Every year, 800 runners face the challenge of running from St. Niklaus to Riffelberg in the Gornergrat Zermatt Marathon. Géraldine’s experience shows the challenge of the 42.2 kilometres and 1,944 metres difference in altitude.
On your marks, get set, go
Géraldine’s gaze was on the ground. She could feel the fresh air around her legs. She had goosebumps. Her shoes were tightly laced. When the starting signal sounded, she clenched her hands into a fist. She was on her way. Around her there were hundreds of people from all over the world. They all had the same goal: the Riffelberg at 2,585 m.a.s.l.
It was just after 8.30 am in St. Niklaus on that sunny Saturday morning in July. When Géraldine ran past the cheering spectators, she had to grin. She remembered exactly what it was like to be on the sidelines, on her father’s shoulders, and cheer on the crowd herself. Her mother had been a runner in the first Zermatt Marathon. It was snowing that day. This made her all the more grateful for the great weather. It was hard to believe that she was now taking part in the 21st Gornergrat Zermatt Marathon this year.
A challenge right up to the end
Until about half way in Zermatt, she found the run surprisingly easy. She could concentrate well on her rhythm and was motivated by the cries of the crowd. But in the middle of the Swiss pine forest just before the Sunnegga, she started to struggle. She couldn’t go on.
“Come on!” A stranger’s hand grabbed her and pulled her out of her thoughts. A young woman with a plait smiled at her. “It’s easier further up.”
When Géraldine arrived on the Sunnegga, she knew what her competitor meant. Her struggle was rewarded with a breathtaking view of the Alpine panorama. Over the next flat kilometres, she caught her breath back a little. This helped her for the final sprint and the final difference in altitude.
When she finally crossed the finish line, her legs gave in. She fell to her knees and looked at the sky as tears ran down her cheeks. She had made it and completed her first marathon. 42.2 kilometres and 1,944 metres of altitude were behind her.
Already the next destination in sight
The woman from earlier introduced herself as Stéphanie. Since getting to know each other, the two women have been training together and are planning to tackle next year’s ultra-marathon up to the Gornergrat, Europe’s highest marathon destination.