The Swiss City Marathon event is huge but what I hadn’t anticipated was that many attendees were opting to run its shorter races that day. The entire “marathon event” is comprised of a marathon, half-marathon, duo-marathon (where you partner with someone and each of you runs a half mara’) and a 10k race all held on the same day. The marathon runners start off the day, and then they stagger the other races over the proceeding few hours. If you’re running anything slower than a 10 minute mile, there’s a chance you’ll share the route with these other runners.
“Not only did they thank me by FedEx-ing a box of 12 zero proof beers, but they also agreed to stock alcohol-free beers at the following marathon.”
Unlike other races where you’re ushered into your starting pen an hour before you actually run (read: all London races), the start of Swiss City was SO relaxed. When K. and I registered we opted for a 9am departure but when it came to it, we were able to enter into our pen around 10 minutes afterwards. This was really handy because of inevitable queues for the toilet. The race commences at the Swiss Museum of Transport (I recommend you opt for using their toilets rather than a portaloo).
Miles 1-9: Easy! K. and I chatted the entire way, occasionally pausing to take a photo en route. The sun was shining, the spectators were enthusiastic and there were an abundance of water stations. No pain so far for me but K. was battling a slight injury and said she couldn’t finish the race (despite me insisting that I carry her for the remaining 17 miles).
Miles 9-13: K’s pain gets much worse at mile 10. She considers leaving but there’s no way back to the city: the roads are all blocked. Even at this point, the only way she could feasibly get back is by walking. We drop the pace but keep jogging. I’m giving her endless encouragement to keep her going. We reach the end of the first lap. One half of the marathon done.
Miles 13-19: So I’m on my own now. I reluctantly pull my headphones out my pockets and flick on an episode of Free Weekly Timed (FYI- my favourite running podcast). I’m still feeling strong, injury-free but a pang of loneliness hits me as the road is much quieter on the second lap. Also there’s a serious shortage of water stations which leaves me feeling dehydrated and irritable. There is plenty of bananas and food available for runners but the nutrition stations COMPLETELY OUT OF WATER.
Miles 19-23: At this point I’m also running alongside those running the 10km race. Which means that water levels are especially depleted as I’m trying to beat them to the water stations. The dehydration is so frustrating that I actually ring K. to have a moan about it all. She gives me all the empathy and encouragement I could wish for.
Miles 23-26: I can see the city now and it feels amazing to be so close to finishing. I’m running along the cobblestoned streets and am back running alongside Lake Lucerne. My legs are aching but I know if I stop just for a moment I’ll be unable to run through the finish. Spectators cheer me on so I run faster. I’m running on the golden finish line at the Swiss Museum of Transport and pull off a sprint finish. I AM ELATED.
I had it all planned out. I left my Swiss apartment armed with four gels (a combination of caffeine/zero caffeine SIS/GU) and a banana. I always eat breakfast prior to any run exceeding 6 miles so quickly inhaled a bowl of oats before skipping off towards Lake Lucerne. So far so good right?
But… my plans went out the window after that. I used just half a gel and instead chose to eat the fresh fruit on offer at each refuelling stations. K. and I ran the first (13.1 mile) lap at an easy conversational pace, which meant that y energy-levels were relatively high. Towards the end there were stations distributing cola which I lapped up (I’d been planning to avoid this but the lack of water left with me little options)
All marathon finishers were awarded with a pint of locally-brewed Eichhof from one of their pop-up bars at the finish line. Eichhof brew huge amounts of alcohol-free beer but sadly, this wasn’t available.
Sober victory: I knew I couldn’t be the only non-drinker and sure enough, other runners were swerving the post-run pint. When I got back in the UK, I emailed Eichhof directly about this and explained many marathon runners are teetotallers. Not only did they thank me by FedEx-ing a box of 12 zero proof beers, but they also agreed to stock alcohol-free beers at the following marathon.
WOULD I RUN AGAIN?
Not the full marathon, no. I loved Switzerland and I’d be thrilled to participate in other races, such as the Lausanne marathon which is usually held on the same weekend as Lucerne.
Lucerne was a bit tricky in the Autumnal weather as many mountainous attractions had closed. At over £100 per entry, it’s a higher cost to consider than most races. However, the bonus of getting free transport across Switzerland was a huge advantage. My fiancé (not a runner) paid roughly £60 in train tickets getting to/from Zürich airport, whereas I could travel freely.
Other perks included a free carbohydrate-rich meal at the Schweizerhof hotel the day before. The expo was held there too- runners must collect their bib and kit at least a day before. The finishers’ medal and t-shirt (Asics) were both well made.
I would return for a minibreak. Between Zürich and Lucerne, the latter was fabulous. The Swiss Museum of Transport is vast and I spent over half a day there. Most restaurants were of a high standard, but many were impossible to get a table at due to additional tourism. I also missed out on Mount Pilatus, which definitely looked worth a visit.
Value: 6/10 (Whilst the free travel compensated for the ticket, the cost of actually being in Lucerne was pricey!)
Finishers’ gubbins*: 9/10 (Asics t-shirt is great quality, medal is fantastic and the Eichhof beers were great. Also the professional photos taken were decent too)
*I like a freebie. Races are usually so expensive to partake in that I always appreciate a decent medal or t-shirt. Not a bag full of crap though. I get sick of races that distribute loads of plastic-packaged “nourishment” for runners that no one actually eats.