In the Alps, trail running is booming. And nowhere is that truer than the Jungfrau region of the Swiss Alps. It makes sense, because for trail runners, this is a Nirvana of sorts, with flowy single tracks, glacier covered peaks, and even the occasional cow ready to lick the sweat off your arms!
The centerpiece of the trail running scene here is the Grindelwald-based Eiger Ultra Trail race series, which take place every year in the middle of July. And behind the race series is Director Ralph Näf, a Grindelwald-based mountain guide with a long history of trail running in the region.
We recently caught up with Ralph to find out what’s new for 2017. Here’s what he had to say.
Run the Alps: Eiger Ultra Trail seems to be growing and developing rapidly! Can you tell us what’s new for 2017?
Ralph: Yes, we’ve surprised ourselves! This year, we’ve kept all the distances the same. So, no major changes to the race schedule. Two days before the race, our event Ambassador Ueli Steck will welcome runners and friends with a presentation of his highly advanced alpine running on the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau ridges. There will be some scary pictures to see, I’m sure! (Editor’s note: Swiss climber Ueli Steck is renowned around the world for his speed ascents. He lives and climbs in the region.)
On the technical side, we have added a very advanced timing system and extra timing intervals, along with free tracking for E101 and E51 participants. It’s still a work in progress with our timing partner. For E101 runners, there will be 15 additional split times available.
Run the Alps: In general, what changes do you see for trail running in the Alps these days?
Ralph: It is growing and growing! We get more runners moving from pavement to the trails. And not only for races, but also in their leisure trail running time. Last Christmas and New Year’s, with the lack of snow in the region, we offered training courses and trail guiding around Grindelwald. It was a huge success!
Run the Alps: The race is clearly a major undertaking. Can you give us a sense of what happens behind the scenes—how many volunteers, staff and hours involved in arranging the events?
Ralph: At the event itself, we have more than 500 volunteers. That number includes about 100 security staff—doctors, nurses, first aid workers, mountain rescuers and mountain guides. Their job is to look after not only the runners, but also the other helpers. During the year, Nicole (Editor’s note: Nicole Almer is one of the managers of the race series) and I spend about 80 percent of our time working on the race. Our main team of volunteers—race directors, the manager of our event area and so on—will start with their volunteer work in June.
Run the Alps will have a number of participants in the Eiger Ultra Trail race series, which is an annual favorite of ours. For more information, see our Eiger Trail Tour. We look forward to this year’s races!
For more information on the Eiger Ultra Trail, visit their website.
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