The British runner takes the win in her first ever uphill race despite sleeping in a car the night before.
Holly Page won the Inferno Half Marathon in Switzerland on Saturday (August 18) after only gaining an entry for the race the day before and sleeping in her car that night.
The route climbs from the Bernese village of Lauterbrunnen to 2,970-metre Schilthorn, with a cumulative ascent of 2,200 metres, and amazingly it was Page’s first uphill-only race.
The British runner’s victory in 2:29:01 follows a string of stellar performances this year, notably finishing first at the Yading Skyrace, fifth at Comapedrosa Skyrace and 12th in a world-class field at Sierre-Zinal.
The Calder Vale Harrier was also the outright winner of the 17-mile Saddleworth Round fell race, with the nearest man seven minutes adrift in second.
Jonny Muir spoke to Page following her victory at the Inferno Half Marathon at the race headquarters in Mürren.
Jonny Muir: Uphill racing is unusual in the UK. Does this style of racing suit you?
Holly Page: I absolutely hate uphill racing. This is my first ever uphill race. Normally, I am good at the downhill and really technical races, so this for me is very different from what I am used to doing.
But I know I need to get better at uphill running, so I thought, hey, why not? I’ve never done a vertical kilometre race before, so why not do two in one?
JM: How do you find the psychology of a race like this?
HP: I only decided to do the race yesterday, so I hadn’t looked at the course at all but I knew it was a lot of uphill. I knew it was 21 kilometres, and I was breaking it down by distance and looking at the altitude as well.
At seven kilometres, I thought, look, you are a third of the distance and a quarter of the climb. I segment everything. Sometimes it’s depressing because you are like, oh, I’ve only done 300 metres climb and I’ve 2,000 to go.
Up, up, up – some 2,200 metres of it in the Inferno Halbmarathon. Lots of road and trail running at first, before some ‘Scottish’ terrain and conditions took over. pic.twitter.com/6kiPmy7aA5
— Jonny Muir (@MuirJonny) August 18, 2018
JM: There was lots of trail and road at the beginning, and more traditional mountain running at the end. What suits you best?
HP: I set off reasonably quickly with another lady, but after two kilometres she went off ahead and I thought that was it. She had a purple number on rather than a blue number, so I thought she was doing the relay race, which was why she was so fast.
I thought, she’s miles ahead, then another lady – after about 15 kilometres – appeared from nowhere and overtook me, so at that point I was third, but I thought I was second because I didn’t know about the first woman.
There was a small bit of downhill where I overtook the second woman again, and just pushed, pushed, pushed. I quite enjoyed the climb to the summit because it’s more technical and a bit scrambly.
I was surprised to see the front lady because I thought she had stopped after seven kilometres in the relay, but I overtook her with only 500 metres to go to the summit. The top-three women all finished within a minute of each other.
JM: It was very misty. Were you conscious she was there?
HP: We were going up some zigzags and I had seen her ahead of me. I was trying not to be caught by the woman behind me, and in doing so, caught the woman in front.
I don’t think she was very happy!
Holly expects to return to racing in the UK in September at the Skyline Scotland series.
Jonny Muir is the author of ‘The Mountains are Calling‘, a book that explores running in the high places of Scotland.