Words: Sarah Tunstall
Thyon-Dixence is a 16km race and actually doesn’t climb as much as many Swiss Mountain races with only 700m. It is a race that has been on my radar ever since I first came to the Alps over 10 years ago, and traverses from Thyon 2000 (named due to it’s level of altitude) high above the Valais to finish on the Dixence barrage, the biggest of Switzerland’s 150 dams! It’s a historical race that is celebrating it’s 35 year and has seen some of the most legendary names in Mountain running take victory on the iconic dam….as well as many names who didn’t gain victory, testament to the level of competition it attracts.
The course has also suited a lot of British runners, and I look at times from Angela Mudge in particular as she is the best British female Mountain runner who has raced across the Alps, and if I can hit anywhere near her times I am quite content! Last year I ran the race for the first time, I can remember enjoying it but being quite disappointed with my time. I scheduled it in this year mainly as a preliminary event to the Sierre-Zinal race next week, which is arguably the most famous and notorious of Swiss Mountain races.
Knowing the course from last year, when I finished 3rd behind two Kenyans, including the record-breaking winner; Lucy Wambui Murigi. I intended to set off faster on the first climb and mainly race my own 2015 time, with Columbian competitors and Lucy returning I hadn’t really considered a win, more a useful, personal time trial. It wasn’t until we approached the tourist participants who had set off on the course 2hrs previously that I knew for definite that I was in the lead when people started shouting “premiere dame”…until then I hoped I was, but due to the nature of the single track course I daren’t believe that there wasn’t someone minutes ahead that I just couldn’t see! There was no way I was losing the lead then…the prospect of winning Thyon-Dixence gave me a huge buzz. I was fully aware of the names of previous winners and to join that list made for quite an emotional finish, sprinting along the (deceptively long) dam to crowds of people who come out to support. It is quite an atmosphere! I’d put it down as one of the best days in my running career. It’s no championship medal but it is up there on the list of classic Mountain races and I’m really glad I had time to enjoy and appreciate the prestigious finish.