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Running for fun

Last Saturday morning some 700 runners gathered in Bendern, Liechtenstein to embark on a grueling race to pay homage to our running ancestors.  The 12th annual Liechtenstein Alpine Marathon takes runners from the small town of Bendern, known for producing Malbuner cured ham to the town of Malbun where the meat traditionally comes from. Runners start with a nice flat run from Bendern to the Rhine, which they follow to the capital of Vaduz. From Vaduz the alpine part kicks in with an ascension of 1800 to Malbun. 


The weather forecast during the week leading up to the event was never promising. The prognosis called for rain, but then it had so often called for rain at the weekend and the weather was brilliant. Getting up at 4:30 am on Saturday, the rain was coming down torrentially in Zurich. However, by the time I set out from my flat it had ceased to rain and the sky was opening up in the west. A good omen I thought to myself and I ran for the train. The temperature was also quite mild and I thought the nice weather would follow me to Liechtenstein.


Enjoying a great Swiss breakfast of Birchermüesli that I had prepared the night before I was at once excited and nervous about my second alpine marathon. I had only run one marathon so far this year and hadn’t done any mountain tours so the elevation had me a little worried, too. I looked out the window and saw that tears of rain were rolling down the windows. Evidently it was still raining. After a train and two buses I arrived in Bendern with my best friend, set to run her first alpine half-marathon.


Arriving in Bendern we saw a handful of runners warming up and many more ducked under the eaves of buildings trying to avoid getting wet before they had to. Before you run a marathon it’s always a good idea to go to the toilet. On my way to the most high-tech porta-potty I stepped into a huge puddle and my feet were already soaking. So much for staying dry.


At exactly 9 am the gun fired and the 700 runners started off on their way. Most people were going at a healthy trot. Keeping energy in reserve for the climb is vital. As we made our way towards the Rhine we had to dodge lake sized puddles that had built up over the past few days of rain. Running along the Rhine it was still amazing to see how low the actual water levels were.


Arriving in Vaduz marked the end of the flat run. From here it went up. Already many people were asking themselves what they were thinking. As we passed the Prince’s castle overlooking Vaduz the climb continued. In the woods the rain lightened thanks to the protection of the trees, but we entered a think fog and the massive exodus of people in the forest made the run feel more like a scene of some post apocalyptic film than a marathon.


Going up a steep hill gives you two options. If you’re practiced and disciplined it means small light steps bouncing off the front of your foot. If that doesn’t work for you you’re better off power hiking. At these points there is hardly anyone running, except when they feel short bursts of energy that allow them to pass a few runners.


Getting out of the forest the rain seemed to come down even heavier and the rise in in altitude meant that the temperature dropped. At some points I could hardly feel my arms. After reaching the Silum we descended to Steg, the end of the LGT Half-Marathon Plus. The increase in tempo had us loosen up again and blood started to flow into our arms, but the mud was slippery and each step had to be calculated.


In Steg we were greeted by cheering friends, which gave me that little bit of energy to move it up a notch for the last 17km. The ascent to Sassförkle was tough, but the rain was letting up so many people were happy. Coming over Turna you could hear the people in Malbun, but it was not a simple descent into the town but a high tour around the town of 5km hearing the finishing times and names of racers the entire way.


Crossing the finish line I was relieved and very happy to have run it. I love running, rain or shine, flat or hills, it feels great to get out there. Though I always want to run better than I did in the past, I never look at other runners as my competitors, but rather as my companions. If you ever go to watch a mountain marathon one thing you’ll find is that many of the marathoners are happier upon finishing than in city marathons. It might be because they are tougher and more trained, but I think it is because most people who do mountain marathons just love to run. Running makes them happy.

Written by: Christian Langenegger, co-founder of Marathon Sprachen 

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