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Out & About in Switzerland: Going up the mountain the hard way

The marathon attracts the type of spectators only found in the Alps Keystone

The eighth annual Jungfrau marathon is due to take place this Saturday (September 2). The organisers say 3,500 runners have registered to compete in the gruelling 40 kilometre race. The course is also considered the most beautiful in the world.

This content was published on August 29, 2000 - 09:19

The marathon starts in Interlaken at 550 metres above sea level, and the runners will have climbed nearly 2,000 metres by the time they reach the finish line on the Kleine Scheidegg, below the majestic peaks of the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau.

The first 10 kilometres - in the town of Interlaken and along the shore of Lake Brienz - are as flat as one would expect in any city marathon.

The first climb begins in Wilderswil and takes the runners through the Lauterbrunnental, a narrow valley surrounded by high, sheer cliffs, with rivers and streams fed by spectacular waterfalls.

It's not until the 26th kilometre that the course begins to earn its reputation. Runners have to follow a zig-zag path straight up the mountainside to the resort of Wengen. From there, the participants still have a kilometre in altitude and 10 in distance to cover.

Once above the tree line, the Kleine Scheidegg plateau is within reach. If previous races are anything to go by, Swiss runners should do well.

Switzerland's Marco Kaminski was the fastest man last year, finishing in 2:54:34. And Franziska Rochat-Moser holds the women's record of 3:22:50, which she achieved in 1997.

Of course, there's an easier way to the top. Trains run from Interlaken to Wengen or Grindelwald, and on up to the Kleine Scheidegg. That's the starting point for an even more spectacular train journey up to the Jungfraujoch, the highest altitude station in Europe.

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Out & About in Switzerland is updated regularly to keep you informed of upcoming events, which may provide a different insight into the country and its people.

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