Skopelos is probably the greenest island in the Aegean, full of dense forests that cover almost 80% of its surface. "Traveling" in history we learn that it is the first island that given an Olympic victor - Agnon of Peparethus - in the “Stadion” race in the 53rd Olympiad of 568 BC. From September 5, 2021, the island will have its first Mountain Running race, with two distances of 21 & 5 kilometers. Peter Booth, soul of the race together with Evi Vassiliadou, has been a fell runner for many years and we see that with a lot of passion and through the Skopelos Trail Race wishes to make us explore the paths of the beautiful island of Sporades, but also its history and the beauties that it offers. Let’s find out more through his interview at Advendure, which supports the new race as a media sponsor!
[Advendure]: On the 5th of September we shall have your first trail race in your green island. How did you decide it? Talk to us about your team so that the mountain running community of our country will get to know you. What’s your experience when it comes to organising sports events?
[Peter Booth]: The idea was born out of the need to explore the island's Mountains and trails with particular focus on and around Mount Palouki, the second highest summit. We are currently a small team in fact just 2 core management members myself and my partner Evi Vassiliadis. We are both very passionate about the great outdoors and general wellbeing and of course share a love for running. The race would not be possible without the help of a collective of like minded local individuals who have devoted their time and we hope shall continue for years to come. I am a member of the Fell Running Association and an active Fell runner for many years with zero experience in organising sporting events I am however a Restaurateur with over 30 years experience as a hospitality professional organising events, so this experience coupled with Evi's clear organisational skills and passion for the project we are confident everyone is in very capable hands.
[Advendure]: Give us a picture of Skopelos’s trails and its trail net, part of which will be used for your race too.
[Peter Booth]: Skopelos has a network of over 100km of trails all over the island and a major new development project is set to take place this Autumn on the trails putting the island in a stronger position than ever before to attract a much wider new audience.
[Advendure]: Describe to us the main -21 km- race of your event , and specifically the scenery and the trails the competitors are gonna run. Which areas and mountains are included? The smaller race of the 5 km will take place in the alleyways of the Chora?
[Peter Booth]: Both the 5km and the main 22km start together from the historic location of the old port heading straight in the village through various cobbled streets and the famed steep steps of the village, eventually heading out on the ring road, down hill towards Stafylos were runners shall take a sharp left onto the dirt tracks towards Mount Palouki the 5km shall skirt off whilst the main event heads straight into the the trails before passing the first Mountain spring / refreshment station, all refreshments stations shall be mountain spring water. We have a zero tolerance policy on plastic waste. In my opinion the mountainous areas of Skopelos are truly unique in the sense of the ever changing landscape you could easily be forgiven to be in the lake district with loose mountain scree under your feet and the next the Welsh borders with thick dense green forests, then finally your right back to the Aegean deep blues and the dusty reds of ancient Greece , Medieval Monasteries it truly does offer a spectacular show for all the senses.
[Advendure]: What’s the degree of difficulty for the 21 km? What are the characteristics and the composition of that technically?
[Peter Booth]: There are some great steep climbs and fantastic downhill descents for those seasoned Kamikaze runners who enjoy the adrenaline of speed. Its never ending just when you think you have seen it all the magic of the mountain appears again. We have curated an exciting route which has all the key elements to make a memorable race. It has it's challenging moments like one would expect from a mountain race, runners will need to focus on the technical terrain and their efforts shall be rewarded with breathtaking views. From a scale of 1 to 10 the overall degree of difficulty would be a good high 6 / 7. The route has been purposely chosen to be safe for competitors and us the organizers. It's our first year and we would like to learn to walk before we run....
[Advendure]: Races happening on the islands are part of an athletic tourism event, which can be flourished alongside other cultural events and alternative activities. Although it is your first year what have you organised for the visitor/ athlete?
[Peter Booth]: It is year one and it's certainly had its challenging moments and continues to do so however we love what we do and we know that hard work pays off. The goal is to establish a solid infrastructure and develop the working relationships with all our supporting partners allowing the event to grow organically year in year out. We have collaborated with the cultural organization of Glossa on the North West side of the island who shall perform a traditional dance performance and present our very own unique handcrafted medals during the award ceremony.
[Advendure]: How are you doing on the volunteer/ sponsorship area? Are people on the island embracing this? Will there be any facilitation for the ship tickets and the accommodation.
[Peter Booth]: The wider Greek trail mountain running community are embracing us which is fantastic to see however the locals like anywhere take a little bit more time to win over. They say time is a great healer and revealer and we believe in that. Sponsorship has been a working progress and something that we came to enjoy and really understand the mechanics behind the process. Evi's work in this department amongst other vital areas has been invaluable least of all because it's her mother country and simply she is passionate about the project. We have had fantastic results from internationally recognized brands and local Skopelitian companies. ‘Cosmote’ has become our main financial sponsor, ‘The Hellenic Seaway’s and ‘The Skyros Shipping’ company have kindly offered 40% and 50% discounts respectively and we await confirmation from local hoteliers, one of which is our official hotel sponsor 'Spyrou Skopelos Experience'". We continue to forge new relationships everyday with companies as varied as cosmetic giants ‘Papoutsanis’ and global outdoor brand ‘The North Face’ and you guys at ‘Advendure’. We are eternally grateful to be able to be associated with such esteemed companies with too many to mention.
[Advendure]: Restart of the races after the lockdown has brought some mixed feelings and a reluctancy . Are you having any concerns about that? What are the hygiene protocols you are gonna follow?
[Peter Booth]: We take the health and safety of all are team members and competitors seriously and therefore shall be adhering to the protocol of H.A.R.T.A
[Advendure]: September - if nothing will change due to the covid situation - is a month with many trail race events. Why should someone choose you over something else?
[Peter Booth]: Skopelos still retains the true characteristics of traditional Greek island life it's beauty truly bestowed by the Gods. Runners can follow in the footsteps of our very own ancient Olympic running Champion Agnondas 569 BC.
[Advendure]: What is your vision for this event?
[Peter Booth]: The vision is to firmly establish an annual sports recreational event that shall become an integral part of Skopelos's cultural calendar with the community at its heart whilst continuing to reach out to the domestic and international running communities. We plan to create growth through sports and fitness opening up economical opportunities within the sports industry for local commerce and the wider market thus enabling the facilitation of all year round events.
We are runners and we run 365 days a year!...... PAME!