Like almost all other races, we had to cancel the 2020 Swiss Alps 100 due to COVID-19. We took that opportunity to re-evaluate the entire race and make sure runners got the best experience possible. During this time, we found a new start/finish location which was not only very central to all three race courses, but it also offered other activities like mini-golf, beach volleyball, climbing walls, indoor swimming pool, a rope park and much more. So, while a parent is running, their spouse can entertain the kids. Moreover, real showers and bathrooms at the start and finish are appreciated by the runners. It’s a true win-win all around.
Since we moved the start/finish location, we had to adjust the course of the 100-mile race. The start is now very similar to the Western States 100 with a challenging 4.5 miles uphill and an elevation gain of 3,850 feet to the first aid station. All of the race distances are now running along the longest glacier in the Swiss Alps, the 14-mile-long Aletsch glacier, which was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2001. It’s a true privilege to be there. Along the way, there are three suspension bridges, a big dam, many small villages and even cows to feast your eyes on.
Like we did in 2019, we offered three different race distances, a 50k (9,646 feet elevation gain), a 100k (20,079 feet) and the 160k with an incredible 32,317 feet total gain. Think Hardrock 100 but in Switzerland. Starting in 2022, we will offer one more distance which will be a vertical race just 6 miles long, but with a total elevation gain of over 6,000 feet. The start is at the same resort and the finish at the Breithorn, with fantastic views of the Aletsch glacier and the Swiss Alps, including the Matterhorn. Runners then can take the gondola from the finish back to the starting line.
Since the inaugural race back in 2017, we’ve grown a lot. We had 50 registrations at our first event and this year we had 511 runners in total. Due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, we ended up with 300 actual race starters. The oldest finisher was Jeanneret-Grosjean Claude (age 66) who ran the 50k, and the youngest was Völter Lars (age 20) who ran the 100k. Starting Friday to Sunday, weather included blue skies all the way, but temperatures were unusually hot.
On Friday morning 8:30 a.m., the 160k (100-mile) runners started. Matthieu Girard (Switzerland) and Antoine Bouchet (France) were leading the race until the Binn aid station (63.7 miles) where Antoine sadly had to stop due to massive cramps in his legs. From there on, Matthieu was on the front finishing at 26:24:44, almost two hours before the second-place finisher.
On the female side, Katharina Hartmuth (Switzerland) ran a smart race, taking it easy to the first aid station. When she arrived in Kühboden (4.5 miles) at 1:20:25 she was already first-place female and 20th overall. Slowly, she passed other runners along the course and finished in 30:17:25 and fourth overall. Katharina was also first female in the 2018 100k.
The 100k distance started on Saturday morning at 6 a.m., and Marchet Schicktanz Gian (Switzerland) was leading the race from the start, finishing in 12:04:33. On the female side, it was the same situation where Charlotte D’Alençon (Switzerland) led from the start and won the race, also placing sixth overall in 15:37:29.
Lastly, in the 50k distance Dylan Vogt (Switzerland) won in 6:11:55 and Vanessa Schätzle (Germany) was the first female in 6:49:51 and seventh overall.
Looking forward to 2022, with hopefully fewer COVID-19 restrictions, we are aiming to reach 1,000 registrations. In fact, if we do reach 1,000 registrations, I will tattoo the race logo on my right calf on race weekend.