Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Hallwilerseelauf Half Marathon - 10/15/11

After another year of not getting a spot in the Nike Women's Marathon draw, I did manage to secure an entry again from someone who won a passcode to the half marathon. I was pretty excited to run it once again, but instead it looked like I was being sent to Zurich for work that week. After checking out the race calendar in Zurich and the surrounding areas, I found what looked to be a perfect half marathon in Beinwil am See. Hallwilerseelauf had a number of events, two of which were a half marathon and a 10k. I knew I would run the half marathon, and after researching the 10k, I knew Annelyse, who was coming with me on the trip, would want to run it.

We arrived in Zurich on Friday night, and from what seems to be fairly common in races in Switzerland, the events didn't start until early afternoon on Saturday. This gave us time to get some rest after a long flight cramped in economy. By 10:30a we were on a train, still a bit groggy, that would take us an hour southwest of Zurich. We arrived in plenty of time to pick up our racing bibs, goodie bags, and a racing vest (in lieu of a t-shirt). Beinwil am See is a small town that sits on Lake Hallwil. The 10k would run half the distance around the lake, and then transport the runners by ferry back to the start, which was perfect given Annelyse's love of ferries. The half marathon would run around the lake in its entirety.

The 10k started at 12:30, so I waved Annelyse off, then spent some time wandering around before tracking down the place where I was able to leave my things during the race. After having previously ran a race in Switzerland, I've learned that they always seem to have full locker/changing rooms available to the runners. I'm not sure if this is common throughout all of Europe, but runners often show up in street clothes, then change into their running gear, and after the race is over, shower and change back into their street clothes before heading home. This race was no exception. There were giant tents set up with showers and changing areas for both men and women. Being that it was so cold outside, I hung out in the changing room while I waited for the start of my race.

This was a good sized race. There were over 5,500 people combined between the 6+ events, with the half marathon drawing the largest participation with over 3,500 runners. Of those 3,500, only one third were female. The half marathon started in waves depending on your estimated finishing time, and while I can't remember what I put as mine, I started in block E. The waves left four minutes apart from each other giving me a start time of 1:46. The start of the race was lined with spectators as we ran down a paved road. As we got out of earshot from the cheers of the crowds, I recall how quiet it was. It was overcast, and no one was talking, and all you could hear was the pitter patter of our feet on the pavement as we ran down the road. I loved that sound, and I loved that even though I couldn't speak their language, I had at least one thing in common with all of them.

I had no time expectations for this race. Instead, it was quite the opposite. I knew I would be jet lagged, and I wanted to treat it as a training run so that I could enjoy it and take in the scenery. This would give me the opportunity to take pictures along the way, so I ran with my phone for just that reason. There was more than one occasion when I got funny looks for pulling off to the side of the course and taking pictures. A few runners commented to me in german as they passed by. I have no idea what they said, but their smiles told me they were likely making some kind of joke.

We ran through the beautiful countryside all along the perimeter of the lake mostly on dirt and gravel trails. The trail wasn't wide, and with the exception of a few sections, the staggered wave start made it not too difficult to navigate around slower runners. It probably wasn't conducive to trying to run a fast race, but was perfect for me since I wasn't looking to. We passed the 10k finish, and the area was once again crowded with a lot of spectators hollering out "hopp, hopp, hopp!" over and over. I'd forgotten about that from my last race, and made a mental note to ask my Swiss coworker about that. Apparently, it's like calling out "go, go, go".

Just before the 15k mark, we came upon the Hallwyl Castle. Built in 1265, and added upon and renovated throughout the centuries, it's the only castle in Switzerland surrounded completely by a mote. Today it's open to the public, and while I obviously didn't get to go in and check it out, it still wasn't a bad site to see during a race.

While the race was mostly run alongside the lake, there were a few occasions where we ran through residential areas. Running down the streets you knew you were in a different country. The houses are quaint in that old-fashioned, country style way, and many had swiss flags hanging outside. You could tell this was a big event for the area, and many of the residents were out with their children and dogs to watch. At places near the start, many had set up small stands and were selling various items such as bratwurst, pretzels, fruit, juices, and even beer and champagne.

As the race came to an end, I could see the finish and hear the cheering. The chute was lined with people, including Annelyse, cheering everyone on. We were all directed onto a grassy area where fruit was available to the runners. Still being extremely dehydrated from the flight and not finding water, I chugged the majority of what Annelyse had left of hers. Still somewhat thirsty, I found the Rivella tents. Rivella was something I was familiar with from the last time I visited, but I still didn't really know what it was. I drank the carbonated liquid, and later found out that it's milk serum (similar to whey protein), and while popular just as a regular drink in Switzerland, its also beneficial for muscle recovery.

The race ended near where it started, but we had a quite a big hill to trek up to get to the changing tents where my stuff was. If I had just completed a full marathon, I don't think I would have managed to get up it, but thankfully, it wasn't too terrible. After we collected our gear and layered up, we headed back down to the small train stop and waited in the cold to for our train. Public transportation in Switzerland is fantastic and we made it there and back with no problem at all.

We arrived in Zurich and were tired and cold from the long day. The jet lag was catching up to us, and we needed showers. But first things were first, so we grabbed some coffee near the Stadelhofen train stop which just happened to be next to a Spr√ľngli. I'd been dying for a mini macaroon from there since I left Switzerland a year ago, and what better time for a treat than at that moment. Who said you can't have dessert before dinner?

All and all, a great day. Getting to explore a new area in a different country while doing what you love is pretty amazing.

Race stats: (walkers or those with times over 3:00 weren't included in this category)
Overall female: 164 of 1031
Age Group: 67 of 278
Chip time: 1:44:45
GPS time: 1:43:51


  1. Jen, we enjoyed reading your account of the race. The countryside looked beautiful, and, as a former runner, I found the description of the race operations to be quite interesting. (I started running shortly after Annelyse was born, and I ran a number of 10K's and one half marathon over a period of about 25 years. Never competitively, though.)

    Hope you guys are enjoying Zurich, and that your work schedule isn't too demanding. We are looking forward to meeting you over Thanksgiving.


  2. Loved to read your post. Knowing the race from the other end (watching and cheering up the runners) it was a very special and interesting to see how you liked it.
    Funny that you chose to run the Hallwilerseelauf - given that I grew up just up that hill.

    Hope to be there on your next run. I'm sure you'll be able to recognize me... I will be the one screaming HOPP Jen!