The race Sierre-Zinal (14th August, 20111, 38th edition), also called the Race of Five 4000m Peaks, is considered to be one of the finest mountain races in the world. It was once written that it is to mountain races what the New York Marathon is to marathons. It is the oldest mountain race found in its category in Europe’s mountains.

Sierre-Zinal, which takes place in the heart of Valais’ Alps, offers its participants a significant challenge: distance – 31 km, 2200m ascent and 800m descent. Incredible scenery, a warm atmosphere and exceptional organisation explain the success and longevity of this challenge.

As Jonathan Wyatt (New Zealand) (record holder of both Sierre-Zinal and the Jungfrau Marathon, as well as a multiple world mountain racing champion) wrote, «As a mountain racer you must experience the tradition and history of this race.»

This race also has a great British tradition Jeff Norman from Altringham a 2-12 Marathon Runner and Olympian won the race in 1978. He was followed by Jack Maitland (Leeds) a British Fell Running Champion, winning with his great descending skills being in third place before the last 2km downhill. Phil Makepeace from the flatlands of Leicester also won before Billy Burns (Salford) won it numorous times in recent years.

On the ladies side British Marathon record holder Veronique Marot has won the event but, most notably Angela Mudge smashed the record in 2001 becoming the first lady to run under the 3 hour barrier with a time of 2 hours 56 minutes.

Every year there is a contingent of British runners enjoying the event. The best logistics is to stay in Zinal. There is a great little campsite. Then you can relax and enjoy the meal and party after the event.

The event itself is run on good tracks and is predominantly uphill which is steep in sections but, then only very gradual in others. So, you don’t need to be a great fell runner to enjoy the event. Aid stations are well stocked with refreshment (although it is always best to have a gel on hand as murphy’s law predicts there won’t be an aid station on hand when you want one).

A great race and well worth the trip.

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