Davos Swiss Alpine Marathon K42

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Offical photos of the race can be found at this link    http://swiss-image.ch/slideshow/#alpinmarathon2011

Davos is a small town in the Swiss Alps, famous for skiing and for its annual economic conference.  For the past 26 years Davos has held a Swiss Alpine festival – I undertook the K42 marathon, second hardest to the 78K ultra.  The K42 a full marathon distance with 1890m of incline.  This race represented the end of the seasons running for me, having run the Chamonix, Rode Le Marmotte, ran Zermatt I felt for the first time properly prepared for this race.  Of course being a guy, rather than just enjoy the run and finish with reserves I would run to near destruction in efforts to use my training for a increased speed rather than it be my first easy marathon.

Every year I bump into the Serpentine crew here and sure enough there were her in force, about 20 of them in my hostel but probably over 40-50 go in total from London and surrounds, this being one of their premier races of the season.  This is mainly due to the fact the Swiss Alpine festival holds the following races and there is clearly something for everyone willing and wanting to tackle the mountains:

The K78 (+/-2320 m) starting and finishing in Davos, via Bergün. The second half is very tough and is not for the faint hearted.

The K42 (+1890 m/-1710 m) starting in Bergün you ascend dizzy heights before finishing in Davos.

The C42 (+470 m/-1080 m) starting in Davos and finishing in Tiefencastel.

The K31 (+370 m/-870 m) starting in Davos and finishing in Filisur.

The K21 (+680 m/-190 m) starting in Klosters and finishing in Davos.

The K10 (+150 m/-130 m) starting in Davos (Laret) and finishing in Davos.

I had ran this before in 2009 with a camera (some of those photos at the bottom) and was pleased to see that for this year they had changed the route so the the K42 and K78 runners both ran the same mountain stage which took all runners over both the Keschhütte (2,632 m above sea level same as previous years) and the Sertig Pass (2,739 m above sea level, new for 2011)

The Sertig route this year was simply evil due to the weather, which was nice in Burgun where we started but some early mist had left each mountain top with a permanent cloud fixture.  I was told I was in the 11:30 am start (unlucky not to get the 10:30) which meant a lot of hanging around in the hostel and an early run back when I realised I forgot my train ticket to Burgun (which wasn’t needed in the end).

I should have taken the 10:30 train and cheered on the K78’ers coming past which i’ll do next time to save starring at my watch for two hours at breakfast.  I think everyone prefers early morning running – get up, get it done, get showered, get resting with a pint and a big smile – that’s the way of a race day.  The weather is always nicer in am’s than pm’s – today this was going to be the downfall of those on the 11:30 start.  The Sertig pass was awful – no rain until we started to ascend past 2000m and then it simply went bad, the temperature dropped and the rain came, thankfully there was little wind however it was a text book mountain display of what can happen at altitude in a short timeframe and the affects on some less prepared for it (cases of hyperthermia at the top for some runners, a few who were air lifted off).  I had on a Falke long sleeve given as a present only the day before from Luke (girlfriends dad) and so long as you kept moving (my 2009 pace wouldn’t have cut it – i’d have got to cold) then I was just ok.  That said it took me over 40 mins after the decent started to re-gain feeling in my fingers and tying my shoelaces on the first part of the way down was so time consuming just making the loop!   Most runners shot down hill to raise the temperature.  Those lucky ones in the 10:30 am start avoided the rain so it must have only set in as were arriving.   The Sertig pass plateaued in a high miniature valley which I thought was the highest point until the course loops 160 degrees back on itself to reveal a steep climb.  At the top of wherever we were (the cloud was so thick at this point) the organisers had somehow managed to get up there an aid station with heated warm energy drink which was pretty impressive and well needed.

I had expected and did to some extent make up a lot of time on the way down hill – my self labelled speciality – however by the time I had descended, warmed and the rocky, adrenalin fuelled part of the decent was over I realised the toll that the cold hard inclines had taken out of me.  Certainly they had got the distance wrong (I swear!)  between the 20K marker and the top of the Sertig pass which on the profile was supposed to be 22.1K – that distance seemed huge and no way only 2.1K, seems like a small thing maybe but in the cold and wet with tiredness bearing down, every corner you assume is the top and when it doesn’t arrive it can be very mentally draining.

I had expected to run fast and I had reached the 17m mark (the top was 12.64 miles in) within 39 minutes, slow but the decent was giant boulders and very slippy mud and rock with tight hairpins.  It was hard enough that the final 8-9 miles was tough and only on entering Davos did I find a renewed pace knowing the end was 1-2 miles away, up until then it was just repeating in my head ‘just don’t start walking’!  I finished in 5hrs, 5 mins.  268th overall from 789 runners.

Photos from 2009 Davos marathon where I ran with a camera


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