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Aug 14
2022

A race report from the 2021 Mischabel 60

Lizzy Hawker

Our friend Billi Bierling, mountaineer and journalist, came to the 2021 UTMR to volunteer and to race. Here’s what she has to say about it!

Billi we are looking forward to welcoming you back and wish you good luck for your 2022 race!

Billi Bierling with the UTMR race director in the Himalayas some years ago!

The COVID-19 pandemic was tough for runners all over the world. Even though some of us were lucky and could go out for a spin in the hills, others were stuck on the treadmill for the best part of two years. For this reason, it was wonderful that the Ultra Tour Monte Rosa (UTMR) took place in 2021. I was excited as I have always wanted to participate in one of my good friend Lizzy’s races and to run around the imposing Swiss mountains with other people. My friend Henry came along as a volunteer, and the two of us helped Lizzy with everything that was needed before the race. It was a great atmosphere which made me realise how humble and unassuming the trail running world was. There was no prima donna behaviour among the famous trail runners who helped Lizzy as much as we did. Lizzy made sure that everything ran smoothly and that everyone had a bed to sleep in and good food to devour before their big run. “It is so much fun cooking for so many people,” said acclaimed ultra-trail runner Penelope Freedman who rustled up the most amazing dishes for the runners.

On the third day of the event, I embarked on the Mischabel 60k run which was definitely the most beautiful run in my life! The trail starts out relatively flat through gorgeous woodlands before it drops down for about 800m. It is important to take it slowly during the first 10km of the run as it is followed by a tough 2,000m ascent which takes you up to the Weissmieshütte from where you have the most amazing view of the surrounding peaks. Even though the ascent is arduous, I hardly noticed the strain as I was mesmerised by the beauty around me. Once up there, it was a pleasure to see the friendly faces of the volunteers who provided
me with excellent nosh and drink – always with a smile. After the Weissmieshütte , the trail stays more or less at level with short ascents and descents which I hardly noticed as I was still mesmerised by the view! I can only repeat myself, but I don’t think I have ever seen such stunning scenery accompanying me from start to finish.

After a another stop at Almagelleralp, the trail drops down to the village of Saas Fee which is a reminder that there is civilisation in the valley as up to this point the trail leads through remote mountainous terrain. It was actually good to see some people in the streets of the beautiful village who were kind enough to cheer me on which gave me a huge energy boost. After devouring a good hot noodle soup at the indoor service stop, the trail continues to Hannigalp which is the longest and probably most taxing section of the run. It starts out relatively flat before it turns into a long but dramatically beautiful ascent to Hannigalp where I was greeted by yet another two friendly volunteers who encouraged me to continue. “You are nearly there. It’s a gentle descent back to Grächen,” Liz said andhelped me put on my rain gear as it had started to rain. After a friendly chat and a drink, I continued down the gentle and easy trail that took me back to Grächen where the trail running enthusiasts had been patiently waiting for the last runner to cross the finish line. It was a warm and very moving welcome. Everyone was cheering and singing and made me feel like the champion of the race. I felt so elated that I grabbed the microphone and delivered a little speech to thank the organisers and the volunteers for their hard work. My greatest gratitude, however, goes to the people who marked the trail. The route marking was excellent and for someone like me, who gets lost at the drop of a hat, absolutely essential.

Thanks Lizzy and team for organising this race. I am so excited that I will be back for the same run this year!

We’re excited too! Good luck, Billi!

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