Jungfrau World Long Distance Trail Running Championship

Monday, September 24, 2012

Jungfrau Marathon

By Jason Bryant

Loud.  Vociferous.  Rowdy.  That’s how I’d describe racing Jungfrau Marathon.  The Swiss are serious about mountain running.  There may have been thousands of spectators scattered along the course.  The start was lined with spectators along long barriers on either side.  All seemed to be screaming and cheering at max volume.  Those along the railing were beating the signage to create a thundering tunnel to run through.  At 4K we looped back through for a second trip into the thunder tunnel.  Soon I’d passed by a line of spectators ring cow bells.  It would only be the first of many.  These were real cow bells varying from coffee can sized to 5 gallon bucket size.  It was nearly deafening at times.  It was awesome to be experiencing such passion and excitement for a mountain marathon.  It mirrored how I feel about the sport.

Jungfrau Marathon was also the World Long Distance Mountain Running Challenge for 2012.  There were individuals from over 20 countries, plus 13 countries field full teams to compete for individual and team world champion titles.  I was blessed to be running with four great guys to represent the USA.  To describe the course a little, the first 10k of the course is quite flat and then climbs rather gradually to about 26k.  Along the way we’d pass through a couple of villages and crowds of spectators.  Around 26k the course turns sharply up.  I had been feeling good and holding close to my planned splits through this point.  I got to top of this steep climb moving well and ready to settle into a good rhythm for the next 7-8k of steady climbing.  This section provides beautiful views of mountain peaks Jungfrau, Eiger, and Monch.  We passed through two more crowded villages of spectators on this steady climb.  Unfortunately, during this section my race began to come unraveled.  I felt my back tighten up right at my danger zone of 2 to 2 ½ hours.  I hoped to push through but those kilometer splits began to drift too long.  It was going to be a rough battle to make the finish line.

Yet I couldn’t help but appreciate the beauty surrounding me. As I slowly climbed, I heard a thundering off in the distance to my right.  I turned to see an avalanche tumbling down the rock faced Jungfrau.  The avalanche slid down to the sheer cliff and off into a snow shower, floating several hundred feet to the meadow below.  It was amazing to be here no matter how my body may have been betraying me.  As I approached the final steep climb, a guy commented, “You didn’t come here to feel good.”  I wish I could have used those words to push strongly to the finish.  It wasn’t going to happen that day, but I’ll file that one away for use at a future race.  Instead of the strong final climb that I’d planned, I was surviving, slowly, to the top.  Although I knew my time would not count for our team, I felt compelled to give my teammates whatever my body would allow.  A DNF was not an option that day.  It is hard mentally when race days don’t go as I hope.  Fortunately, I had

teammates to depend on for this race’s team championship.  It’s not really my personality to depend on others.  I prefer being the one others rely on.  But that was not how things went at Jungfrau.  Maybe I had more to learn about myself.  I was privileged to have such wonderful teammates in Sage Canaday, Galen Burrell, ZacFreudenburg, and Josh Ferenc.  They led our team USA to a silver medal finish.  In talking to the guys, I believe we all pushed to do what we could that day for one another and our team.  Working as a team made Jungfrau Marathon special for me.  I may have struggled, but I felt I was struggling for our team and learned to lean on others.  I was blessed to have such a great group of guys to lean on.  I say a sincere thanks to all of you guys.

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