Swiss Irontrail ups the ante
Following on from the Swissalpine in Davos (78 kilometres) and the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc (166 kilometres), the Irontrail breaks the 200 km barrier. The premiere takes place from 6 to 8 July 2012 with the start in Pontresina and the finish in Chur.
By Anita Fuchs
Staging the Alpes’ highest altitude, longest, toughest and most beautiful single-stage trail race in the multi-faceted natural, cultural and mountain landscape of Graubünden – this is the thinking behind the new Irontrail. According to a statement from the race's founder, Andrea Tuffli, the event is a project which will encourage both sports and tourism. "The route taken by the race makes it possible to connect the unique features of the different regions. However, not only does it link up the diversity offered by the landscape, but also the destinations." As well as being a value adding exercise, great importance is also placed on sustainability, as regards the economy, ecology and the community.
In the footsteps of Giovanni Segantini
The Irontrail is approximately 201 kilometres in length and consequently sets a new standard on the trail running scene. The previous "record holder", the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc (France), is 166 kilometres long and the Grand Raid de La Réunion (on the island of Réunion off the African coast) covers 162 kilometres. The starting point of the Irontrail is the town of Pontresina and it finishes in Chur. The reasons behind this are as follows: Pontresina has a long tradition in mountain sports and Chur is the oldest town in Switzerland. Between the two towns there are ascents of 11,500 metres and descents of 12,700 metres that have to be conquered. Athletes will find themselves running in the footsteps of the painter Giovanni Segantini and philosopher Friedrich Nitzsche.
The scenic highpoints are where the Morteratsch and Pers glaciers cross and (between Bovalhütte and Diavolezza), the Fuorcla Pischa ridge/ibex trail, past the Segantini mountain hut to Muottas Muragl, Fuorcla Surlej, past Lake Hahnen to St. Moritz, the Piz Nair, which, at 3,022 metres above sea-level is apex of the event. Others include Fuorcla Crap Alv to Bergün via Lake Palpuogna on the Bahnlehr Trail, the Digls Orgels Pass (through the Graubünden Dolomites), the section right through the middle of the Parc Ela with the Albula-Bernina Railway, a UNESCO World Heritage Site as well as the Parpaner Rothorn, Weisshorn and finally the Chur Joch.
Apart from the main section on the traverse through Graubünden, which demands everything of the runners (Tuffli: "It's all about the title 'King of the Mountains', just like the wild ibex on the logo), there are two shorter distances: About 140 kilometres (Pontresina–Chur +8400/-9600 m) and 72 kilometres (Chur–Lenzerheide–Arosa–Chur, +/- 4800 m). Tuffli does not see any competition, even from the Swissalpine Davos, which he himself organises and which takes place just three weeks after. "They are two different worlds. In the case of the Swiss Irontrail, the fastest runners complete a kilometre in an average of seven and a half minutes, whereas in the Swissalpine it is half this time."
4,000 participants after five years
700 to 800 people are expected to take part in the premiere, but the aim is to break the 4,000 barrier in five years. The people being targeted are experienced single-stage ultra trail runners, and especially participants (on waiting lists) in the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc and La Réunion. Potential athletes come from Switzerland, France, Germany and Italy. "The typical ultra-trail runner is an experience-orientated, nature-loving freak or an amateur athlete with a professional touch looking for adventure and extreme, authentic experiences," states Tuffli.
The Swiss Irontrail follows the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc which is a partner event to the Swissalpine. When it was founded in 2003, it was just as revolutionary as the Davos race was in 1986. The Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc is enjoying increasing popularity: 10,000 runners applied to take part in last year's event, with 5,500 ultimately being accepted. "The Mont Blanc has a tremendous attraction," comments Tuffli. He thinks his "youngest child" has just as much of a chance of success. "Firstly because of the distance, secondly because it takes place in a world-famous region and has the benefit of grandiose mountain and lakeland scenery."