Thursday, 24 July 2014

Eiger Ultra Trail 2014; 101km of mud, rocks and sweat

"Run if you can, walk if you have to, crawl if you must. Just never give up" Dean Karnazas

Last Saturday and Sunday I ran the Eiger Ultra Trail, a 101 km ultramarathon with more than 6700 metres of elevation gain.

I arrived in Grindelwald on Thursday and went to collect my bib number on Friday morning. The race organisation was quite good for a race in this size. There was a strict equipment check at the bib number distribution which I appreciated during the race. They asked every runner to bring all the mandatory gear listed on the website in order to collect the bibs. Apart from the bib numbers we were handed out a plastic cup in order not to use many disposable cups along the way. There was also a reflective band which we had to wear after 9:30 pm.

The mandatory gear that should be carried along the way
Weighs around 4kg (including 1.5L of water)
Pasta was served from 12 to 7 pm and there was a briefing session on Friday evening at congress centre which every runner had to attend. it was an introduction to the race, the profile, number of runners and most importantly the safety precedure.

At the pasta party, staring at the finish line and wondering how I'd feel when I cross it.

The briefing

I got to the starting area at 2:40am on race day. After having breakfast at the congress centre before 3am I went to the starting area, leaving the baggage and checking the gear for the last time. There was a great atmosphere at the start, after playing the  official race soundtrack, the race started at 4:30.

All ready to go
And what a race it was from the very beginning. The first hour spent running uphill in the dark. all you could see were runners and the lights coming from their headlight. Soon after we left the village, there was a steep hill which forced most of us to walk. From then to First it was intervals of walking and running.

The race profile: serious ascent from the begining
When we got to First the routes separated and we took a loop around while the E51 runners continued towards Faulhorn. The first part of the loop was downhill and that was where everyone started running again, then after 5km came another steep uphill. It was only around 30km when I had cramps on my quads. I was given some Magnesium at Oberlager Bussalp aid station and  struggled to get to Faulhorn the highest point of the race. I laid down for a few minutes, stretched my legs and kept on running. I ran the downhill part as fast as I could. my strategy was simple. I'd run the parts that I could as fast as possible and will slow down on steep uphill parts. At the end you never know how your body will respond during an ultra. So you better make the most of it once you still got the power.

The breathtaking scenery

Close to 30km mark

Downhill running was definitely my strength point. Those downhill training really helped me finish this race 
After a quick massage in Schynige Platte which really helped loosening my cramped quads and IT band, I arrived in Burglauenen at km 53. It was the main food station in which we could get our baggage, change clothes, treat any blister or cramp, and eat a plate of pasta.

A well-deserved plate of pasta after ten hours of running

The rest of the route became so quite. You didn't see many runners around you and it seemed that as we cover more distance, there was an increasing gap between the runners. I was feeling great though and ran most of the downhill part relatively fast to Wengen.  drank a couple of cups of water, filled my bottle and the hydration pack and kept going.

This was supposed to be one of the hardest part of the course. 6km of constant steep uphill, It was indeed a vertical kilometre after more than 60km of running. I approached it and have a conversation with a guy who was also planning to run the Swiss Irontrail T81 in 4 weeks time. It was all going well, I was just sweating a lot and because of the humidity, all my clothes were soaked in sweat. It was only 20 minutes to get to Mannlichen that I ran out of water, kept going, and I started to fill dizzy and tired. The fatigue hit me so fast and so hard that I couldn't walk anymore.

A few minutes before getting to the next station and while I was seeing the stands, I sat aside the track, just managed to sit without falling down. And asked other runners if they can kindly give me a sip of water so I can drag myself to the aid station which was now on my sight. There was a guy who I don't even remember his name, he gave me half a bottle of water and I stood up after a few seconds and walked on.

Exhausted and dehydrated just before arriving to Mannlichen. Still 33km to go
When I got to the food station, had a couple of glasses of cola, and asked the guys in the medical tent if I can lay down there for ten minutes to get rid of this fatigue and diziness. The moment i laid down though I started shivering. I was shivering so badly that they came and checked my heart beat and blood pleasure, hopefully it was all fine. I ended up sleeping there for more than an hour. They talked to me about the options, I could give up right there, go to the next station and take the train to Grindelwald, or I could carry on if I wish. I already knew what I would do. So I thanked them, filled my bottles and went on.

18 hours into the race I got to Kleine Scheidegg and after a few minutes I started walking the second the last ascent of the course. Then it was downhill to Alpiglen. a few minutes after I left Alpiglen km 88, I started to fill dizzy and a few moments after that I experienced vertigo and was about to fall down. I sat there, I was only 12 km away from the finish line. But I couldn't walk. That was the moment - I have to regret - I seriously thought about giving up. I managed to hold my mobile phone and dialled the emergency line. He told me I can either go back to the last station, walk down for two kilometres when they'd pick me up or stay there and someone would come along for help. I thanked him and said I'd think about it and if I couldn't carry on I'd call him again. I closed my eyes for a few second and sat there for five minutes. Then I got up and made my way to the last station. I wanted to get there, just take a short nap and see how I'd feel after that. I went up for 100 metres or so, but then I couldn't convince myself to do so. Then I head down again and ran towards the finish line in silence and solitude. There was only me, the light from the headlight and the track.

Descent to Alpiglen. The course was marked quite well and it was fairly easy to follow the path even in the dark
Less than 10km to the finish line, just before the final ascent
I walked the last ascent with a few other runners and when we got to the last food station in Pfingstegg I started running and walking downhill and finally crossed the finish line in 25:12:38.

Here I am, once again standing at the finish line, achieved what seemed impossible. 
Do follow your dreams guys. We only live once.


  1. Hi Mamad

    Congratulations - You did it!
    You are the toughest guy in the world!

    Tom -The Hiker

  2. Hi Tom,
    Thanks a lot for your comment. I really appreciate that.
    Well, I am not even close to that, but I am the toughest I've ever been.


    1. Hehe...maybe you're right, but to be the toughest YOU'VE ever been...well, that's pretty tough too.


  3. mamad - fantastic post and what a tremendous accomplishment! you look fantastic crossing that finish line - much more energetic that i could hope to be after an endeavour like that. kudos to you!

    1. Thanks a lot Patrick. Well, I had been through very tough time during the Eiger trail. I was absolutely chuffed when I crossed the finish line. It was such a great event. Highly recomended!
      Have you got any races lined up?

  4. Hi Mamad,

    What a fantastic report. Congratulations on your stellar performance. Thanks for reading mine. I'm back on track now having down two ultras on two consecutive weekends. Third time's a charm - will you be in Grindelwald for the Eiger next year again?

    Keep running and all the best from Zurich,

  5. Cheer Christian,
    Great stuff! I also ran the Swiss Irontrail T81 last week. Hopefully I will run the Eiger again next year.
    Enjoy running

  6. Jean-Louis Robadey20 July 2015 at 11:55

    Thank you for this great post. I am starting to train for next year's E51. With three friends, we just committed this weekend. Your post inspired me! Thank you.