The Kaiser Mountain Marathon takes place in and around the ski resort of Soll, Austria in the first week of October as part of the Tour of Tyrol 3 day running festival. Essentially it is a marathon of two distinct phases with the course in the first half going along the valley floor and passing through the nearby towns of Scheffau and Ellmau before ascending into the mountains.
The first 3 miles contain a number of short hills with runners then descending to the lowest elevation of 650 metres at about the six mile point. The course then progresses along the valley floor,over six miles, to the starting point of the first serious climb before the 13 mile mark with runners climbing from 700 metres to 1555 metres over 6 miles.The course then descends rapidly to a low point of about`1250 metres leaving a climb of nearly 600 metres in less than a mile. The last mile is the most challenging phase with runners essentially reduced to a walk to reach the finish line at 1,829 metres. Return to race HQ is by ski lifts.
The terrain encountered varies widely with tarmac paths along the valley floor, mountain roads leading to narrow rutted trails and steep grass slopes on the upper sections. Visually, it is quite a beautiful course with some breathtaking views on the middle and upper sections.
The weather was wonderful with bright sunny skies, no winds and, most importantly, a dry course.. The organisation was also great with more water/fuel stations than in any marathon I have previously run in including having soup and small sandwiches at the higher stations. Total number of participants was 498 drawn from over 20 countries.
One of the more memorable moments of the race came at the 18 mile point when the course literally went through one of the mountain restaurants with the diners inside clapping and cheering. Other than the high profiles marathons such as Zermatt in Switzerland which attracts thousands, numbers of around four to six hundred participants seems typical of mountain marathons and runners are predominantly male.
This was my second attempt at running this marathon with my first in 2011 when I travelled there carrying injuries. On the race morning the top of the mountain was snowed in with heavy rain on the lower section and the race itself was diverted away from the top half. After a short run, I decided to withdraw and, in retrospect, it seems like the right decision.
With a reduction in flights from Cork airport, travelling to races in Germany and Austria is becoming more difficult and this case, I travelled via Shannon to Memmingen (Munich) and onwards to Soll by train and bus.
Time…5 hours 20 mins…16th out of 39 competitors in the over 55 category and position was 229 out of 389 male competitors or out of 489 competitors in total.
Gerard Down, Eagle AC