Ultra Trail Running
The Swiss Jura Marathon
I have made it! I completed my first real ultra trail marathon.
After over 44 hours on my feet I reached the finish line in Basel placing 2nd female!
It was an amazing journey all the way and I feel extremely blessed and lucky to have pulled through the Swiss Jura Marathon successfully!
The temperatures were ideal for running; never too cold and only a touch too warm on Day 1.
Often though, the clouds rolled in within minutes on top of the climbs bringing lots of rain.I learnt that it is always wise to pack an extra light windbreaker or rainjacket.
But let's cover the hard facts of the Swiss Jura Marathon first:
- It is Europe's longest 7 day mountain run taking runners from Geneva to Basel
- Daily stages range from 28 to 35 miles adding up to a total mileage of 220 in one week; no rest day
- Daily altitude difference between 1200 to 2000 metres or 3900 to 6600 feet
- Total difference in altitude is +/- 11,000 metres or 36,000 feet
After registration on Saturday the organisation team was introduced and after a nice meal that I enjoyed out of the crowds in the cafeteria it was time to prepare all my belongings for the first stage.
What will I wear? When will I get up? Will I be able to have a good breakfast or will everything be just a mad rush?
After a broken night's sleep I got up feeling bright and finally ready to go.
A bus took the runners to lake Geneva and at eight o'clock the gun went off.
Everyone took off at a fairly fast pace. I got to the first checkpoint and realised that my pace was too fast even though it felt like jogging. So I forced myself to ease up and enjoy the scenery. Temperatures rose to about 28°C and making sure to drink plenty of water was crucial.
Then finally, I approached the long and steep climb after 3,5 hours and ran up the first part. The trails became so steep and narrow after a while that I was faster hiking up. Checkpoint 3 was put up inside a mountain hut. After a short stop I caught up another woman not realising what place we're in.
Soon the clouds moved in bringing severe thunder and lightning. The descent was difficult to run and gave me a flavor of what to expect of the Swiss Jura trails.
Surprisingly I came 2nd lady in just over 5hrs33 minutes feeling refreshed. In the back of my mind, I knew that I had taken it easily and was looking forward to Day 2 already.
After a hot shower and putting on four layers of clothing I finally got warm and said good-bye to my husband and the girls. They'd be back on Wednesday waiting at the stage finish in La-Chaux-de-Fonds. A huge motivation booster and something to really look forward to!
Later on, I found out that you can book massages with either of the five physios. From Sunday onwards, I had a massage every day. Only after the fourth stage I decided to book the massage after dinner at eight o'clock. With just under twelve hours of recovery it did my legs a lot better than getting massaged straight after running.
In terms of equipment, I had filled the bladder pak of my Nathan backpack with 1.5 litres of water. Right from the start I drank 6-8 big mouthfuls every fifteen minutes.
This rhythm worked well for me in the desert, too. In training I had practiced this routine a lot. Aware that you can't plan everything to 100% perfection I had a lot of confidence to stick to this plan and improvise if needed.
At 5.30 pm the top three runners of each category were announced and information about the next stage and the weather forecast was given.
Dinner was served around six o'clock but sadly vegetarians, not even discussing vegans here, had to stick to salads and vegetables. The kitchen crew was very helpful, though, and agreed to cooking the sweet potato I'd brought from home. You only have to ask!
To my surprise I found out that evening that Cecile, the leading woman, and her husband are also living a vegan diet. It was reassuring that other athletes seem to thrive on a plant-based diet, too.
Another observation I had made was that many male runners drank a bottle (or two??) of beer by late afternoon while loading up on carbohydrates at the same time. It seemed somewhat bizarre to me to consume alcohol during a race that takes everything out of you. Were they purely treating themselves after the day's excertion or peer-grouping?
I was wondering for how many days these guys would continue drinking alcohol? Hey, you're kidding! It ain't no good for your recovery against all that's been said about alcohol aiding recovery. We're talking a serious 7-day-ultra- race here and not a two-hour-run around the block!! --
Cuddled up in my sleeping bag lying on a very comfortable mat I couldn't wait to get up at five o'clock, ready for Day 2.
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