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Swissalpine Ultramarathon Davos

08/08/2011

The Swissalpine ultramarathon is the biggest mountain ultramarathon in the world, involving climbing and descending 2400m over the Alpine course with the highest point being the Sertig Pass at 2750m. This year six hardy Dumfries Running Club members travelled out to Davos for the challenge with 4 of them joining some of the world’s best endurance runners for the race.

Craig Malcolmson, Seb Pflanz and Jo Zakrzewski were running the 79.1km race with Liz Smart taking on the 42.2km challenge and whilst Doug Brown and Carolyn Hunter-Rowe were unable to compete due to injuries, they both put in the miles as race support on mountain bikes.

Fresh snowfall on the first night came as a bit of a surprise to the sea-level dwellers (Davos is the highest town in the Alps at an altitude of 1560m above sea level), but it did not prevent the acclimatisation programme of funicular railways, cablecars, mountain walks, random runs, tobogganing, snowball fights and even a 5 mile race.

Race day dawned as the sunniest day so far - Craig, Seb and Jo set off steadily at 7am, shedding thermals to the support team of Mary Pflanz and Pat Malcolmson as they ran through the town. The race started off on road and then developed onto a variety of forest roads, tunnels, viaducts, railway crossings, wooded paths and alpine trails, where the runners met up with Doug, Mary and Pat for drinks and photo opportunities. Liz started her run over the most mountainous part of the course at 10:30am and so met up with Craig and Seb en route, with Carolyn joining the support team.

After a cautious start, Jo worked her way up through the field to contest a very close race with Sweden’s Kajsa Berg for the medals; with Jo closing her down in the final kilometres only 4 seconds separated them at the end with Jo finishing in 7hrs 36minutes. This result should earn Jo an offer from the organisers’ to take part in next year’s race as she was the only one of the top 6 finishers not to have been invited this year and the only one amongst them competing for the first time.

The Dalbeattie boys ran most of the way together, even taking time to pose for the photographers. In his usual manner Craig showed no fear on the rocky descents, which gave him a slight advantage over Sebastian and although Seb closed him down in the final stages through the forest, Craig maintained his lead with the pair finishing in their respective times of 9:26 and 9:29.

With a later start time and with both race routes merging, Liz was running over the high passes at the same time as the others, so all the club members were able to offer each other encouragement. Liz has run in the event several times before so knew what to expect and looked to have thoroughly enjoyed the race as she finished with a wave in 6:30.

Sweden’s Jonas Buud continued his dominance of the event winning for the 5th year in succession whilst now Swiss based world champion Lizzy Hawker was victorious in the women’s race in a time of 7 hours 16 minutes.

There was a great party atmosphere (with most welcome chips and beer) at the finish, and although all 4 DRC racers thought it was the most scenic race they have run, may never want to hear the sound of

 cowbells and the local shouts of "Super!" and "Hupp, hupp, hupp" for some time!

 

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