What is Skyrunning

Definitions as per the International Skyrunning Federation

Skyrunning – The discipline of mountain running up to or exceeding 2000m, where the incline exceeds 30% and where the climbing difficulty does not exceed 11° grade.

Skyrunner® – An athlete who competes in recognized Skyrunning disciplines

Skyrunning disciplines are classified as follows:

SkyMarathon® – Races within a minimum of 2000m total elevation gain and between 30km to 42km in distance. The course may be over paths, trails, rock etc (a limit of <15% on paved or tarred surfaces) and may reach or exceed 3500m.

Ultra SkyMarathon® – Races that exceed the parameters of a Skymarathon by more then 5%.

SkyRace® – Races between 2000m and 4000m altitude, minimum 20km in distance, maximum 30km in distance. In countries where the overall altitude does not exceed 2000m, competitions that exceed 1300m of vertical climbing may be considered.

Vertical Kilometre® - Races with 1000m of vertical climb over variable terrain with a substantial incline and not longer then 5km in distance. A Vertical Kilometre is defined at three altitude levels (+/-200m variable) 0-1000m; 1000m-2000m; 2000m-3000m

SkyTrail - Races over paths and trail (less than 10% asphalt) that do not fall within the parameters of other disciplines over 2,000m. The distance is variable from a minimum of 15km.

Download full SASA Regulations

The Origins of Skyrunning

“Skyrunning” has been around for some time.  Hundreds, even thousands of years ago mountains were negotiated out of necessity: war, religious persecution, hunting, smuggling, or just out of plain old curiosity.  The concept of running up and down mountains for fun is much newer.  Take for example the Ben Nevis Race which goes back to 1903, or the Pikes Peak Marathon which began as a bet in 1954 among smokers and non smokers.

The idea of creating a sports discipline however was the brainchild of Italian mountaineer Marino Giacometti, who, with a handful of fellow climbers, pioneered records and races on Mont Blanc and Monte Rosa in the Italian Alps in the early ‘90’s.  In 1993, with the support of the multinational Fila as sponsor, skyrunning took off across the world’s mountain ranges with a circuit of awe inspiring races stretching from the Himalayas to the Rockies, from Mount Kenya to the Mexican volcanoes.  After all, Giacometti’s term skyrunning*, as the name suggests, is where earth and sky meet.

Giacometti’s vision didn’t stop there and in 1995 he founded the Federation for Sport at Altitude to address the need for rules to govern the sport and generally manage this fast-growing discipline which today counts some 200 races worldwide with around 30,000 participants from 54 countries.

Today, the sport is managed by the International Skyrunning Federation which took over from the FSA in 2008.  The principal aims of the ISF are the direction, regulation, promotion, development and furtherance of skyrunning and similar multisport activities on a worldwide basis.


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