Inspirational Trails 2: The Valais Switzerland
Written By: SportsShoes
In our second instalment of ‘Inspirational Trails’, England international Joe Baxter, shares one of his favourite trail running memories, as he recalls his experience of competing in the Sierre-Zinal race, 2019.
Before last year, the legendary Sierre-Zinal Race had been on my mountain running ‘bucket list’ for many years.
Located in the Valais Alps, Switzerland, the route treats its competitors to stunning views of five of the most famous 4000+ metre peaks in the region; the Weisshorn, Ober Gablehorn, Dent Blanche, Zinalrothorn, and the Matterhorn. This alone, was reason enough for me to compete!
Lining up before the start, it felt very surreal to be standing alongside many of the world’s most famous trail runners; Kilian Jornet, Jim Walmsley and Ruth Croft (to name but a few). A daunting experience, but one I’ll never forget. The quality and depth of the field is all part of the magic and appeal of Sierre-Zinal.
Over the years I’d heard numerous stories about the carnival atmosphere of this famous race. And what an atmosphere it was! Every drinks station, along with many other parts of the route, felt more like a party in full swing than a trail race. The electricity and energetic buzz of the event did not diminish at any point throughout the entire 31km route.
For me, this unique race was both extremely challenging and rewarding. The finish line is much higher than the start, which meant I spent most of my race running uphill! The first climb was relentless, exceptionally steep for 10km, with 1700 metres of ascent, putting all the competitors on their limit from the off (with perhaps the exception of Kilian and co!)
But it was here, at this point, where the race really began to reveal its beauty, living up to its claim as one of the most scenic trail races in the world. Reminiscing conjures up unforgettable images of the Alps in my mind.
Towards the end of the last climb, I could see the distinct image of the famous Hotel Weisshorn, slowly beginning to appear in the distance. I passed hundreds of spectators as I approached, who greeted every athlete with shouts of encouragement and rapturous applause. My final reward was another spectacular view of the Matterhorn and the perfect race photograph to capture the moment (FEATURE PHOTO).
Sierre-Zinal remains one of the most thrilling and exhilarating experiences of my life. This race is an absolute must for any avid trail runner.
This post originally appeared on the SportsShoes.com Strava Run Club: Inspirational Trails Part 2: The Valais Switzerland.