Iain Martin has the lowdown on one of the great trail races
In the build-up to the Swiss classic on Sunday, which features a showdown between six-time winner Kilian Jornet and Jim Walmsley, we run through some of the reasons the Sierre-Zinal is such a special and highly regarded race:
The Sierre-Zinal covers 31km with 2200m of climbing and 1100m descent.
It is also known as the ‘La Course des Cinq 4000’ – referring to the five 4000m peaks that can be seen during the race. The five peaks are the Weisshorn (4506m), Zinalrothorn (4221m), Obergabelhorn (4063m), Matterhorn (4478m) and the La Dent Blanche (4357m).
The 5200 places available for the 2019 race sold out in 90 minutes to competitors from 51 countries.
The ‘Tourists’ start in waves from 4.45am, followed by the ‘Coureurs’ and the ‘Elites’ from 10am.
The ‘Tourists’ take part only for the pleasure of completing the race; they are not given an official finish time.
One hundred ‘Elites’ are personally invited to take part. Fifty selected athletes are hosted by the Val d’Anniviers region in Zinal for the five days before the race.
No one has won the race more than Kilian Jornet’s six wins (2009, 2010, 2014, 2015, 2017, 2018).
A large prize fund of more than CHF22,000 (£18,500) is available, with CHF1800 (£1500) on offer for the male and female winners.
The men’s course record is 2:29:12, set by Jonathan Wyatt (NZL) in 2003. The women’s record is 2:54:26, set by Anna Pichrtova (CZE) in 2008.
Anyone breaking the existing male or female course records will earn a whopping CHF5000 (£4200).
All male runners finishing in less than 2h55m earn a CHF100 time bonus, with these time prizes increasing up to CHF700 for a sub-2h35. The same prizes are available for women, with the initial threshold being 3h25m.
There have been eight British winners – Billy Burns (2000), Phil Makepeace (1986), Jack Maitland (1985), Jeff Norman (1975). Angela Mudge (2001), Beverley Redfern (1993), Sally Goldsmith (1988, 1989) and Veronique Marot (1984, 1985).
The Sierre-Zinal is part of the Golden Trail World Series. The other iconic races are the Dolomyths Skyrace in Italy, Zegama Aizkorri in Spain, Marathon du Mont Blanc in France, the Pikes Peak Marathon in the United States and Ring of Steall in Scotland. The best 10 male and female runners in the Golden Trail series qualify for the final, the Anapurna Trail Marathon in Nepal in October.