World Long Distance Mountain Running Championship
Jungfrau Marathon, Switzerland
Saturday 8 September
Top five finishers:
1. Wyatt Jonathan,1972,NZ-Wellington 2:55.32
2. Achmüller Hermann,1971,IT-Pfalzen (BZ) 2:58.35
3. Frick Gerd,1974,IT-Merano (BZ) 3:02.41
4. Sanchez Hernandez Ranulfo,1971,MX-Tlalnepantla 3:05.56
5. Burrell Galen,1979,US-San Francisco 3:11.05
1. Hakenstad Evertsen Anita,1968,NO 3:23.05
2. Kaledina Elena,1966,FR-Meythet 3:31.16
3. Malkova Jeanna,1968,RU 3:36.43
4. Carlsohn Anja,1978,DE-Berlin 3:36.59
5. Landolt Claudia,1971,Jonschwil 3:37.58
21. Matthew Robbie 3.23.21
54. Neil Labinsky 3.36.03
126. Trevor Jacobs 3.53.24 (3rd M55)
13. Isobel Bespalov 3.48.56
14. Jackie Fairweather 3.50.20 (4th W40)
28. Vanessa Haverd 4.03.52
77. Elizabeth Bennett 4.30.09
Race report by Jackie Fairweather:
A team of 8 made our way (in dribs and drabs) to Interlaken, Switzerland for the 4th World Long Distance Mountain Running Challenge and 15th Jungfrau-Marathon. All of us had arrived by Wed at the latest (with the race on Saturday) and we were both delighted by and apprehensive of the geography and scenery. In this part of the world, from the valley floor mountains literally rise straight up on every side from a base level of 567m to peaks ranging from 1200m to Jungfrau itself at 4158m (as comparison Kosciusko is 2226m – someone will correct me if I am wrong on that, but I think that is right!). Despite the name, we didn't have to go right to the top, but the race peaked at 2205m and finished at 2100m. We all had some time for sight seeing in the days before the race. The challenge was to try to balance maximising our time in this beautiful part of the world Vs saving our legs for race day. I think Vanessa Haverd hiked the course and more in the days leading up – accompanied by her indefatigable Mum!
For Simon the race came too soon – inflamed ITB not yet recovered from the Trailwalker race two weeks earlier. The wise decision not to race was made early on race morning and he quickly transitioned to supporter and once again showed his superior talent at standing still and waiting patiently!
We had all read various accounts of the event from others who had gone before us. But I guess nothing quite prepares you for the real thing. I had not been up to look at the difficult second half of the course, but had a fair idea of the ‘flat' first half. Also I was a bit unsure – and not too confident, of my fitness. I had been on track until a couple of weeks before the Bush Capital 60k, when I got the flu. I recovered just in time for that event, but then it came back and hit be with a vengeance the week after the 60k. I was unable to get in any of the quality or hill work I wanted to do and my preparation was really just easy running – after my base of long slow running. I didn't even think I was still in the same shape as for Bush Cap. The toughest thing about the Jungfrau course is the fact that it contains a bit of everything. The first 10k is dead flat, so you need some ease of speed. The next 10k is solidly undulating – would be considered hilly in a normal road race, so here you need strength and the ability to run it strongly without spending all your bickies. Then the second half basically contains every grade of hill imaginable! It is hard to get a rhythm and you are constantly trying to recover from really steep grades, all the while getting tireder! Then right at the end a 2 ½ km climb that is crazy steep – I think I crawled up it, but more about that shortly.
The lead up to the race was pretty low key. On race morning Trevor Jacobs came down from his hiding place up in the hills and hung out in our hotel (200m from the start) for the hour or so before the race. He fussed about for the whole hour – I think maybe he used up too much energy in packing and repacking his bag, shoes, gear… whatever it was that he did. No real need for a warm up and race morning temp was very pleasant – no need for any more than our Aust Team singlets and shorts (courtesy 2XU). I believe there were 4000 on the startline and it was packed tight – felt like City to Surf! And when the gun went it was mayhem! Someone just in front and to the left of me when down and a couple of others over the top. Apparently, Liz Bennett, just behind me was also shoved and narrowly avoided going down. The first couple of km was spent getting into a rhythm – finding a pace that was moving along but not too fast. My first few kms were about 3:45 pace which I thought was a little too quick so by about the 4th km, I settled into 4min/km. Trevor was about 50m ahead so that seemed about right. Meanwhile young Matt Robbie, was out the front alongside a Russian runner, pushing each other to 3min/km in a quest to win the first ‘prime' ($500) at 4km. The deal though was that in order to secure the cash you had to finish within 10% of the winner's time. Matt didn't get to the prime line first anyway, but the story afterwards was a good one!
I felt good through the first 10k (39min) and caught Trevor just before it. Just after 10k the road climbed solidly for a couple of km, which knocked the wind from my sails! Trevor blew me away up this section (not that I expected to be with him in this race anyway!). I had been lead to believe the first HALF was FLAT! Through until about 18-19k, the course meandered alongside a river and train track, through a field and through several small towns, on trails or narrow roads, mostly gradually uphill but sometimes up or down steep little pinches. It was beautiful running and I really enjoyed it, but was getting worried about what was to come – esp as I was struggling on the steeper uphills. I did seem to be able to recover and regain rhythm on the more moderate climbs. At 20k we came to the larger town of Lauterbrunnen , having gained about 250m in elevation in the last 10k. Simon jumped out from the crowd to yell encouragement. The crowd was pretty big at this point, but all the way so far there had been people lining the course, bands playing, bells ringing. The atmosphere was pretty awesome. At about this point, again I caught Trevor. I was surprised as I though he was gone, but I was still feeling good so went with it. Through half way in 1:29, which was a little slower than expected, but I was also surrounded by other female runners and we were around 6-12th place, so not bad.
I felt awesome from 20-25k. It was a flat section surrounded by towering mountains on every side. I checked one km split and it was 3:50. This was to be the calm before the storm! At 26km we ran through a small town and then around a corner onto a path and UP. The race director, Richard Umberg (winner of 1986 Melbourne marathon!) was at the corner and yelled out "Go Jackie" which was a nice boost. I hit the hill in 6-7th place (female) and then… went backwards! I just had nothing on the steep hills. It was really steep for 2-3k and I walk/jogged and was passed again by Trevor and one by one by 4-5 women – ahhhhh! Finally the gradient eased a bit and I could get going again. I passed 2 women back and held 10th for a bit, but didn't hold it for long and was soon 12th, which I remained for most of the remainder of the race. There was little relief from the relentless uphill running from there on and whenever it got steep, I was not strong.
From about half way it was also clear that this was definitely more like an ultra than a marathon – it was going to be a long hard slog. Trevor was obviously feeling the same way and not having a great day. He was better than me on the steep parts but I kept coming good once the gradient eased off. I passed him for the last time at around 30k.
I had long since stopped looking at my watch, but judging by what others had said about the course and times people had run, I figured 3:45 – 4:00 was about the shape I was in and what I would be aiming for (assuming I was in about 2:50 +/- marathon shape). With approx 15k to go my watch ticked over 2:00. I still felt like I was doing a reasonable job – surely it wouldn't take more than 1:30hr to do the last 15k?? 11k later my watch read 3:20 – slow going, but sub 3:45 had to be achievable. ..
I had in my head that Steve Bradford had said it is really only a 39km race… the rest of his comment had been, then everyone struggles up the steepest part of the course for 2k before the 1k down to the finish. But being the optimist I am (and needing to cling to something!!) , from about 33k on I kept telling myself that once I got to 3k to go it was all down hill – WRONG! At 38k, just when you think you are almost there – and I thought there was just one little really steep bit to go… the trail becomes narrow and rocky and head up sharply. The climb gets worse and worse and keeps deceiving you – you think you see the crest and then you get to it only to see it stretch again up before you, dotted by slow moving bodies, snaking up into the clouds again! The climb went from just after 38k through til just before 41k. I think it took me 30min to grovel the last 4km. that climb was the hardest thing I have ever done in a running race. I was bent over double and struggling big time. My arms got sore from pushing on my legs to take each step. At that stage of the race and at 2000+m it was simply cruel. Another women passed me early on – ahhh! For the first time ever in a race I thought I was going to cramp. Finally, after what seemed like hours later, the real summit was in sight. With 100m to go, Isobel Bespalov came past me – bugger! Got me again (same girl who beat me at 6 Foot Track). Again I just had nothing to respond with.
I finally crested the top and glanced at my watch: 3:45. The last 1 – 1.5k (I didn't care by that stage!) was pretty well all downhill. I ran it tentatively at first, but was soon able to stride out reasonably (unlike some other tragic souls!). Then about 4-500m from the finish I had to stop for a train!!!!!!! !!! NOOOOOOO!!!! !! I didn't quite make it though in time and had to wait for 6 carriages to slowly chug past!!! Luckily I was able to start running again – wasn't sure I'd be able to. I crossed the line in 3:50 and change (not sure what the exact time was). The bloody train may have cost me sub 3:50. (I'll have to come back now!) It was just great to finish. Simon was there, and of course Isobel. Trevor came through a few minutes later, having toughed it out as always. I am not sure of everyone's results, but Vanessa ran strongly and with a big smile on her face as always, finishing in around 4:05. Liz had a tough day in the hills (maybe a little tired as this was her 5th marathon for the year!?!) and was mid 4hrs. Matt Robbie got passed by the first woman just before the line as he was playing up to the crowd! Neil Labinsky was a little behind him. I believe both ran times not too far off what they did at Six Foot.
For me it was a fabulous experience. Even though I knew I had not done the work coming in an was annoyed not to be in the shape I wanted to be in, I think I got the most out of myself on the day. I tried to take in the atmosphere and awesome beauty of the event – when I wasn't hurting too much! Sometimes it doesn't matter where you come or how fast or slow you run – if you feel you were able to have a good go and get the most out of yourself, it is satisfying. The results were varied, but we all had a good day – even Simon who had to stand on the sidelines. It was an event we will remember and an experience that made you feel privileged to be able to run and be part of it all. Now, I want to come home and GET FIT again!!! What's next???!?