Five South African trail runners, including K-Way runner Lucky Miya, competed in Switzerland’s Zermatt Marathon on Saturday. Host to the 2015 WMRA Long Distance Mountain Running Championships, our runners were up against the best runners from 11 other countries.
Team South Africa at Zermatt Marathon
The Zermatt Marathon begins in a river valley and climbs steadily upwards.
“It was an easy race from the start as we mostly ran on tar and I felt good and strong,” says Miya of this first section of the race.
At halfway, in the town of Zermatt, a strong group of front runners came through within minutes of each other. Miya and fellow South African Johardt van Heerden were in this group together with Tommaso Vaccina, the Italian runner who would go on to win the race. Miya, running with Vaccina, were together in 12th place having covered the first 21 kilometres in a fast-paced 1 hour 19 minutes.
From Zermatt, the runners climbed upwards on winding forested single track, which revealed spectacular views of the Matterhorn. On this section they gained another 650 metres of altitude over 11 kilometres. Vaccina dropped both Miya and Van Heerden to move up into fourth place by the Sunnegga checkpoint (32.5km)
“After Sunnegga athletes where treated with a brutal climb up the valley to a beautiful dam and probably the only ‘flat’ section on the route, although flat is a very relative word in the Swiss Alps,” says Brett Nattrass. He went over with the team to report on the race and photograph the South African runners.
The final section was gruelling – a climb of 360 metres over the last three kilometres to Riffelberg.
“This climb was the sting in the tail,” says Nattrass. “Even the top athletes had to push their hands on their knees to give them an extra boost.”
Miya really felt the heat as he hit the big climb a few kilometres out of Zermatt.
“It broke me in pieces and the going was really tough. I had no choice but to drag myself to the finish. This was one of those toughest days of racing but it was worth it at the end to have such an incredible experience,” he says.
Miya finished in 46th place overall in a time of 3 hours 38 minutes for the 42 kilometre course.
Johardt van Heerden was the highest placed South African man in 23rd place (3:24:52), while Megan Mackenzie lead the South African woman to finish in 32nd place (4:15:58). Although Vaccina ran a well-paced race to win (3:03:51), he was unable to beat the course record of 2:55:04 (Michieka Maticha). In the women’s race, Martina Strähl (Switzerland) set a new women’s course record of 3:21:38.
Image Credit: Brett Nattrass
1. Tommaso Vaccina, 3:01.51
2. Andy Wacker, 3:03.51
3. Puppi Francesco 3:04.14
23. Johardt van Heerden, 3:24.52
46. Lucky Miya, 3:38.43,1
75. Thabang Madiba, 4:05.24
Course Record: Men: Michieka Maticha, 2:55:04
1. Martina Strähl, 3:21.38 * new course record *
2. Aline Camboulives, 3:29.45
3. Catherine Bertone, 3:33.56
32. Megan Mackenzie – 4:15.58
53. Karine Bezuidenhout – 4:37.38