So you want to be a Skyrunner?

My name is Sam McCutcheon and I completed my first ultra 15 months ago running the 2015 Kepler Challenge in Te Anau, New Zealand. A few weeks later I ran my first Skyrunning event, the Ultra-Easy, in Wanaka, New Zealand and I was hooked. Since then I have been lucky enough to have had a rollercoaster experience in trail running that has taken me to a couple of continents and introduced me to some amazing humans that make up the ultra-running community.

Based on the experiences I have I can’t see why anyone would not want to get involved in the awesome sport of Skyrunning. So, as a relative beginner to the Skyrunning scene I thought I would set out my three top ‘tips’ for others who are keen to get involved (these could equally be called steps):

Tip 1 – Book in an event

This is probably the hardest step, actually committing to enter an event and get your mind around putting your body through 4, 6, 8 or 10+ hours of goodness. The other thing that makes this difficult is the increasing number of quality events on offer.

However, once you have something booked in it is the biggest motivator to get out and start training. You will also find that there are other people out there training for the same or similar event and this can help with tip 3 (training) below.

So how do you decide what event to do? There is no right answer for this and it really depends on personal preference. There are some wicked race directors out there offering a range of event styles: steep, runnable, technical etc. If you are thinking about events to enter one of the best things you can do is chat with other people who have done a few races and get their thoughts. While pretty new to trail running I would be more than happy to have a yarn about the events I have run and what race might ‘float your boat’, so to speak.

Tip 2 – Get some kit

Spoken like a true salesman; but having the right kit will make a world of difference. The gear that is out there today is simply incredible; light, warm and durable.

Most races over this side of the globe have some level of compulsory gear and spending a little bit extra on good gear will not only make race day easier but also mean you are more motivated to head out training.

The key beginner kit I would recommend is trail shoes, hydration pack, polyprop top and seam-sealed jacket. If you are going to more remote or alpine areas then there are a few more items you will need to add to the list (a link to a useful guide is set out under the resource below).

Tip 3 – Lock in a training programme

One of most beneficial things for improving your running is consistency. But that does not just mean smashing yourself week after week and this is where a training programme is helpful. While I think it is useful to have a loose training programme all year round, I think the two months out from the race are the key time to have a targeted programme.

Your programme needs to include a good level of variety (steady, fast, intervals, hills, flat) and be realistic – you will a few easy weeks in there and rest days/non-running days. There is a lot of material online and some coaching services available but if you are just getting started then talking to some of the old heads can be one of the most beneficial things you can do.

Useful resource:

Finally, the New Zealand Mountain Safety Council has produced a pretty useful resource for those getting into trail running. This has very useful tips around how to plan your training runs, letting people know where you are going and the required kit:

Sam McCutcheon appreciates the support given by Altra New Zealand, UltrAspire New Zealand, and Julbo Eyewear