Glacier Marathon

Glacier Marathon… extreme mountain running. Nope. None of that. Quite the contrary. Must be the only race that’s located in the mountains and is run 100% on tar. You get to enjoy being in the mountains, without a single serious incline, but with a great chance of beating your PB on the marathon distance.

But before I tell you more about the race, let me ask you something…

Ever heard of Eccentric contraction of muscles? Nope? Ok.. have you

ever run in Austria? 2 No’s….(smile)

If not… these are two experiences you are missing out on, that’s really a unique on… oh… yes they all say that… but this one is really different… stay tuned…

The Glacier Marathon from the Pitztal Glacier to Imst – through the entire Pitztal – is an extraordinary sporting event. The beautiful mountains in Pitztal offer a special setting for maximum performance in running.

Why? Simple..

The course leads from Mandarfen (1,675 m) throughout the whole Pitztal. The runners reach the finish line after 42,195 km at the sports centre Imst. (790 m)

What does that mean?

Simple… downhill all the way. Easy cruising feeling good kind of running…. Well nearly all the way,

I recommend you have a look at the organizers website where there is a extremely cool 3D animated map, that will give you a exact impression of what the course is like, and what I am describing here.

Now you know usually I don’t care too much about the course layout. If however you get on the bus in Imst, (early start) you will be driven up the whole route you will be running along. How cool is that. You become aware of how steep it is, and of actually how long 42Km are.

Oh, needless to say… Austrian run event… big compliment to the organizers everything is setup to make it a great running experience. Really no complaints there.

Tip of the day… you will arrive quite early in Mandarfen. And, other than getting really cold, there isn’t much to do… except if you brought some money… have a coffee, a delicious cake (apparently some runners couldn’t resist the pastry, so I have been told). The scenery is very impressive, especially if you grew up in the Netherlands, Saskatchewan, lol you will be most impressed.

The DJ plays Hells Bells, means, time to go….the start… approx. 200 or 250 participants… small turnout. Some local running hero’s, and one barefoot runner set off.

Now it’s a strange phenomenon, because the route takes you down… as in downhill, plus the steep mountains making the valley seem even steeper, and you find yourself running fast. I mean as in faster than usual. Let me try and explain, it’s as though you are on this mission to reach the end of the valley, well which you are really. But running in the valley and the downhill give this a unique feeling. For me it felt great, as this was my 4th marathon in 8 weeks, and I enjoyed the absence of hills.

It takes real mental discipline to maintain your pace. The constant downhill gives you that “fake news”, that “fake runners’ high”. You just feel good, and effortless. Beware, I did warn you. Concentrate and focus on your pace. Be disciplined and use mental techniques to not get carried away.

What I didn’t enjoy was the weather. Look you are in the Alps, so the weather can and will change as it wants to. We had some rain, real hard rain, some sunshine, but the best part was…. You ran through so many tunnels.

What a great experience.

Around every corner there where new sights, and sounds either waterfalls, or mountain peaks, or scenic views worth a photograph.

The whole route is run on the main road. No trails, no gravel, but oncoming or ongoing traffic, and real honest local supporters.

The top runners’ they were long gone. I was aiming for a sub 3:20 time, and I spent a lot of time running on my own, with two runners’ ahead of me that seemed impossible to catch up to.

Time flew on this run… I cannot recall or remember any significant other than the really spectacular scenery and the rumble of the thunderstorm.

Next thing I was at the halfway mark. Suddenly a slight uphill… oh my goodness, what’s happening, it felt like my pace dropped to a standstill… what a relief for the body posture and thank goodness the “hill” wasn’t steep nor did it last a long time. Then a steeper downhill than before, until 32KM where there is another “hill” actually nothing more than a little incline, where again, surprise surprise you feel like you have become the slowest runner…

Then I recall as you get closer to the finish you can actually see Imst off in the distance. Then you cross over a tall bridge… you cross the Imst, and now you know… you have nearly made it.

But remember how I said its nearly all the way downhill?

Ha, here is the spoiler….

From 40KM mark, there is a ever so slight uphill, the elevation gain is minimal, but it’s those final Kilometers where my legs decided, this is it Heiko, you are on your own. What a struggle to reach the finish. Just shy of third place in my age group due to having a pity party those last two kilometers. Ah, also the last half a kilometer threw me a nasty surprise. I saw the finish line in the distance, here, to my right.

But, you still had to run into a long never ending left, then right turn until you finally reached the finish.

I need to point out, that this was one of the best catered finish line areas. Photographers, food, drinks… top marks, Well done.

Now the surprising thing is that I have read and heard of Eccentric muscle contraction. But never experienced it. Even though I run and train a lot of hill, or do hill repeats.

Well, in the coming days I was in for a serious surprise.

Eccentric contraction occurs when the total length of the muscle increases as tension is produced.

Downhill running involves a particularly high intensity of eccentric contractions, because of the muscle tension required to move fast on steep gradients without falling.

Muscles essentially act as shock-absorbing springs, going from extension to compression very rapidly.

The British Journal of Sports Medicine, eccentric muscle contractions involve “the controlled lengthening of muscle under tension.”

When running down a steep slope, your knee is likely almost straight upon landing. In that position, with your knee straight, your quad muscle is at its shortest. Then, as your leg absorbs the impact, your knee bends, lengthening the muscle.

The act of lengthening a muscle while it is contracted is an eccentric muscle contraction.

And these contractions do more than cause you to get sore—they can cause near-complete muscle failure. The same physiological damage that causes extreme soreness after a long downhill run or race can cause muscles to weaken prematurely during races.

These micro-tears often cause Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS)—the culprit for those post-race zombies struggling to get to the hotel breakfast. DOMS, and associated strength loss, usually peaks around 48 hours after the run or race but can last for a week or more.

So if you ran a hard race, going for a fast time (like I did) you will get your money’s worth and feel the effects of this race for some days after you have reached home.

Find more tips like this on or in our online mental running tool course. A in-depth 4 hour video course, along with a easy-to-read guide to understanding mental techniques for runners’ in depth. It comes, along with our R.E.S.E.T.® branded coaching certification.

My name is Heiko, thanks for reading… and remember… take it easy.

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