Race report: JUNGFRAU MARATHON
Distance: 42.195 km
Elevation: +1823 m
Route: Interlaken - Bönigen - Wilderswil - Zweilütschinen - Lauterbrunnen - Wengen - Wengernalp - Wixi - Kleine Scheidegg
Conditions: A beautiful September day. Mostly sunny with passing clouds. Comfortable, but a bit too warm in the valley. Cooled quickly after the finish. 3,989 runners
We headed out with our biggest team yet to the 2014 edition of the Jungfrau Marathon. Derek and I along with Laura all ran last year's race. Xavi, an experienced mountain runner is facing the Jungfrau for the first time along with Jess and Gab who are making their trail running debut on this amazing course. We are all here to enjoy the views and do whatever it takes to reach that beer at the finish.
After just returning from the states earlier this week, Derek and I re-packed and made the trip to Interlaken to camp out the night before the run. We were able to sleep more hours in the tent than we did in the previous two nights combined, so we woke race morning feeling okay. This is our fourth year of running the Jungfrau, but this time we haven't seen a mountain, or even a little hill for the past three weeks, so we felt nervous and timid approaching the starting line.
It was a beautiful day, right from the start, cool mountain air, but heat from the sun. We all shuffled our clothing, adjusted our bibs, gave hugs and encouragement, and made our way into the crowd of runners filling the main street through Interlaken. The goal I set for myself earlier this summer, now seemed rather optimistic, but Derek and I both positioned ourselves close to the front of the stream of runners and crossed under the starting archway not far behind the elites.
We began at a pace that felt almost too relaxed, but after less than five kilometers, I knew it wasn't my day even taking it slower than I anticipated, and waved Derek to go ahead. By ten kilometers I was only a few minutes off my pace, but kilometers ten through twenty were a struggle just to keep going. I fought myself to keep positive and to not quit. With constant coaxing, I finally convinced myself to enjoy the course as I reached Lauterbrunnen, the half-way point. Almost ten minutes behind my projected time, I finally pulled my head into the race and my legs started to follow. There was nothing I could do to change the rough first half, but a different race was just about to start - only a few flat kilometers in the valley before we meet the wall.
I caught Derek just outside Lauterbrunnen, and we leap-frogged each other up the wall until I led the way into Wengen. After 30 km of bargaining, I finally felt convinced that I wouldn't quit short of the finish line. I felt slow, and hungry, but I was still moving and started chugging coca-cola wherever I could get it. (I used to think it was crazy to drink cola during a race, but it's become a go-to quick boost for mountain climbs).
Four hours into the race, and I started to wear my own legs, and was mentally ready to start racing. Just a little too late - there isn't much time to make up from here - it is mostly single file up to the highest point 2205m at 40 km. After the steady climb, finally, a free-flying downhill finish to Kleine Scheidegg (2061m) where the runners are greeted by enormous cheers, a medal, and a cold beer. Nothing beats the joy of this finish, surrounded by the snowy peaks of the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau.
It was a beautiful day and a challenging course. Watching Jess and Gab cross the finish line for their first Jungfrau Marathon was the best part of this year's race. Knowing the effort they put into training this year, it was a privilege to share their excitement and fantastic finishes.
(Jess took some great photos along the way and let me borrow them for the two collages above).
I started at a 6:07 in 2011 with minimal training, up to a demoralizing 6:31 in 2012, a proud 5:38 in 2013, and this year dropped to 4:45, 40 - a big improvement over previous JMs for me, but it wasn't quite where I anticipated based on this summer's race times. There's always next year!
The Jungfrau has become an annual event for Team Strom, marking the end of summer and a gauge of our running progress. I keep coming back to the Jungfrau Marathon for the beautiful route but also the excitement and cheers from a huge crowd of 25,000 spectators lining the streets and shouting from the train cars, the support of the bands and bell ringers, alp horns and flag throwers and the climatic moment of reaching the bag piper. The race is a challenging combination of road a and trail running, and a humbling experience as it attracts a large number of elites as well as many really strong runners. Definitely worth a run, once-in-a-lifetime, or as many as you can.
Finisher clips, me & Derek:
Splits: 10k- 47.32, Half- 1:47.55, start of wall (25.6)- 2:11.29, Wengen (30k)- 2:56.32, Wixi (38k)- 4:03.26, Finish- 4:45.40
Kilometer splits: 4.44, 4.33, 4.39, 4.45, 4.34, 4.34, 4.53, 4.46, 5.00, 4.59, 5.34, 5.13, 4.57, 5.07, 5.03, 5.22, 5.58, 5.34, 5.55, 5.53, 5.17, 5.22, 5.32, 4.40, 5.10, 6.53, 14.11, 11.24, 6.48, 8.04, 6.24, 7.30, 11.55, 8.26, 10.02, 7.08, 7.30, 9.05, 8.32, 12.26, 15.16, 4.54, 50"
Rank: 26 / 189 age category, 104 / 943 women