Stories / August 2023
Find out what taking part in the 50th Sierre-Zinal meant for our athletes.
Sierre-Zinal is one of the most iconic races in the Golden Trail Series and this year it was held for the 50th time. The 31km route has a 2,200m elevation gain and 1,100m descent. It passes the summits of the Weisshorn (4,506m), Zinalrothorn (4,221m), Obergabelhorn (4,073m), Matterhorn (4,478m) and Dent Blanche (4,357m), which is why it is known as the “race of five 4000ers”.
Sierre-Zinal’s exceptional alpine landscapes were not the only thing that made it a special competition for Emelie Forsberg, Peyton Thomas and Tòfol Castanyer. They are the NNormal ambassadors who, last weekend, were able to take part in this incredible race alongside 5,997 runners of 69 nationalities. And they did it after spending a week together at the first NNormal Training Camp in Chamonix.
Each of them has a story to tell about this race and we wanted to hear all about it to commemorate the 50th Sierre-Zinal.
A dream come true.
This weekend Emelie Forsberg made her first appearance at the Sierre-Zinal starting line. After dreaming of doing it for more than 15 years, the moment finally arrived just as the race was being held for the 50th time. It was also a very special moment in her career, as less than a month earlier Emelie became the Eiger 51 by UTMB champion with a time of 05:59:10.
The first Sierre-Zinal for Emelie Forsberg offered her a time of 3:36.38. The result was not what she expected, but the atmosphere around the race and the great participation are some of the reasons why Emelie wanted to participate in Sierre-Zinal.
“I couldn't run due to the overheating feeling. Constantly stopped putting my head in rivers but the temperature didn't decrease. But! Despite the bad feeling, I was happy to experience this race, and to meet so many along the course.”
Back to Sierre-Zinal at 51 years old.
The 50th Sierre-Zinal was definitely worth it. At the age of 51, the athlete and NNormal ambassador Tòfol Castanyer decided to take part in Sierre-Zinal again, after skipping it for 9 years. His first time was in 2008 and his last in 2014, and by then he was completely in love with its speed, its landscapes and the welcoming atmosphere that grows around it.
“Before racing in Sierre-Zinal in 2008, everyone told me amazing things about the atmosphere, the organisation and, above all, the spectacular route beside five 4,000-metre peaks. It was all too tempting to turn it down,” he said. “And I certainly wasn’t disappointed. The level was extremely tough, probably due to the circuit’s characteristics: Sierre-Zinal was not just a race for mountain runners. It was also a meeting point for triathletes, orienteers and the first Kenyan athletes to race in Europe.”
He has achieved 5 Top 10s at Sierre-Zinal and, in this 50th year, he finished with a time of 2:52.06. That is something he appreciates enormously at 51 years of age. "I know I’m not fast enough to be at the front, but at my age it was wonderful to be able to enjoy such a legendary race as Sierre-Zinal."
“Life gave me the opportunity to run it again in 2023. A lot has changed in those 15 years, but the race’s magnetism still powerfully attracts me.”
Like Emelie Forsberg, last weekend Peyton Thomas laced up his NNormal shoes to compete in his first Sierre-Zinal. The Training Camp with the other NNormal athletes helped him prepare for his first time at this race, which was also celebrating a very special edition.
“This is my first time at Sierre-Zinal and I expect big crowds, a lot of excitement and a fast but beautiful race. This race is a challenge for me, as it is very competitive. But I think it will be a good introduction to European racing and good preparation for the OCC at the end of the month,” Thomas said before the race.
After her participation in Sierre-Zinal, she achieved a time of 3:45.24, and these were her feelings:
“I felt pretty tired during the whole race because of the heat, but I really loved the flats and there were a lot of people to run with, so it was good.”
After the emotional hangover of a week spent with the NNormal athletes at the brand’s first training camp, and watching three of them take part in Sierre-Zinal, we eagerly await the incredible week that the UTMB in Chamonix will bring us in just a few days. Will you join us?
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