Meg Mackenzie in action in last year's Ring of Steall. Photo: Stephen Granger

Ring of Steall conjures images of myths and legends from ancient Briton concerning struggles to overcome both human and extreme landscape challenges.  Tomorrow (Sat) Meg Mackenzie will be faced with both as she lines up at the start of the final and one of the most challenging of the Golden Trail World Series – the 29 km Ring of Steall Skyrace in the Scottish Highlands.

Mackenzie will be aiming to cement a place in the series’ top ten, and with it a share of the significant financial and opportunity rewards offered to the world’s best marathon-distance trail athletes.

The ten men and ten women, with their chosen trip partners, will secure the opportunity of travelling to the series’ Grand Finale in the Annapurna section of the Himalayas next month and a chance to contest the title of the 2019 Golden Trail World Series champion.

Starting in the western highlands town of Kinlochleven, the race traverses high and remote mountainous terrain with some extremely technical ridge sections. Conditions can change rapidly and conditions are often wet and slippery, with runners balancing on a knife-edge at high altitude and struggling with winds as fierce as the clan warriors of yore.

From rock and scree to muddy and green, the Ring of Steall throws a lot at the competitors over the ups and downs of its 29 kms.

The competition for the final places on both the men’s and women’s side is tight, and nearly all of the elite runners in the field have come to either defend their position inside the top-10 or use a good result to knock others out and book their trip to the Himalayas. 

Last year Mackenzie secured her top ten position by a whisker with a solid Ring of Steall performance and while her form in Europe this year has almost guaranteed her a ticket to the Himalayas, she will not be taking it for granted and will be looking for another top ten finish against the world’s leading mountain, trail and fell runners. 

Newcomer to the series this year, Switzerland’s Judith Wyder has been on fire, with a record-breaking win in the Dolomyths Run in Italy and a 2nd position at Sierre-Zinal. The six-time world orienteering champion is strong over technical terrain and will start favourite to win tomorrow. Others contesting the podium include UK’s Holly Page, third last year and second at the series Grand Finale at the Otter Trail, Norwegian athletes Eli Ann Dvergsdal, winner of the first series race at Zegama and Yngvild Kaspersen, second at Pike’s Peak Marathon and Mackenzie.

Norway’s Stian Angermund-Vik, winner of the 2017 Ring of Steall and the 2018 Series title, starts favourite on one of his best-loved courses, with Italian Nadir Maguet, second last year to Kilian Jornet, Pole Bart Przedwojewski, currently third in the series, and former Otter African Trail Champion, Swiss athlete, Marc Lauenstein, likely to prove his strongest competition.

IOL Sport