|RUNNING IN SWITZERLAND
Once I had my European travel plans in place for September, I decided to search for a running race to fit into the schedule. Almost immediately I was directed to a website for the Jungfrau Marathon, in the Swiss Alps. I had never heard of the race before, but it turns out that it’s one of the best known mountain marathons in the world, and the largest marathon in Switzerland. The spectacular photos and course description drew me in and I signed up right away!
Half way through my Europe trip, the friend I was visiting in Geneva and I travelled to Interlaken to run in the 23rd Jungfrau Marathon. The weather was perfect and the views did not disappoint! The website describes it as, “the most beautiful marathon course in the world” and in my (fairly limited) marathon experience I would agree.
The race takes place in full view of the famous Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau mountains, in the Bernese Oberland area of the Swiss Alps. The marathon begins in Interlaken and climbs 1823 meters (5,960 feet), finishing 42.195 kilometers later at Kleine Scheidegg. The highest point of the race is around the 40 kilometer mark, at 2,205 meters (7,234 feet). The course is on roads and trail, passing through a few quaint towns and many picturesque villages, finishing on single track in the alpine. The first 10 kilometers is relatively flat and then starts to head uphill, gradually at first. The zigzagging up the hillside to the village of Wengen (around kilometer 25) is the steepest part, and then the route climbs steadily to the finish line.
The incredible vistas were a good distraction, as were the numerous bands and other entertainment along the way. There were alphorn players (think the Ricola commercial), flag throwers, and even a bag-piper 2 kilometers from the finish line! I was most impressed by the thousands of spectators. There were crowds all along the course, many ringing cowbells of varying sizes. The cows on the hillsides were also a treat, with the sounds of their bells adding to the overall ambience.
At the finish line all racers were treated to cold beer and we each received a finisher’s medal and t-shirt and of course, a massive chocolate bar! After soaking in the lively finish line atmosphere everyone boarded trains to return to Interlaken. An hour and 20 minutes later we were back at the start.
I loved the race, by far the most memorable and spectacular race to date, and would recommend it to anyone looking for a destination marathon. The only downside, was that it was very crowded when the trail narrowed. I’m sure for the very quick and the very slow runners it wouldn’t be a problem, but for us mid-packers it really slowed the pace. At times we were walking and at times completely stopped. Early on, I decided to relax and not worry about my time. I was happy that I had my cell phone with me and was able to take some photos during the race. The above photos are of me crossing the finish line and just after.
Here is the link to the race website, for anyone wanting more information: www.JungFrau-Marathon.ch/en