Another Century For Our Ultra-Man

Monday 12th August 2019

Eiger Ultra 101

Don’t read this if you want inspiration. Certainly not the first bit, however it might give you an understanding of what the body is capable of, if you refuse to give up.

When I entered this very very popular race, the race was full after 5 minutes of the entry opening. At the time I was very pleased to get in because this was one on the bucket list and I knew some of the best ultra runners would be there.

For me running these races is/was everything to me. But I knew when I stood on the start line in Grindelwald at the bottom of the Eiger that my heart was not in it. I just wanted the race to be over. As I looked around everyone else was excited, buzzing and taking photos and looking forward to some of the most breath-taking viewpoints in the area; Grosse Scheidegg, First, Bachalpsee, Berghotel Faulhorn, Schynige Platte, Wengen, Männlichen, before traversing the Eiger North Face itself. 

However, I quickly realised the only competition I was going to win was: The Eiger Miserable Old Git Award. 

Off everyone went with around a thousand people cheering us off and rattling those “Cow Bells”. Up the first mountain, cannot remember what it was called and to be honest, didn’t really care. Went to the top and down again, then up another and down again etc. Then everyone started to overtake me, that cheered me up no end.

Up another massive mountain 2500m and across the snowfields. Fell on my bum. Up and down more mountains. Can it get any worse, Oh yes it can, you can have a scorching heatwave where the wind feels like someone is blowing a hot hairdryer into your face.

Then at the halfway point, you have the option of pulling out and getting a finish medal for the 51 race distance. At this point, I was very tempted. The only problem is, how do you get back to the start? I couldn’t ask my wife to come and get me as she was running and enjoying another race.

I know from experience that this is the point when you need to have a very serious talk with yourself. However, being in a grumpy mood I decided that talking to me would be a serious inspirational error. Why talk to a miserable old git? So I rang Paula instead and she said that she had finished within the time limit. So now it becomes a competition. On with the iPod and get the inspiration music going. 

I now had the hardest part of the race a massive climb to the top of a 2300m mountain in 25-30 degrees centigrade, I managed to overtake a few runners on this climb, some were not in a good place. Then at the top I was 3-4 hours inside the cut-off and stopped to have a squashed sandwich and look at some of the most stunning views in Switzerland. I then continued on and overtook loads more people, all going well.

I then went up and down a few more mountains then finally got into the last aid station feeling very sick, possibly a bit of heatstroke, this is where the medical staff asked me if I was alright, so I just said “no not really”. They asked me if I wanted to stop, I said yes please (because I did want to stop) however giving up was not an option so, I stood up, carried on and ran the last 5 miles to the finish. 

Hope this has not put you all off. All I can say is that long-distance running is such a head game and because my head was not in it I found it so much harder than normal.

On the positive side, the goodie bag was good and the camping was brilliant.

Position: 292

Time: 21:47 (hours!)

Note from Liz Halliday: Andy has taken on some of the hardest ultra mountain events and enjoyed them with great success. His report shows how all events need respect and training the mind is as important and training the body.

Well done Andy, your honesty and courage is inspirational!