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Posts Tagged ‘mountain marathon’

Since the Paris marathon in April a lot has happened in my running world, but there hasn’t been a great deal of running worth writing about. I have been involved in running in other ways – meeting my coach, Nick Anderson, and starting preparing for the Florence Marathon in November. I’ve been reading lots of great running books, some entertaining and others more factual. Learning about coaching thanks to meeting Bud Baldaro. Writing for Ransacker and reviewing some shoes for the site. But running… well there were a couple of 10Ks, then I came fourth in the Urban Trail de Luxembourg and then there was the disappointment of 23rd place in 1:20 at the Southend Half Marathon, but really in the space of eight weeks, that wasn’t very impressive.

However there was something coming up that I was really excited about. A new challenge that I was sure would test me in new ways – the Swiss Alpine Marathon in Davos.

As mentioned earlier, I had run the Urban Trail de Luxembourg in May and done rather well. Before that I had run in an off-road half marathon in Portland. So I thought I had some idea of what was in store for me in Davos. Well, the short answer to that is; that I didn’t have a clue!

Julie and I had been in Switzerland for 3 weeks by the time we lined up for the Davos marathon. We had been to her sister’s wedding and then embarked on a 10 day hike called the Tour de Cervin. At the end of that we had met up with a guide and spent 3 days in the mountains attempting a couple of summits – the Mont Blanc de Cheillon and the Pigne d’Arolla for those interested. On the plus side we had been walking for at least eight hours a day (excluding a couple of rest days) and we had been at altitude, so we were confident that this would have been good preparation for the race. On the down side I had wrecked my feet in hard mountaineering boots and I hadn’t actually run a step for 12 days. Which way would the scales tip?

In reality I don’t know if the race was a success or not. Within 5km of the start I was walking – the hill was so steep that I had no choice (although it is worth noting that everyone around me was walking too). I seemed to spend a huge amount of the first half of the course – the up-hill bit basically – walking and trying desperately to get enough air into my lungs. Even when I felt that I was merely slowly staggering my heart-rate was up in the 170s. There were moments when the switch-back that climbed heavenwards would flatten out and, as if on a long rope, the whole line of runners would break into a trot. But this was not racing as I knew it.

Then came the downhill. I thought that the climb had been tough. We had climbed almost 2000m from the start, from blazing sunshine right up to the snow line. Now we had to get down…

The decent was murder. Bounding (or should that be crashing) from one rock to another creates such huge internal shocks that within minutes I had a stitch that I thought could be terminal. My quads screamed for mercy. After three hours my calves started cramping. I was thirsty and hungry. The compeeds I had applied to the blisters I had been cultivating for the proceeding three weeks had melted away in the furnace like conditions inside my ASICS Trebuco and the rubbing had started again. The desire to stop was immense.

However this was what I had wanted all along – a really big challenge. The question “can I do this?” hung in the air until the last kilometer. The views along the entire course were spectacular. The trail was like nothing I had run on before. The support, even at the very top of the passes we crossed was phenomenal. The helicopters buzzing above the runners added a massive air of excitement to the event. And I have never experienced camaraderie between competitors like it before.

I finished in 4:37:44, 95th out of 775. I sat on the warm grass under the bright blue sky in the finish area with a medal around my neck and a glass of alcohol free beer. I felt absolutely fantastic. And I knew for absolute certain that I will be back for many more races in the mountains… so Sierre-Zinal 2011, anyone?

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