Race Report: 25th Edition Of Jungfrau Marathon Race
I did not know about the existence of this event not until I bought a New Zealand Trail Running Magazine at the Auckland International Airport on my way back to Manila after finishing the 2017 Tarawera 100K Ultra Marathon Race. The registration period was scheduled to be opened on the day of my arrival in Manila which was in the middle of February this year. I immediately signed in on the very first day of registration period and I was surprised that there were 800+ runners who have registered already!
I was accepted immediately as there was no lottery and the registration would be closed once the number of registered runners would reach to 5,000 runners. After 3 days, the registration was closed and it appeared in the entry list that I am the only runner from the Philippines to be registered and accepted for this year’s edition which happens to be its 25th edition. Having been not so lucky to be accepted for the CCC of the UTMB Races, I found this race to be an opportunity for me to visit, for the first time, the Europe Continent!
After a month, I registered also for the 80th edition of the Mt Fuji Mountain Race (which I saw an article also in the same New Zealand Trail Magazine I bought at the Auckland International Airport) which only takes only the first 50 registered runners from other countries. The reason why I registered in this race was also an opportunity to visit Japan for the first time!
Research & Planning
I found out that a Pinoy Runner had finished in last year’s edition of the event and I was able to read a news article on Cebu Daily News Online Edition about the feat of Dr. Yong Larrazabal, a low-key Pinoy Marathoner who goes to international cities to join marathon races and a fast runner at that. He was able to finish the race in less than five hours, having been a consistent sub-4-hour finisher in flatter marathon races. Through Messenger, I sent him some questions on how he was able to reach Interlaken, Switzerland coming from Manila. He told me that his point of entry in Switzerland was in Zurich and drove a car to Interlaken. That was all, I did not ask him about the details of the race as every information related to the event is on the English version of the Event’s Website, to include the Route Map, Elevation Profile, Cut-Off Times, and Aid Stations. From their Website, any runner would conclude that this is a well-organized marathon race. The only problems that a runner would solve would be his/her travel/trip arrangements; accommodation; and availability of money…and be healthy and prepared to finish the event.
Training & Preparation
On the last quarter of last year (2016), I decided to enjoy my retirement and be more focused to joining international running events in countries/continents where I’ve never been to. This was the reason why I decided to join the Tarawera 100 Ultra in Rotoura, New Zealand, a reason to visit New Zealand for the first time! After I was accepted at the Mt Fuji Mountain Race, I immediately made a scheduled plan where I would be joining these international race up to the 3rd quarter of 2017. I will still be joining local races but they will be considered as my training and evaluation races to find out if I am improving or not or if I am making good with my training and not “slacking” on my fitness condition. I maybe old at 65 years old but I know I could still find out some potentials on where and how my body strength is still capable of doing.
I decided to get the services of a Professional Coach on Ultrarunning and I started my training in the middle of June of this year. The first two weeks were more on developing my endurance but with better recovery as compared from my previous training schedules. I started to be exposed on quality training with more elevation and intensity on the 3 weeks of training leading to the Mt Fuji Mountain Race through “hill repeats” and tempo runs in my Playground. I have observed that I was getting stronger on my uphill runs and climbs and I am beginning to love faster running in some sections of my route. I may have been short of the time allocated in one of the checkpoints at the Mt Fuji Mountain Race, thus, I declared myself as DNF but I have observed a great improvement in my running on uphills and climbs! I am still in awe and surprised how I was able to continuously run an elevation gain of 4,000 feet for a distance of 10 kilometers in 1 hour & 30 minutes. Before, I would be hiking already after covering a distance of 3-4 kilometers. I knew that my preparation and training for the Mt Fuji Mountain Race was short from being perfect. But I considered my first race after being Coached by a Professional as a part of my training for my future races.
My training for the Jungfrau Marathon was very specific on the 4 weeks after the Mt Fuji Mountain Race, leading to the first weekend of September. I was again exposed to more “hill repeats” and “tempo runs” which were done on steep climbs in my Playground. And in one of my 20-minute tempo runs on a rolling terrain, I have observed that I was getting faster on my pace per mile for few seconds, little increments of improvement, but this is a good result of my training. On my peak training, I would go to Kennon Road (Zigzag Road to Baguio City) and run continuously the last 17 kilometers before reaching Baguio City which I covered in 2.5 hours. Aside from that, I spent my weekend back-to-back runs in Mt Tapulao, Palauig, Zambales and Mt Roosevelt where I would be running under the rain and cold temperature of Mt Tapulao. On my taper week towards the race, I had my one-hour recovery runs each day and fully-charged sleeps every night (7-8 hours of sleep).
I attempted to apply a Shengen Visa with the French Embassy but I was asked to apply, instead to the Swiss Embassy since I will be staying more days in Switzerland. Since I did not bring any Passbook of my Bank accounts when I applied for the Swiss Visa (I only submitted a Bank Certificate), I was asked to submit a Bank Statement for the last 6 months. Unfortunately, my Bank could only issue me my 3 months of Bank Statement and I have to request to their Main Office and wait for 1 week for the said documents. Instead of waiting for one to two weeks, I went to AFPSLAI to get whatever the Swiss Embassy would require in order to tell them that I am capable of paying my trip and stay in Switzerland. In less than 15 minutes, I was able to get a Bank Statement for the past 15 years in only ONE page!
As of this time, I have not yet received my Bank Statement from the local commercial bank which caters to my banking needs for the past 30 years! And come to think of it, this is the oldest bank of the Philippines!
I found out that the Swiss Embassy is very strict on trying to monitor my movements/trips within their country to the point that they would like to know where I will stay for the duration of my visit in their country. I just realized the reason why when I was finally in front of the Swiss Immigration Officer when I landed in Geneva, Switzerland. The Swiss Immigration do not require their visitors to submit or fill-up an Immigration Card. They simply check your visa and mark it with a stamp indicating your date of entry in the country!
I made reservation for my flight arrangements with the Travel Agency that had been very helpful to me for the past 17 years and I was booked with the Qatar Airways with a stop-over in Doha, Qatar for 2.5 hours. My hotel accommodations reservations were personally made by me through OnLine on booking.com. And used the Google to its fullest for the trip/land travel arrangements.
I did not ask for any sponsors or made any requests from my friends in the corporate and government offices or came up with a running event to raise funds in order to support my logistical needs for this event. Joining this event is a personal choice and endeavor and I don’t want anybody to have the burden in supporting me.
Even if I am the ONLY Filipino runner in this year’s edition of the event, there is no need to brag about it. This is the reason why I don’t wave or display the RP Flag whenever I finish an international running event. I am just an ordinary and private Filipino runner enjoying my retired life!
My hotel, Hotel Central Continental, is 50 meters away from the Interlaken West Train Station and about one kilometer away from the Starting Area of the Race and Das Zelt, the place where the Race Exposition and Race Packet Kit Claiming Area is located, is just on the Public Park adjacent to the Starting Area. After checking-in at my Hotel, I immediately went to the Race Packet Kit Claiming area where it is located and I was able to get my Race Bib, Drop Bag at the Finish Line Tag, Event’s Magazine, and an ASICS Hydration Pack (Black).
The 5,000 runners in this race were divided into 6 groups——Elite Runners & 1st Wave and 2nd Wave to the 6th Wave. The Elite Runner and 1st Wave would start at 8:30 AM and my group, which is the 6th and last group would start at 8:55 AM. Each group would be released every 5 minutes of which was done for the first time in this event.
I was on my way to the Starting Line when the 1st Wave was released at exactly 8:30 AM. I entered my corral when the 2nd Wave was released and I had enough time to position myself with the rest of the runners in my Wave. Every time a Wave was released we would move forward nearer to the Starting Line. It was time to check my AMIHAN Go Light Race Belt for my IPod Touch, gels, light jacket, and power bars and they were all properly stashed on my waist.
At exactly 8:55 AM, all the runners in my Wave which were easily identifiable by their race bib numbers beginning with the number 6 and myself started to jog and easily claimed my spot a few meters away from the Starting Line. The runners were not crowded at the start and I simply relaxed and imagined that my first 15-20 minutes were my warm-up runs during my training. After two miles, I started to increase my pace as the course would be flat and paved. As we left the center of the City of Interlaken, it started to drizzle and the announcement before the race started that it will be rainy and cold during the course was becoming a reality. It is even anticipated that it will be foggy and very cold once we will be reaching the last 15K towards the Finish Line.
Before reaching Mile 4, I was already passing the tail-end of those runners on Wave 5 and I was surprised. Such observation inspired me to maintain my pace and steadily move forward. There are portions of the flat sections which are wide dirt road with crushed gravel which you might think that the event is a trail running event. I have observed that I would pass some runners on the uphills but some of them would pass me on the downhill. It was a no big deal on my part since these runners would look like they are half younger than my age!
I reached the 6.2 Mile Mark (10K) in 56:22 minutes in the town of Wilderswil where there was an Aid Station. I took one of my GU Gels and then took at least two cups of water as I was sweating a lot even if it was drizzling. I was too nervous that I might be cut-off in this Checkpoint, thus, I was running faster than what I have planned. The cut-off time here is 9:55 AM or one hour from our Wave 6 start. So, I have less than 4 minutes as cushion as I passed this checkpoint. Based from my recorded split, I was ranked #2,832. At Kilometer #15, where the cut-off time is 10:25 AM or 1:30 hour elapsed time, I was able to gain one minute as additional cushion time where I timed at 1:25:47 hours but my rank decreased to #3,031. It could be that I slowed down or the other runners who started slower are starting to pick-up their pace at this point.
After I passed the beautiful town of Lauterbrunnen and reached the checkpoint at Km #21, my time registered at 2:11:34 and my rank decreased to #3,244 and it was due to brief walking at the Aid Station to grab some water, take in some bananas and GU Gel. But I was able to gain another almost one minute as cushion from the cut-off time of 2:17:00. From Km #21 to Km #25, it was slight uphill at the start but once you cross a river, it is almost slight flat and downhill. However, after reaching Km #25 where I timed in in 2:40:23 hours and placed #3,279, it was now the start of a steep switchbacks which are more than 15 turns going up to the mountain. However, I was able to gain a total of cushion time here for almost 8 minutes! It was raining harder at this point and I was starting to feel the air to be thin and cold that my hands were starting to get numb. I brought out my Patagonia Light Jacket (Waterproof) from my AMIHAN Race “Go Lite” Belt and zippered it all the way to my chin to keep my body warm. I would hide my palms from the sleeves of my Jacket just to keep them warm!
Before reaching the next checkpoint at Km #30, I had the urge to pee and I decided to just approach one of the trees beside the road and took my time to unload my urine. This is where I had been overtaken or passed by 50 runners! But once I reached the checkpoint, my time was 3:39:57 hours and I was ranked #3,329! But I was able to gain a total cushion time of 13 minutes!
From Km #35, it was the start of the steep uphill climb to the peak of the mountain, it was still raining and the temperature was going down to freezing cold. This is where I remember my training in Kennon Road leading up to Baguio (17 kilometers) and my uphill climb in Mt Tapulao (14 kilometers) during a rainy and inclement weather! I started to hike strongly and then jog from time to time on those steep ascents and flat portions of the course. At checkpoint Km #38, my time was 5:12:18 hours and I was ranked #3,325, an improvement of 4 slots and have a cushion time of 15 minutes. At this point, it was already a “conga line” of runners on the steepest part of the course and it was raining, foggy, and with muddy single-track trail.
I got to make my move as the other runners in front of me were too slow in their hike towards the peak. I would start to jog, get out of the trail to pass the slower ones, one at a time, until I reached the peak of the mountain. The last one kilometer was downhill and I started to run, braving the cold wind, thick fog, rain, and thin air! Finally, I crossed the finish line together with some of the runners with an official time of 6:14:17 hours!
I was surprised to find out that I was able to pass 64 runners on the steepest part of the course even if it was cold, building up a cushion time of almost 16 minutes before the the cut-off time of 6:30 hours. However, as I reviewed the official result, I found out that the Race Organizer decided to adjust the course cut-off time to 7:00 hours! Maybe, it was due to the inclement weather during the race. I am glad the race was not stopped even when it was raining hard on the last few hours of the event.
Out of 95 starters on my Age Category of 65 years old and above, I placed/ranked #60. Out of the almost 5,000 runners, I was ranked #3,261.
The Marathon Race has an elevation gain of 8,406 feet and elevation loss of 3,386 feet.
Not bad for an old 65 years old runner from a tropical country finishing a marathon race in the Swiss Alps!
To be continued.