I'm back from the Zermatt marathon. The race was good but a bit more demanding than I had thought, mainly due to the high altitude and - of course - the height differences. I finished in 6:17, compared to 3:38 in Rome in March, so the race was undoubtedly much tougher than city marathon.
The village of Zermatt is in the middle of the course. The start was in the village of St Niklaus further down the valley and the finish was located on the mountain Riffelberg above Zermatt. The first part of the race rises gradually but I did not think it was so demanding if you took it easy. The ground consists mostly of asphalt and gravel roads. For those of you who are familiar with the Swiss Alpine in Davos I will say it was similar to the part between Davos and Bergun, but a bit flatter.
Halfway through the race, we reached Zermatt and there were a lot of people out on the streets and cheered. Suddenly it felt like to be in a normal city race, but with a little more beautiful buildings and narrower streets. The race went through the main street and then did a u-turn on the other side of the village and came back, which meant that we met the runners who were heading in the opposite direction.
After Zermatt it was more or less just up. First came a climb of several kilometers which was pretty boring as it was not possible to run because it was too steep. Then came a part that by Alp standards was fairly flat , but this part was rather technical instead so I could not run so very fast anyway. In addition, the air began to feel thin, which made me feel weak.
After 39 km came the last steep climb up to the finish. I still felt good and thought this part maybe wasn´t going to be so hard after all. I was wrong. These 3 km took me nearly an hour and several times I stood still and hyperventilated. At one time another runner stopped next to me and when we made eye contact we both burst into laughter over the miserable situation.
Once up on the plateau where the finish was located (2600 m altitude) the course made a big circle until in reached the finish. I do not think I took a single running step up there and I was even forced to stop 300 m from the finish and breath before I could continue. It felt very strange to stand there and have the finish line within reach, but not having the ability to get there.
There was a slight downhill towards the finish and after some deep breathinng I managed to cross the finish line with my last strength. Once there there were no medals left (!) but the organizers promised that those of us who didn´t get a medal would get one mailed. I hope they keep that promise because after this race you really deserves a medal.
As you can se in my first post I did the Swiss alpine in Davos last year and if I compare the races I think Davos/Swiss alpine was a little bit better than Zermatt. That the medals were out was one bad thing in Zermatt. Another, even if it´s not a big deal, the interviews with favorites and winners was only given in German. Swiss alpine also offers more distances and the rather expensive train ticket from the airport to the resort where the race is held is included in the Swiss alpine registration fee.
Overall, I think Zermatt marathon was a good but demanding race. If you are going to do it, or any other race in the Alps, I strongly recommend you to go there a couple of days before the race so you get used to the thin air because that was in my opinion the biggest problem.
I'm going down to run this race in Switzerland next saturday (July 5). Found out about it when I was in Davos and ran the Swiss Alpine last summer and decided to choose Zermatt Marathon as my summer holiday race for 2014, rather than return to Davos and run the K42 distance (I ran C42 last year).
I'm flying with SAS from Stockholm to Geneva on Wednesday morning and then continue by train to Zermatt where I stay in Hotel Antik until Sunday when I go home.
I just want to know if there is someone else doing it or if somebody has done the race before, and what you did think about it? The course profile looks brutal to me, who mainly is a road runner, so I suppose the race ain´t easy:
As I mentioned that I hadn´t recieved any confirmation email for the overseas ballot earlier in this thread I can inform you that I got it yesterday (!), one and a half week after I registered. It must be a really slow internet connection between UK and Sweden...