When thinking about this article and what I could compare the Jungfrau Marathon to, I thought Pikes Peak. Sure, different in altitude, but the start in town, road, then trail and mountain ascent, steep and rocky, with the mountain finish.
But even that doesn’t tell the whole story. As unlike Pikes Peak, Jungfrau has a full 25 or so road kilometers before the runners start to tackle the mountain. So, the winner of this race needs to possess basic speed, endurance and climbing ability and also able to withstand that late summer Swiss heat, which saw temps hitting 33° C (91° F) on the climbs.
The Jungfrau Marathon is no ordinary race.
It’s also reported that over 6,300 runners finished this past weekend’s 20th edition of the historic event, and that over the entire route a reported 50,000 people watched the race. With all of these attributes and when you add in the altitude gain of over 1,829 meters (6,000’), you see why this event is regarded as pretty unique and as Europe’s toughest mountain marathon.
Jungfrau’s accessible location (Interlakken, Switzerland) and amazing race weekend ambiance also made it a great location for this year’s World Long Distance Mountain Champs. We’re not sure all of the international runners out there would have agreed by the finish, as some performances would indicate it that it suited some athletes more than others, but at over 3 hours, the race was always going to test climbing skills and endurance running ability and provide very worthy winners.
The weekend’s racing is split into two days, with the ladies running on the Saturday and the men on the Sunday (with both undertaking the same route) and it was Saturday’s women’s race which provided the US with plenty to cheer about, as Stevie Kremer took the World title in 3:22:42, the fastest time for almost 10 years.
Though not part of the USA team (which was selected in mid-June), Kremer saw some impressive Team US performances behind her, which led to team gold, led by Kim Dobson in third place.
Kremer had not indicated to the team management of her desire to run, but after a strong showing (2nd place) at Sierre-Zinal in early August, she was going to be in the shake-up for this one.
She had started conservatively, making sure that first 15-20km were taken in within her threshold to leave plenty left for the mountain. As the race wore on the early Austrian and Swiss contingent began to come back to the US team runners, who were even further back on Kremer as the climb started.
Jason Bryant, the US women’s team leader and men’s participant, picks up the detail:
With the easy first 15km at Jungfrau, the race started fast. None of the American women, including Stevie, were with the front pack. At 15k, Stevie was in the second or third pack of women and Kim was a little farther back with about 1-2 minutes on the rest Melody [Fairchild], Brandy [Erholtz], Ashley [Arnold], and Gina [Lucrezi] running as a group. They all ran so smart, beginning to move up as the climbing began, then continuing to move forward as the sustained climbs of the second half of race wore on. We were able to see the women several times as we progressed from train stop to train stop, plus passing them and cheering from the train. It was pretty amazing.
Kremer’s momentum swept all aside as they raced to the finish and took the title in front of the huge and appreciative crowd. Her winning time was good enough for a nigh-on 90 second winning margin ahead of Austria’s Sabine Reiner and Dobson, who closed in third with a time of 3:26:58.
Speaking after the race Kremer stated:
The race was nothing short of spectacular. From the organisation to the support, to the course and the views, this was an amazing race. I am thrilled to have been a part of it and so proud and excited for the US team.
Dobson led home Melody Fairchild who claimed an excellent 9th, Brandy Erholtz, in 16th, Ashley Arnold in 32nd and Gina Lucrezi claiming 35th. The combined times of the first three team members make up the collective scores at the World Long Distance champs and this left the US ladies on 11:00:50, over nine minutes clear of Switzerland in 11:09:53 and Austria claiming the bronze with 11:35:39.
Further down the field France’s Aline Camboulives – the winner at Sierre-Zinal this year and the 2011 Jungfrau race – was one of the pre-race favourites but finished a creditable fourth, with world mountain running legend Angela Mudge still performing at world level in 7th on a course that didn’t really play to her strengths.
Sunday saw the day dawn and for some of the cream of world long distance mountain running to toe the start line for the men’s race. Though conditions for the runners were very similar to those for the women the previous day, the race pattern could not have been more different as 2011 Jungfrau Marathon winner Markus Hohenwarter (Austria) took the gold, after leading for much of the 42km.
The Austrian was shadowed for the first 20 km or so by Kenya’s Hosea Tuei, but course knowledge played a big part as Hohenwarter took it on as they hit the mountain with a large injection of pace, dropping Tuei.
He never really looked back from that point and was cheered on by an enthusiastic and knowledgeable crowd to win in 2:59:42. It was a pretty good job that the race ended after 42km though as 2011 WLDMRC champ Mitja Kosovelj (3:00:47) of Slovenia absolutely carved through the field in the second half of the race to take silver. Tuei (3:01:24) held on for the bronze.
Patrick Weiser of Switzerland finished in 4th with the US’ Sage Canaday claiming a superb 5th and leading the USA men’s team to more medal honours, as they added silver to the women’s gold on the previous day.
Switzerland took the team title in 9:32:11, with the US earning the silver on 9:38:20 and Germany claiming the bronze with a cumulative time of 9:42:22.
A short race film can be seen here.