Swiss Alpine Marathon
The C42, K30 and K78 races started at 07:00 from the centre of Davos. The shorter distances start later, also in Davos, but the K42 starts later from a point approx. halfway around the K78 route where the runners join with those that have already run 36km of the C42 route. Sounds complicated but it is not really.
This Swiss Alpine Marathon (SAM) takes place in July in the mountains around Davos, Switzerland, in true ‘Sound of Music’ surroundings; steeply sloping green alpine meadows, pine trees, snow capped peaks, although if Julie Andrews was out there singing I’m afraid I missed her – drowned out by the music on my iPod!
The SAM effectively takes over the town of Davos for the weekend and the proceeding week. The organizers actually recommend that you get there several days before the race to acclimatize to the altitude, but that depends on which race you are taking part in. There are actually 6 events to choose from covering all distances from 10km, 21km, 30km, 42km (2 races) and 78km, plus events during the week leading up to race day.
All is explained on an excellent and very comprehensive race website which also includes links to the many hotels in the area that are all geared up to accommodate the race entrants (most have elevators if you can’t manage stairs at the end of the run!).
Two races (K42 & K78) include climbs up to 2,500m, but the other races do not go above 1,800m. For me at least, running the C42 which was at the lower elevations, it was not necessary to acclimatize to the altitude.
The C42 course includes a couple of hills at the beginning and then a long downhill stretch in the centre of the race. Of course, you know that as you are in the Alps you are not going to get away that easily, so from the 34km mark you climb from around 1,100m to 1,800m over a distance of around 4km. That’s where I found out I had not done enough hill training in Hatta! After that its downhill to the finish for the C42 runners, while the hardy K78ers carry on to yet higher peaks, which included crossing a snowfield. The C42 was a new category the previous year, and even in its 2nd year did not attract that many entrants. There were just 253 runners doing the C42, out of some 3,000 plus entrants for all categories, most seemingly going for the K78 distance. However, since the C42, K30 & K78 runners all start together you are not running alone.
Don’t set out on this race with a PB in mind, its a race to be enjoyed for the scenery and terrain.
The C42 route is a one way run, finishing in a different location from the start, however, your bag is there waiting for you and transport back to Davos via the Swiss Railway system is free. There is a nice medal and t-shirt for all finishers, which I proudly wore around Davos in the afternoon, as did most other competitors. However, seeing all the runners that were wearing their K78 finishers shirts made me feel as if I’d taken the easy option by only running 42km!
This is one of the biggest in the world (alongside NY, Berlin, Chicago and London), not just in terms of the number of participants. The logistics, services, performances and media coverage is incredible and extensive.
Since the race takes place in July, it is mid-summer in Switzerland, but coming from Dubai, the weather, this year at least, was perfect. During the day, with the sun shining it was 25 to 27 deg centigrade, but in shaded areas, when running through the pine forests, it even felt cool. It can rain heavily with thunder storms, as we saw the day before, but fortunately race day was perfect.
The race is well organized; from collection of numbers and goodie bags on the preceding day, to the start with bag drop offs for each distance, plenty of toilets (but with the inevitable queues), and a decent start that saw those at the back of the field running within a minute of the starting gun.
Along the route there were well stocked refreshment tables at approx 5km intervals, some even had soup and bread available, presumably favoured by the Swiss alpine runners, maybe when the weather is not so warm! If you can drag your eyes off the road in front of you and can look around, you will see some beautiful scenery. That said, about half of the race is on road and half is trail where you do need to watch your footing due to the unevenness of the ground.
It was a well organized race, in beautiful surroundings, which I would definitely do again, and if I don’t wimp out, it will have to be the K78 next time!
Although there is no airport at Davos, getting to the race venue in Davos is not a problem. I flew into Zurich and then caught trains to Davos, for which tickets can be pre-booked on the Internet. The trains run with typical clockwork precision and so even if there is only 5 minutes between connections, if you correctly follow the signs from one platform to the next, your train will be there waiting for you. Same applies to the return after the race. Its worth entering the race just for the train journey, if you can do it during daylight hours, as the scenery is spectacular.