Am 25. Juli fand die 30. Auflage des Swissalpine Marathon statt. Mit dabei waren 5387 Läufer und Läuferinnen aus 46 Nationen. Darunter auch unser Neu-Mitglied Sönke Busch über die Distanz K78. Die Eckdaten 76.1 km │ +/– 2560m. Der K78 ist das Aushängeschild des Swissalpine Marathons und der weltweit grösste Berg-Ultramarathon: In der Königsdisziplin bewältigen die Läufer 21 der total 76.1 Kilometer in hochalpinem Gelände. Mit einer Höhendifferenz von 2560 Meter führt die Strecke von Davos nach Filisur und Bergün über die Keschhütte und den Sertigpass zurück nach Davos.
Sönkes Bericht liegt nur in englischer Sprache vor, allerdings sprechen sicher auch die Bilder für sich!
Ein Bericht von Sönke Busch:
Why trail run, why the SwissAlpine K78? I guess it all started with the Lidingöloppet, the most popular trail run in Sweden (and part of the “Swedish classic”) - a challenge for a newbie, but doable (30k/450hm). I enjoyed the beautiful nature (mostly forest with the characteristic Swedish rocks) and the variety of the track. Having done this a few times, I searched for new challenges 2014 - and found the SwissAlpine K42 (42k, 1800hm) - a marathon in the alps, why not? Despite awful weather, the K42 last year was a great experience - steep climbs that I needed to hike combined with steep downhill-sections that I could just fly down. This is when I fell for trail running in the mountains - it just offers so much more variety and challenges - and it is about the experience, not solely your finishing time. I knew: I wanted to do the SwissAlpine again next year!
In March 2015, I moved to Munich and started training trail running regularly on mountains nearby. Thereby, I was well-prepared to run the Austrian “Hochkönig-Man” beginning of June, which is not much longer than a marathon (47k), but with 3000hm extremely steep. Suddenly, the SwissAlpine K42 was not enough of a challenge anymore - that’s how I ended up with the K78.
Compared with the K42, you could tell the K78 is the original SwissAlpine distance - it is well laid-out and offers a variety of landscape and tracks. It starts with a tour around the town of Davos, then moderately hilly for about 40k, mostly through forest to Bergün, where the tough climb starts above the timber line to the two highest points of the track (2630 and 2730), followed by a very steep down-hill that slowly converts into a moderate down-hill of around15k with some ups and downs to the finish in Davos. The total height to be climbed/descended is 2650m, the distance is 76k.
Goal setting: The 47k of the Hochkönig-Man took 9 hours for me (with some adverse aspects); adding 3 hours for 30k without additional height results in a goal time of 12 hours - that is only one hour less than the 13 hour cut-off, so my main goal (besides not ruining my knees) was to get to the finish line before cut-off, and hopefully even 1-2 hours earlier.
I arrived in Davos early the day before (Friday 24/7) and had enough time to stroll around in the town, get my starter package, check in at the hotel and eat a good dinner.
Race day: My alarm went at 4:45am so I could eat a proper breakfast (the hotel started to serve breakfast from 5am that day) before the race starts at 7am. The weather forecast for the race day was not very promising - high chances of rain and thunderstorm, temperatures on the top of the mountain around 4-9 degrees C. Thankfully, there is a possibility to hand in a bag with cloths to get handed out in Bergün before the highest part of the trail. I stuffed the bag with the warmest cloths I got with me, added some 12 gels and handed it in at 6am.
I used a camelbag to keep a rainjacket and some gels (preventing the crash-experience I faced at the Hochkönig-Man). Furthermore, some biking gloves (really good for down-hill-running - when stumbling, my hands usually suffer first), a cap and sunglasses.
Fortunately, I could walk from the hotel to the start. The start at the “Sportzentrum” was quite packed - around 900 runners were doing the K78 (it is probably the largest ultra trail run in the alps), and we were sharing the first 30k with around 500 runners that signed up for the K30. The first km through Davos were a good warm-up, and amazingly many locals where at the streets at 7am to cheer to us. After one hour, the clouds cleared up and it became really sunny - which was a pleasant, even though it became a little too hot around noon.
The track to Filisur went mostly through forest, partially in a canyon with impressively steep walls. After 30K, we reached Filisur, the lowest point of the track and the finish for the K30. Again, there were many locals in the small village cheering, either with the more general “Hop, Hop” (Swiss) or - as they do around Davos - with “Heja, Heja” (I wonder if some Scandinaviens brought that to this area?). The next 10K were rather unspectacular, a slight uphill (in nice, sunny, almost too warm weather) to Bergün.
Arriving at Bergün, one of the volunteers handed out my cloths bag to me (well organized, as always in Switzerland), but it was so warm that I decided to even leave some cloths (a fleece) here and fill up my camelbag with gels. Here they offered free massages, and as I didn’t want to take any chances, I went for a 10 minutes massage there - after all, the main goal for me was to get to the finish line, not to beat a certain time.
Well recovered, I started the toughest part of the race: The climb to the two highest tops of the track. From Bergün, it was constantly going uphill - first moderately so I could still run it for quite a while, but then increasingly steeper, so I needed to walk/hike.
For most of the participants, it is more about the journey than the time/performance, and therefore it is easy to start small friendly conversations with other runners. The SwissAlpine seems to be very known among ultrarunners around the world, I have met a lot of Danes, Swedes, Japanese, some British and people from other parts of the world. I really enjoyed starting a conversation with someone, running together for a while and then after a while continuing in my own tempo. I’ve seen many people several times, as the relative running speed at different inclines/declines varies quite a bit from runner to runner.
The landscape had now transformed quite dramatically - there were no trees, the track was dominated by rocks and smaller stones, and it got colder and colder. Getting closer to the first top, I even felt that the air was getting thinner. At the first top (2630), there is a small cottage “Keschhütte” with some locals cheering again, and boosting my motivation to a new top. After reaching that, it was going downhill for a while, and as my legs were so into the uphill-running style, I stumbled 2 times and almost fell very badly (I could manage thanks to my bicycle gloves). Anyway, soon the last long climb started to the highest top (2730), after which a steep downhill started which I took rather carefully. After a while, it got less steep and I could just fly down the hill - which is the part I love the most with trail running: “Getting into the flow”, running down effortlessly, with small, dancing steps, fully focused on the track and how to set the next step in the best way.
Inevitably, this steep downhill rollercoaster transformed into a more moderate, monotonous downhill track, mostly on forest roads. While that is a little boring, it was quite effortless for me as I have been training downhill running technique quite a lot in the last months. The last 10K to Davos where a mixture of moderate downhill and moderate (but exhausting) uphill parts, and this was the part when I just couldn’t wait to arrive in Davos. It also started raining a bit, but fortunately not enough to require a rain coat. The last 1-2 km to Davos where quite easy, and when I saw the stadium, I could actually increase the tempo a bit and run happily through the finish line (again with quite some locals cheering, although it was almost 11 hours after the start).
I took some alcohol-free beer, relaxed a bit, but then went to collect my cloths, and by that time, I was already freezing and shaking. Although the race was not as tough as I thought, and I never felt like I was very close to my limit, my body showed me shortly after the race, that it needed rest immediately. So I took a taxi to the hotel, took a long, hot shower, ate all the fruits I had in my room and went directly to bed (around 20h).
Right after the race, I thought: Well, it was OK, but this race is just too long. I actually felt exactly the same way directly after the K42 last year. So, with hindsight, I have no idea if I’ll do this race again next year, or a longer one, or none at all. But I know for sure that it was a fascinating experience that I will never forget.