Project Davos: Racing the Swiss Alpine Marathon

What a long day we had on Saturday. Bed and Sudip felt very different on the morning of the race. Sudip was full of beans. “I’m ready for the race,” he told us over breakfast. Bed, though, had had a bad dream. He had dreamt his father was scolding him for running, and it unsettled him. Dreams have a funny way of doing that.

But the race start waits for no man, and off we went to a fanfare of race activity. The loudspeakers were blaring dance music, there were thousands of people, banners, noise, spectators, officials, runners…. Very different to the races Bed and Sudip have taken part in.

Swiss Alpine Marathon start line

Bed and Sudip on the starting line of the Swiss Alpine Marathon.

Yet deftly they wormed their way through the crowding runners to the start line and took their place in the elite section. Dwarfed by all the long and gangly Europeans. And off they went. Within the first few kilometers they were up there with the leaders and holding the pace well.

Davos starts with a 39km (25 mile) section of tarmac road, which had made the boys nervous all week. They didn’t know how to run on it, it slowed them down and hurt their legs. So to be with the leaders and looking comfortable was encouraging.

We next caught up with them at 39km and the leaders were now spread out. The leading man was incredible, covering the distance in 2 hours 40 and looking like he could go on forever. Bed and Sudip weren’t on his shoulders, and I would never expect them to keep that pace with only three months training.

Bed came by first in 2 hours 50 and struggling with his stomach – maybe the Swiss water? The food? – but he was confident in carrying on, and was running a super pace. Sudip was another 10 minutes back and glad the tarmac was over.

Nepali Swiss Alpine Marathon

Bed finishing the Swiss Alpine Marathon.

Up over the mountain they went, and we would next see them at the finish. The burly Swede won the race in a blistering 5 hours 48 minutes. An incredible race, and we waited anxiously for Bed and Sudip to appear in the stadium. Waiting, waiting, waiting. It was Bed who appeared first in 7 hours and 8 minutes, placed 25th, and Sudip a tired and pained expression on his face, in 7 hours and 35 minutes.

As I raced over to congratulate them, “well done,” I said.  “No, not well done sir,” they replied, disappointed and downtrodden. They told me they’d let everyone down. They felt they could and should have run faster.

I agree that they could run faster, but I also think they ran the best they could. But think of this, I told them, there was only one other person under 30 years old in that elite group. All the elite runners had years of experience in Alpine racing and trail running. They all could run on tarmac road just as well as mountains. None of the Europeans had to contend with the overwhelming sights and sounds of their first time in a developed country. All of them did more than three months training. All of them had access to coaches, nutritionist, physios and modern training facilities.

So is their running talent in Nepal? Definitely, and Bed and Sudip’s run prove it. But as we all know talent doesn’t win anything. Hard work and determination make the difference. Determination they have in droves, but the hard training work needs to be put in.

We’re raising money through a UK registered charity to fund Bed and Sudip to train for a year, and compete in more international races.

Bed Sudip Swiss Alpine Marathon

Bed and Sudip after completing their first international race.

They have the talent, they need the time to train and to develop the experience, and more than anything they need the opportunity.