From our home on the pacific, the closest many of us Californians come to a true adventure in the Alps is a ride down the Matterhorn Bobsleds ride at Disneyland. With countless races in the United States worthy of any runner-traveler’s bucket list, it is easy for Americans to forget about the rest of the world. However, the Sierre–Zinal trail race through the Alpine wonderland of South-Eastern Switzerland is worthy of our attention for its beauty alone. The course features views of some of the most renowned peaks of the alps: Zinalrothorn, Obel Gabelhorn, Dent Blanche, and of course the Matterhorn in real life. Doug Meyer of Run the Alps does a better job describing this magical race than I do in his blog here.
The race, which celebrated its 40th birthday last year, is hardly content to let its panoramic scenery be the only draw and many of the world’s best trail runners are invited each year to take part in the festivities. The course is crafted in a way that no particular skillset is favored and runners from a variety of backgrounds can find their way to the podium. At 31 kilometers, the race is hardly a sprint but it is short enough that the field is not exclusively seasoned ultra runners. There is some highly technical terrain that requires dexterity and the ability to adapt to a quad-burning crawl, but there are also much smoother sections of dirt road that reward runners that can handle a swifter pace.
Where there are advanced trails and elite competition, the venerable Kilian Jornet always seems to be involved. This race was no different as Killian rose to the top for the seventh time this year in a world-class trail race. This time, American Jo Grey from Washington appeared to give him a challenge until the final 4km of the race but Kilian was able to open up over a minute on Joe before they eventually crossed the finish.
Americans did well on the podium, in addition to Grey’s silver, as Stevie Kremer of Colorado took the women’s race after a pair of second place finishes prior to Sunday. With her second win on the Skyrunning circuit she now has the lead with 3 of 5 races complete.
The Skyracing series continues in the Swiss Alps with the Matterhorn Ultraks on August 23rd and concludes with the Limone extreme race in the beautiful Lombardia region of Italy.