath Ultra® ©No Limits Photography
2022 Montane Dragon's Back Race®
Looking for a once in a lifetime adventure?
Join us for six epic days of mountain running through stunning Wales!
We are excited to say that entries are now open for the 2022 Montane Dragon’s Back Race®, taking place on 5th - 10th September 2022 - See you there!
Exploring beautiful hidden corners of Wales on the Montane Dragon's Back Race® ©No Limits Photography
Skyline Scotland® 2022 - See you next year!
We will be announcing dates for Skyline Scotland® 2022 soon.
We look forward to seeing you back in the hills soon for another adventure!
Salomon Skyline Scotland® Race Director.
Enjoying big adventures on the Glen Coe Skyline® ©No Limits Photography