EIGER ULTRA-TRAIL 2017
I had run for less than 30 minutes and covered a distance of under five kilometres, when I realized that today was going to be a tough day. In fact, the last weeks leading up to this day have not been as smooth as I had hoped them to be. It took me longer than expected to fully recover from Marathon Des Sables and shortly after I was back in training I picked up an injury on my left foot. However, with the Eiger Ultra-Trail just over a month away, I did not think too much of it. I paused my training for a few days, but the pain and swelling on my ankle would not go away. I visited a doctor, who took a MRI scan of my foot, with the hope to find out what caused my troubles. The result: a partly torn ligament.
As surprising, or shocking, the news may have sounded, I was determined to run. Not only in the name of Oceanic Global, our team of family and friends, but above all myself. I tried to not think of the injury and accepted the lack of my training, I swallowed my initial dosage of painkillers and I was ascending the first mountain of the race. Whilst I had been training well for previous race, it was my mind that would struggle to cope over the long distance. This time it was the other way around.
The race had started at 4:30 am, but with less than 30 minutes on the clock and the sun slowly rising, I realised that today it was my mind more than my legs that would carry me through the race. I felt pretty tired and weak, especially during ascends, which were up to 35 per cent steep. Under perfect weather conditions, the race route was guiding us through the Bernese Highlands. It offered the most breathtaking views across the Alps, which at the same time came as a welcome distraction from the pain in my leg. As much as I was counting down the kilometres, I was enjoying the magical atmosphere throughout the course. Eiger Ultra-Trail was not only set within a stunning scenery, but it also drew together a number of supporters and volunteers that were scattered along the trail to chant and cheer us on.
After 65 kilometres I reached the top of Männlichen, where I received a special greeting by my girlfriend Rach, and Simon and his friends. Whilst much of my memory of the race is a bit hazy, this was one of my highlights I remembered. A few hours later, the sun started to set, the final rays of sun were lighting up the mountain peaks around me and I turned on my head torch. At this point, the field of runners was dispersed along the track, so I found myself running solo towards the finish line. I passed the last checkpoint and descended back towards Grindelwald.
Finally, loose gravel had turned into hard tarmac. I took the final right turn and hiked up the last little hill. At the top, I heard people shouting my name. Those were the voices of Rach, my sister Annika, Simon and the rest of the team. Arm-in-arm with Rach and with the others by our side, we run towards the finish line. The clock stopped at exactly 21:02:49 hours and I received my piece of Eiger as a medal around my neck.
The mix of injury, lack of training and a mighty challenging trail turned this in the toughest races I have competed in to date. However, more important than a perfect race was the experience we shared together in Grindelwald. With that being said, Pascal did run a perfect race and finished the course in just over 16 hours (16:05:06). Annika completed the E35 in eight (8:00:37) and Rach and Simon took 2:19:59 and just under two hours (1:57:46) respectively to finish the E16. It was a wonderful weekend and I hope that we were able to inspire others to not only go for a run, but more so to do their little part to protect our beautiful nature by reducing the plastic waste in our oceans and decreasing one's individual plastic consumption.
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