It wasn’t her goal, but in the end, Crested Butte Community School second grade teacher Stevie Kremer finished the Sky Running Series on top, to become the first American to be crowned the “World Champion of Skyrunning.”
“It sounds so weird,” admits Kremer. It all started over a year ago when Kremer took a job teaching in Italy, entered a few local races, won said races and got noticed by a rep from Salomon. Signed on to run for Salomon, Kremer was handed a schedule of races as part of her contract and proceeded to take the international skyrunning world by storm. The series includes five races, four in Europe and one in the United States. All skyrunning courses must be between 22 and 50 kilometers long and have at least 1,300 meters of vertical climbing—that’s over 4,000 feet to you and me. The series opened with a 42-kilometer race in Zegama, Spain the Maratòn Alpina Zegama-Aizkorri, on May 26. Kremer posted a third-place finish there. A month later she stepped on top of the podium, and set a new course record, winning the second race of the Skyrunning Series, the Mont-Blanc Marathon, a 42-kilometer race in Chamonix, France. Kremer continued to see success on the trail running circuit in Europe, finished up her job teaching in Italy and then returned to the states to win the third stop of the World Skyrunning Series, the Pikes Peak Marathon in August. Back in the states and preparing for the upcoming school year at the Community School, Kremer missed the fourth race of the series but with the top three results counted, Kremer was in second place, 10 points out of first. As a result she was destined to run in the final race of the series in Italy, the Limone Extreme SkyRace®. Despite her success over the past year, Kremer hit a bump in her regimen leading up to the series finals, struggling through a race in Switzerland. “Three weeks earlier I had a horrible race in Switzerland so I went into this race pretty discouraged,” says Kremer. “I like to think it was jet lag.” Kremer ran the risk of suffering a similar fate heading into the final Skyrunning Series race in Italy as she left from Crested Butte after work on Thursday, October 10 and landed in Italy on Friday for the race on Sunday, October 13. As a result, she toned down her hopes for the overall series win. “My goal was to stay top two in the series,” says Kremer. “I told myself, second is great, which probably isn’t a great mentality. I just wanted to push as hard as I could and see where it got me.” The 24-kilometer course played to Kremer’s strength as a climber, opening with an eight-kilometer climb almost straight up. But it finished with her weakness, a five-kilometer technical descent, an aspect that played to the strength of the woman who was currently leading the points series. “I knew if I wanted a chance to win, I needed to build a big enough gap on her during the uphill,” explains Kremer. Kremer latched on to the top trail running uphiller in the world at the start, and five kilometers into the race took over in the lead. She maintained her pace throughout the race and when she hit the final descent, she was still in the lead but had no idea how far in front. It wasn’t until the homestretch that she realized the win was hers. “When I could see the finish line 300 meters way, I finally looked back and saw I was running by myself,” says Kremer. Not only did Kremer win the race and the overall title and set a new women’s course record for Limone, she also had the fastest descent of the women. “I was surprised I won the series and it was more of a shock when I found out I won the downhill,” says Kremer. “I’m wondering if the timing system was off.” Kremer has one more race in November as she joins a team to compete in Brazil. After that, she says she’ll take some time off. “I’m just lucky to have Stephanie Niemi as an incredibly supportive boss,” says Kremer.