When I was young, cross-country running was the only sport in which I developed any interest or ability.
To use the word ‘ability’ may be “bigging it up” (as my youngest son would say), but I never seemed to mind the multi-mile slog up hill and down dale, often through muddy bogs that could suck off your trainers if you put a foot wrong.
But then I left school and all sporting activity came to an abrupt halt until, I am ashamed to relate, two years ago.
I remember the day well. We had driven from Gstaad over the Col du Pillon down to Les Diablerets, then up and over the Col de la Croix to Villars. This latter pass is only open during the summer months, but offers spectacular views and is highly recommended.
At some point over lunch my husband and I broached the topic of fitness. Perhaps it was the glass of Fendant talking, but by the end of our meal I had stated that, given sufficient training, I would be able to complete the steep route from Villars home to Gstaad in one go. We didn’t exactly make a bet, but the gauntlet had been well and truly laid down.
I was determined to succeed and decided to follow a training programme known as Couch-to-5K (C25K). It claims to take any moderately healthy person, even the supremely unfit as I then was, from no exercise to running for 30 minutes without stopping in just nine weeks. The first session involved 60 seconds of running, followed by 90 seconds of walking, repeated for a total of 20 minutes. I managed it, but let’s just say I was grateful for the enforced rest day before I tackled the second session.
From the outset I was determined to get fit, but I knew it was going to be far from easy. Help came from an unexpected quarter: the wonderful Saanenland landscape. I found that if I treated each running/walking session as an opportunity to explore my surroundings, I forgot about discomfort or muscle pain. Instead I learned to see the region with new eyes, despite having lived here for over thirteen years.
The C25K programme is now a distant memory, but thanks to my new passion (yes, passion!) for running, I have discovered scores of beauty spots just footsteps from my front door. Whether you are hugely into exercise or just toying with the idea of getting fit, step outside and prepare to be amazed. You can pick up maps at any of the local tourist information centres, but here are some suggestions from me.
My current favourite route is the riverside path from Gstaad that runs alongside Lauenenstrasse. It’s a little hilly at first, but meanders across a number of bridges and is just so peaceful.
If you’re after a really short circuit, take the path behind the Gstaad sports centre, hook right after crossing the bridge and follow the trail. The first right brings you back into Gstaad or continue straight and you’ll end up in Saanen.
For those seeking a longer route, head towards Saanen, take the river path alongside the airport and up through the forest to Rougemont. Follow the meandering path that starts behind Rougemont church all the way to Château-d’Oex. If you don’t fancy running back to Gstaad you can grab a bus, train or ask a friend to come and collect you!
Since that first 60 second running session two years ago I’ve graduated to much longer distances and have even competed in various races. It’s invigorating to plan a new route and go exploring but, no, I haven’t yet completed the Villars to Gstaad run. It’s enough to know I have the ability should I ever wish to give it a go, but there’s a time for running and a time for eating. And I would never pass up the offer of lunch.