I participated in this year’s Glacier 3000 Run. Or perhaps I should say the Cabane 2525 Run because, alas, I didn’t make it to the top. I was never going to be a fast finisher, but was thwarted by the storm that rolled in and a mere three kilometres from the end became a DNF (Did Not Finish).
Writing this feels strangely acceptable despite my competitive nature because my experience that day was not about beating others or being fast or ultimately about completing the run. It was about humanity.
Esprit de corps
We left Gstaad in bright sunshine along the route to Gsteig, which was mostly gentle and followed stunning riverside paths. The story changed after Reusch. I was curious and a little apprehensive about the stage up to Oldenegg because I’d seen the map. It didn’t disappoint. The next five kilometres proved to be one long slog – a steep track of hairpin bend after hairpin bend. After hairpin bend.
As the terrain became more challenging, people began to struggle. I think this is when we realised what we were in for. But something very special happened too. Any lingering sense of competition between us runners evaporated and was replaced by an invisible cord that bound us together, a sense of purpose, an unspoken esprit de corps. Advice was freely given; anyone resting at the side of the road was checked on; smiling words of encouragement came thick and fast.
Weather conditions after Oldenegg became a challenge. Visibility dropped to a couple of metres, making it difficult to spot the route and anyone around me. I felt very alone as I jog-trudged up the rocky hill.
Then the storm hit. Within moments I found myself in an explosion of thunder, lightning, wind and hail the size of blueberries on an exposed section of the mountain. The path became a stream of muddy water and with nowhere to take temporary shelter I had little choice but to keep going.
I knew my race was well and truly run. Cabane, a little over two kilometres away, became my new final objective. Lurching over the threshold of the marvellous mountain hut at Cabane des Diablerets was a wonderful feeling.
Modern life is full of grumbling at petty frustrations – someone jumps a queue, a car cuts you up, you spill your coffee. Yet, on that Saturday, I saw bucketloads of humanity from total strangers. People whose names I don’t know. People I am unlikely to ever meet again. People who deserve thanks and recognition: the volunteers who handed out refreshments along the route, treating us slowcoaches as enthusiastically as though we were leading the pack; the Air-Glaciers lady who led me to a seat by the fire at Cabane, gave me a cup of bouillon and checked on my recovery a little later; the hiker who hung up my jacket to dry and pummelled my arms to get my circulation going; the man in the cable car down who gave me an energy sweet and wrapped me in a blanket.
These people showed what it means to be human. It was a tonic for modern life. And simply for that reason I am glad I entered the Glacier 3000 Run.
But would I do it again? Now there’s a question.