"When I first saw those seven runners race from the village to the 4,600 metre summit of the mountain and back in a mere 4 hours and 24 minutes, I was aghast. I thought they were superhuman. I still think the same today." Those are the words of Lauri van Houten, vice-president and co-founder of the International Skyrunning Federation (ISF) talking about the original Skyrunners – a bunch of altitude-loving, time-obsessed mountain goats from the Italian Alps – who took part in only the second official skyrunning race in 1992. The race, which she had helped organise, was a 29km jaunt up and down Monte Rosa, the second-highest mountain in western Europe, starting in the tiny alpine village of Alagna, Italy.
Mountain racing is experiencing an unprecedented surge of popularity across the world. So what are the races to see – and be seen in – this year?