© Alexis Berg
Scottish-born Seana Forbes lives in Munich and travels across Europe and Asia for her job as press officer for the Migu Run Skyrunner World Series– the official circuit of skyrunning. When she’s not travelling to races and liaising with athletes, she’s a skyrunner herself and loves nothing better than charging up a mountain summit and back down again.
Here, Seana provides a great insight into a day in her life at work on the Migu Run race circuit, starting with a brief introduction to skyrunning, below.
So what is skyrunning?
Founded in the early 1990s by Italian mountaineer Marino Giacometti, Skyrunning is an extreme sport. As the name implies, it’s running where the earth and sky meet, above the clouds on high altitude trails and technical ridges. Skyrunning is different to trail running and other mountain running activities – it’s a combination of running and mountaineering, where the logic is to reach the highest peak from a town or village and return as fast as possible. Skyraces are fast and intense, and usually between 22-66km long to enable full intensity of performance from start to finish. It’s all about technicality and being able to move fast on extreme terrain. Chains, ridges, rivers, snow, glaciers, high-altitude, grade II climbing difficulty – these are all characteristics of a classic Skyrace! Definitely not for the faint-hearted.
The Migu Run Skyrunner World Series is the world’s only official circuit for skyrunning. Every year, the best Skyraces in spectacular locations around the world, from Japan to the Italian Alps, are selected to be in the Migu Run Skyrunner World Series Calendar. This is known to attract the fastest and most fearless skyrunners. At the end of the season, the top-performing male and female athletes are crowned the best skyrunners in the world.
Speed, elevation and nature
I was already a skyrunner before I started working for the Migu Run Skyrunner World Series, so I was already very interested in the sport and the athletes. A big part of what I love is the combination of speed and elevation. I love running fast but I also love being up high and usually the two don’t come together. Skyrunning also gives you a feeling of freedom and connection to nature that you don’t get with many other sports. No matter how much pain the uphill puts you in, every time you reach the top, it’s as though you fall in love with the mountain.
Then, there’s the downhill… for me, that’s one of my favourite things! A really long and technical downhill is like meditation. You’re completely focused on each and every step and movement. Often, by the time I reach the bottom, I realize that I haven’t thought about anything else and my mind has been completely empty of thoughts and stress for hours. I’m not someone who is good at meditation and I sometimes find it difficult to switch off from work and everyday life, so I really need these few hours of downhill running to clear my mind and reset every once in a while.
My training – structure and variety
When I’m not at the races, I’m a very structured person with a strict training routine. I wake-up at 5am most mornings and train very early. This is important to me because no matter what happens later in the day, I’ve done my training so nothing can come between that. I also coach a running club in Munich where I live, and we train on Monday evenings.
My training includes a little bit of everything. I love long, technical mountain running and try to do this at least once a week. I do a lot of interval training as well, such as 10 x 400m with rest periods in between. I’m also really into functional training, high intensity bodyweight training (burpees are my favourite exercise), swimming, Pilates… The variety is important not just for my physical fitness, but also for my mind. I like to test myself and try new things. If I can’t do something to start off with, I enjoy the process of learning and working hard to build the physical strength or learn the skill it requires.
When I’m working at the races, it’s a bit more difficult to have a regular training routine. Then, I just try to squeeze in a workout or run when I can. Bodyweight training is good for travelling because you can just grab a mat or towel and do it in your hotel room in the morning if you have 10 minutes.
Work = lots of travel and liaising with athletes
I travel a lot! That’s also something I love. I travel to every race in the calendar, so 16 races in 11 countries. I’m very rarely at home these days which is exhausting but right now I’m still enjoying it.
I love working closely with the athletes to find out about their stories and how we can provide them with an incredible circuit and a sport that excites and tests them. I also really enjoy being at the finish line and watching the winners come in. It’s such an emotional experience and I love to be there and share that with them. As the press officer for the Migu Run Skyrunner World Series, it means I’m also always in contact with many different people all over the world. That’s also really cool because I love meeting new people and finding out about different cultures.
A DAY IN MY LIFE DURING A RACE WEEKEND
The day before: Pre-race preparation
The day before a World Series race is usually a very busy day. Sometimes, I’m able to go for a run before breakfast or do a quick bodyweight workout in my room if I go at around 6 am. The working day starts relatively early, we usually all meet for breakfast at around 8am so we’re ready to go at 8:30/9am.
On this day, I’m usually meeting with athletes to do interviews, catching up with journalists or creating some content for our social media channels. The evening before the race, or even two evenings before, we have a big media meeting with all photographers and videographers to discuss the plan for the race and who will be where on the course. This is important to ensure everyone is aligned and that we get all the images and footage we require. The day before the race there’s also usually a press conference and athlete presentation so I’m on-duty there to ensure everything runs smoothly, and again, that we get some footage for our channels.
After this we have a chat with the organiser to make sure everything is fine and the schedule remains the same. Sometimes, the course can change if there is bad weather so this adds extra work in the days leading up to the race as we need to ensure all athletes and the public and media are aware of the changes.
The night before the race, our internal team each guess who we think the top 3 men and women will be and post it in the WhatsApp group. For every right guess we accumulate points and at the end of the season we will see who the winner is. We also have a Strava group where we see who is the best skyrunner of our team. It’s small things like this that make the team stronger and keep our spirits high during an intense and long season!
Race day morning – a super-early start!
On race day, the morning is crazy. Some races start at 6am, so I’ll get up at around 4:30/5am to be at the starting line on time. Here we’ll take pictures, do some very small interviews and video the start of the race. I don’t usually have breakfast this early but instead I’ll take an energy bar (CLIF bars are my favourite) or banana with me and have that later in the day.
After the race starts, I usually travel to another point of the course to take videos and images for our social media channels to update everyone on the progress of the races. Then, it’s straight to the finish line to watch the winner and first finishers. Sometimes it can take as long as 8 hours but with all the excitement everything goes so fast on race day and it usually flies by.
No matter how tired I am, I’m so full of energy and adrenaline. I’m always running around trying to find out who is in the lead and ensuring everything’s going well. It’s so exciting!
The finishing line – photos, videos and interviews
The finish line is probably the most stressful part of the day. Here we sit and wait for the first athletes to arrive. Usually, I have two phones in my hand: one to video and one to take photos. There is a lot of pressure to get all the imagery and footage of the winners crossing the finish line so I have to be super-alert to make sure I don’t miss anything.
As soon as the first athletes are in, I try to catch as many as possible to ask questions for the press release and find out as much information as possible about the race. Sometimes some really interesting stories come out of these short chats at the finish line. The athletes usually hang around for a bit so I have a chance to talk to most of them. I love to listen to what they have to say and see the excitement and happiness in their eyes – again, it’s very emotional for me.
When the race is over, journalists and media outlets start messaging me asking about the results or if they are at the race, they usually come over to ask for minor details or background information on athletes so I usually stay close to the finish line for a little while.
Post-race – creating media content
After we’ve gathered all the content we need, it’s straight to the press room or sometimes my hotel room to get the press release done. I always need a couple of hours of peace and quiet for this part. Sometimes my colleagues will bring me food because they know how focused I am.
I usually have to wait until the photographer gets down from the mountain top to send me the pictures for the press release too. Once everything is put together, it goes out to press and media all over the world. Hitting send is the best feeling in the world. Although the work is far from done, the hardest part is out of the way. It’s a great feeling when I get to finally take a shower, put on some normal clothes and just calm down for an hour.
Dinner – sampling the local cuisine
As soon as I leave my hotel room, I try to find my colleagues and we all go for dinner, sometimes with the athletes too. This is always really fun because we try to eat the local foods and experience the culture as much as possible. In Japan we had a very interesting sushi experience and in Greece we had a real Greek feast with 5 different types of cheeses.
I’m always really exhausted at this point but so happy that everything went well. In the evening we attend the prize giving ceremony. At this I have to take pictures and videos again for our social media channels – this is never-ending! After the prize giving, we do interviews with the winners and then sit down and finish up the social media posting.
Phew – wrapping up until next time…
Usually we leave early the next day so I’ll head straight back to the hotel, pack up and go to bed so I’m not too tired for the journey home. In Madeira we had one day extra, so we got to spend half a day off and instead drove to another part of the island and just enjoyed being there, not having to think about work.
Most people think my job is so glamorous, travelling and running in the mountains all the time, but they don’t know all the hard work that goes into it. Still, I wouldn’t change a thing. I enjoy the madness and even the stress. It’s super-exhausting but that’s also what makes it so rewarding.
Sometimes when I feel really tired, I look around and remember how lucky I am to be doing something I love and I am so passionate about. When I had a 9-5 office job I used to dream of being in the mountains, now the mountains have become my office space. I’m very lucky to work with other passionate people and even though I write the word “skyrunning” about 10,000 times a day, it’s still my favourite word and I still enjoy speaking about it to anyone who will listen to me.
You can follow Seana via social media on www.instagram.com/seana_fitness.
To find out more about skyrunning and the Migu Run Skyrunner World Series visit www.skyrunnerworldseries.com, and follow via www.instagram.com/skyrunning, www.facebook.com/skyrunningofficial and www.twitter.com/skyrunning_com.