My 13th Marathon and my 2nd Mountain Marathon in 4:54:26

The day starts at 5:30, after taking a shower and having my breakfast I head down to St. Niklaus a 1/2 hour train ride from Zermatt. Here I meet my friend Christoph, enough time to go through all the details of the race. At 8:40 the race starts, everything went well until shortly before Zermatt which was the halfway point. A second not looking at the ground and already I miss a root which made me fall, luckily it was soft forest ground and I didn’t hurt my self. The weather was still partly cloudy, but slowly getting warmer, as at the same time it starts to increase in steepness so I’m actually feeling quite hot. Good thing they had lots of refreshments stands, which I made good use of. Lots of the second half I had to walk, it was just to steep to run. Finally, I heard the Bagpipes which were playing about 1 km ahead of the finish, this was a relief, knowing that I almost made it. The last meters (lined with the little Swiss flags) I’m just flying right through the finish line… WOW, I did it under the magical 5 hours… I feel so happy, this was a great run.

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Zermatt Marathon – the way to the top
(text from the official site)

Starting in St. Niklaus, situated in the lowest-lying mountain valley in Switzerland, and ending on Riffelberg by Gornergrat, the highest-altitude finish line in Europe at 2,585 m.a.s.l., the Zermatt Marathon is the supreme alpine racing challenge. Total acclivity: 1’944 m (3’678 feet), declivity:  444 m (1’457 feet).

This event will be the most exciting and ambitious marathon competition in Europe. On the first 20 kilometers of the race from St. Niklaus to Zermatt, the course continues through the valley floor, mainly along the left bank of the Vispa River. The half-marathon distance will be reached at the Zermatt Bahnhofstrasse. From there, the course winds along an alpine road up to Sunnegga. The next leg of the race is via Gant, and after a stretch of flat land, competitors will reach Riffelalp at 2,222 m.a.s.l. Here is where the heat is really on! Because over the remaining kilometers an elevation of almost 400 meters has to be overcome before finally reaching the finish at 2,585 m.a.s.l. on Riffelberg by Gornergrat.

Starting shot
St. Niklaus, a legendary provenance of alpinism, can look back on a proud tradition of being the birthplace of outstanding mountaineers. Numerous are the ‘four-thousanders’ which were first conquered by the native sons of St. Niklaus. It follows that St. Niklaus is the absolutely ideal starting point for a new generation of intrepid spirits on their way to the top – the marathon runners.

Zermatt, the epitome of alpine resort sophistication with its overwhelming view of the world’s most glorious mountain – the Matterhorn. The Bahnhofstrasse in cosmopolitan Zermatt marks the athletes’ fleeting and final passage through the realm of civilization before they once again compete with the forces of nature on their ascent to Sunnegga.

Breathing space
Sunnegga, the long ascent through pine forests and alpine pastures, acknowledges the athletes’ spirit with a magnificent panoramic view of the Alps. The next few kilometers over flat terrain offer a welcome breather.

Last lap
Riffelalp, lying at an altitude of 2,222 meters. One glance at the resplendent Matterhorn fortifies the athletes for the even greater test of strength to come. For the arduous ascent from Riffelalp up to Riffelberg is next – and this last lap scales an elevation of yet another 400 meters.

Finishing line
Riffelberg, 2,585 meters above sea level. The pain subsides. Breathing becomes easier. 29 four-thousand-meter mountains cheer each runner who reaches the finishing line.