Ok, I know that is a ridiculous statement, I mean, how many of you reading this are actually contemplating running 100 kilometers at all? Driving that far is strenuous enough. But Biel does have plenty of pros which make it a logical choice for an
easy first-time 100-km race. Here are five of them…
- It is one of the biggest and oldest of its kind, with a single 100-km loop.
This year there were 830 finishers of the 100-km race alone. There is also a 56-km ultramarathon, a half marathon and a night marathon bringing more than 4500 runners to Biel on a Friday night in June. The atmosphere at the start is absolutely electric. There are just so many people around that the city is in complete party-mode. And the course is relatively flat, with only four significant rises, and in total there are less than 1000 meters of positive elevation. Flatter over that distance would be hard to find.
- It is run during the night.
The start is at 10 pm, which obviously magnifies the party aspect because, well, those who are not running are partying on a Friday night. And even as you run through the smaller villages along the course at midnight, 1, 2 and even 3 am, there are people out there cheering the runners on (naturally helped a bit by the local wine). There are even tent parties set up in fields in the middle of seemingly nowhere. At 5:00 in the morning as I was running along the Emmendamm in the pouring rain there was a group of three men singing and cheering us on like crazed Hooligans. The runners were so uplifted that we were singing and cheering right back! Running during the night also avoids the possibility of enduring warm June temperatures under a hot sun.
- The refreshment stations have everything you need. (Except chairs)
There are 18 refreshment stations on the course spaced about 5km apart. They offer a choice of beverages from water and Gatorade to tea, bouillon and Pepsi, and a schmorgesbord of food including three different kinds of sports bars and gels, as well as bananas, apples, oranges, bread and pretzels. What more could you ask for? There was even a coffee bar set up near km 50. And if that isn’t enough, runners are allowed to have a bike supporter, which could certainly be helpful in carrying extra clothes or shoes if the temperatures change drastically or in case of heavy rain, but in terms of food supply, the race organizers had it covered. I didn’t use a biker as support, but did have vehicle support from my family. My husband met me at predetermined sites en route in our VW Van, with the back seat folded out as a make-shift bed for our two youngest children who had their sleeping bags and pillows set up for an exciting night of following mama 100km through the Swiss countryside! At one point along a semi-major road I saw the van in the distance parked at a café and as I approached my husband came running out with an espresso in his hand for me! What luxury service!
4. You get to run over the famous covered wooden bridge in Aarberg
This bridge was built in 1568 to span the Aare River and at the time it was the only river crossing between Bern and Büren. The bridge is breathtaking in itself, the architecture exquisitely unique. And since it lies at km 17 on the race course, almost all runners will cross it before midnight, still quite early, and so the bridge is packed with fans. The reverberating echoes of cheers would give the Grinch the goosebumps.
5. The medal and the finisher shirts rock!
The medal itself is heavy and of good quality with lots of fine detail, but what I really like about it is the neck band. It is not a simple red- or blue-and-white-striped band, no, it is bright and colorful and has that beautiful Swiss flag proudly displayed. The finisher T-shirts are available in both a men’s and women’s cut and they have cool colors, large print and are black on the sides which, all ladies know, is ‘slenderizing’, and we like that. Such great finisher shirts are unfortunately not the case everywhere, and most disappointingly was the one that Beatrice and I got from the Marathon des Sables this year (see photo above)—plain white, with tiny print on the front saying Finisher and even tinier print under that saying Marathon des Sables! And nothing on the back! I mean, if someone runs 257km through the Sahara Desert they have earned the right to slap it all over town!!!
Anyway, hands-down, if you want to try a 100-km race, Biel is the one to start with!