Having heard great things about this race from a number of people, I put it on my to-do list & this year finally got round to it. 78km around the Swiss Alps, what’s not to like?
Fortunately it was the races’ 25th anniversary so it was a double plus in doing it.
I went out a couple of days early to try to get some altitude acclimatisation before running the race. I used my spare time travelling around Davos & the surrounding area, travelling out as far as St Morritz & even spending some time in Klosters, didn’t see any of the Royal family though.
I went up-to Jakobs Horn the day before the race to do a bit of sight-seeing & was slightly alarmed that the temperature was down to zero degrees & that it was actually snowing!! “Bugger” I thought “That doesn’t bode well for the race tomorrow”, Jakobs horn is at 2500 metres & we would be running even higher than that at 2650 metres. Que a load of discussion between myself & all the others who were running the race, a quick check of the weather forecast & it was telling us that it would be hot & sunny. Didn’t believe it for a minute as it can change by the hour up there.
The morning of the race dawned & it was beautiful weather, I had already made up my mind about my clothes & had decided on a short sleeve T & a vest over the top of that, I shoved down as much breakfast as I could possibly could & then jumped the train to Davos Platz for the short walk to the start.
The race started at 8am & off we went, a quick spin around Davos & then off into the countryside, talk about fantastic views, with the weather so nice you could see for miles everywhere.
I quickly settled into what I hoped was going to be my pace for the race; I was helped along here because a number of races started with the Ultra including the C42, one of the marathons that are run at the same time as the K78. The runners were great pacers for me & after leaving them at the 35km mark I hit the first Marathon in 3hrs 45mins.
At this point we had joined up with the 2nd marathon, the K42. These runners were fresh & they were passing me fairly easily as we were then ascending the mountain. This is where it all started to go wrong for me & I started to get some severe stomach cramps.
All of the ascents that I’d done up to now were nothing compared to the near vertical ascent of the mountain I was now on, it started easy enough as we threaded through the woods but when we hit the trail proper, it was hellish. I’d imagine that the K42 runners were having a bit of an easier time than myself as they were a lot fresher, but even with my stomach problems I started to overtake some of the runners who had gone passed me a short while earlier, whilst going up I saw a blind runner running along with his guide, much respect to that man!!
Back to my race & it wasn’t getting any easier, this mountain seemed to be the biggest in the world & it was running out of bushes to go behind. The field was really thinning out now & people were starting to stop for rests, just before I crested the mountain, I stopped on a wooden bridge which spanned a torrent of water from the glaciers & looked all the way down the mountain. It really took my breath away. In all of my races I have never seen such spectacular scenery.
It was on the top of the mountain that I managed to grab a drink of coke, although it was flat. I like the bubbles, just as I grabbed my drink a woman came up to me shouting that I had done it & managed to climb up here, I quietly reminded her that I still had quite a long way to go & maybe she should go & cheer on the others coming up the hill. Altitude & alcohol are a great mixture.
Carrying on along the ********* Pass, I saw more spectacular views of the countryside but was doing my best not to look as the ground along this part was really stony & quite technical so I had to concentrate quite hard not to break my ankle. This part of the course was single file & was tough to overtake anybody but you could manage it by taking your life in your hands & skirting round the person in front by running on the cliff edge.
Along this ridge, the K78 & the K42 runners split again with the K78 taking the higher path along the edge of the mountain & the K42 descending to the valley floor, they certainly looked to have had the easier option as the trail we were on only narrowed further on whilst they had the whole of the valley floor to run along.
Running along this path as best as we could we finally got to run through some snow, not much but at least there was some still on the ground.
Just after the snow we went high again & this is where the K42 runners joined up with us again to go over the top of the mountain, then down the other side & into the Valley.
The run down was brilliant, even though my quads were mashed, I still managed to keep up a bit of speed & with only the occasional pit stop at a portaloo, I managed to run to the 64km CP, where I had a 5 min stop, to try & sort out my hydration & visit the loo again.
The following 14km were a walk/run as I had nothing left in the tank & all the sugary/energy bars I was taking were having no effect on me at all.
I kept up a reasonable pace until I hit the 75km mark & we went up again, this time it was along an old cross country ski path, I was really struggling now & with the heat was finding it difficult to keep moving, finally after about 20 mins I started on the downhill into the town. At this point all the energy I was missing came flooding back & I ran the last km into Davos, up the road & on turning the corner I could see the stadium & the finish. Into the stadium I ran & through to the finish line where I nearly tripped over a man who was on his knees kissing the line & thanking his god that he had finished!! I just went over the line & straight to the beer van, had myself a couple of pints of Erdinger & all was right with the world.
Finishing time was 9hrs 44mins.
For my efforts I received a jacket, T-shirt & a medal. Not too shabby & this is one race I will definitely come back & do again.