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  • Writer's pictureDeborah Kade

Jungfrau Marathon Interlaken, Switzerland

"The Jungfrau Marathon is one of the best known mountain marathons in the world, in full view of the famous Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau mountains in the Bernese Oberland area of the Swiss Alps." That is the statement in the brochures.

Today was the 25th running of the Jungfrau Marathon. There were runners representing 65 countries but I didn't catch the actual number of runners today. People came from as far off as Thailand and Columbia. I just wished it hadn't rained. It was only spitting rain at the start but when the last person reached the 3km mark, it was becoming a steady rain. Can't imagine running over 6 hours in a very cold rain.

It is 26.219 kilometers, 1,829 meter altitude difference, 4,000 plus entries that sell out every year. These are the figures that make the Jungfrau-Marathon special. But it’s not just about the numbers – it’s also about the breathtakingly beautiful landscape along the entire course that makes both runners and spectators marvel again and again. Pure nature at its most spectacular!

The first Jungfrau Marathon was held in 1993. Approximately 3,500 runners from 35 different nations participate.

The 2007 edition of the competition incorporated the World Long Distance Mountain Running Challenge and attracted 4200 participants from 50 countries.

A half hour before the 8:30 start, the flag throwers and alphorn players entertain the runners and spectators by the start line.

After the alphorn players and the flag throwers, they play the Swiss national anthem just before the starting gun. Everything is so well timed.

A drone flew overhead for all the aerial shots.

My favorite photographer was taking pictures of all the starting activities. I need to find out which paper he works for. He enjoys making people pose in positions he wants.

They ran the marathon quite differently this year. I should have known something was different as they had set up a map at the end of the Höhematte. The direction of the marathon was reversed. Also, they staggered the start in 7 different blocks.

First, they let the elite group start.

After 2 mintutes and 30 seconds, the next group was started and so on until the last block of people. The runners usually run around the Interlaken so you see them twice. Today, depending where you were standing, you didn't see them or you only saw them once. I know that is confusing to follow but it was confusing to me as I have seen it run the same way every year except for this year. Well, things don't stay the same.

The 26.219 mile (42.195-kilometers) course starts in Interlaken and climbs 5,960 feet (1,823 meters) in elevation to the finish at the Kleine Scheidegg.

The start in Interlaken reveals a clue as to where the journey will end. A glimpse of the Jungfrau, one of the iconic Alpine trio of peaks besides the Mönch and Eiger, sets the course. Today, they only saw fog and clouds. The first 10 kilometers of the course are flat. The race begins in central Interlaken and circles around the town center before moving east to Bönigen, where runners briefly run along the shore and turquoise water of Lake Brienz. The race proceeds southwards to Wilderswil at the 10 kilometer mark. From there, the course heads upward through Zweilütschinen (at 15 kilometers) to Lauterbrunnen (at 20 kilometers). The course loops for 5 kilometers south of the town before returning to Lauterbrunnen and then heading eastward up the alp-side. It is at this point that the race is steepest, zigzagging up the hillside and climbing 450 meters in the 5 kilometers to Wengen. The course heads southeast and relentlessly upward over the Wengernalp, turning east and then northeast beneath the Eiger toward the finish. It reaches its highest point of 7,234 feet (2,205 meters) around the 40 kilometer point, and then heads steeply downhill for the last kilometer to the finish at Kleine Scheidegg at an altitude of 2061 meters. At the highest point the runners are traditionally greeted by a bagpipe player.

The atmosphere and enthusiasm along the entire route, underscored by flag throwers, alphorn players and bell ringers, are what bring this event together to a fascinating whole.

The only American to win was Stevie Kremer in 2012. She is an American ski mountaineer and long-distance runner. Kremer was born in Bad Soden, Germany. She attended Darien High School, and afterwards Colorado College. She currently lives in Crested Butte, Colorado, and works as a second-grade teacher at the Crested Butte Community School.

This lady was the last person at the 3 km mark. Notice the "sweepers" following.

People clapped to give her encouragement.

By now, you should also recognize the tall man in the picture. I went to talk with him today for a few minutes. I congratulated him on his steinstossen victory. I was misinformed. He is not a fireman. He has something to do with police and safety. I stopped at the tourist center as there was no one there. I asked about Peter and they told me if I am ever lost or need help, he is the person to see. I was told he does just about everything.

Later on this afternoon, they will have a few bands perform at the Höhematte when the runners finally start back to Interlaken to get their time printouts and the belongings they left at the start line. If the runners cross the finish line, they will receive a shirt that says "finisher" and a medal depending on their finish time.

I will skip the entertainment this year as I don't want to stand out in the rain. Instead, I will head to Zürich as Michael arrives later tonight.

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