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Patrouille des Glaciers – Probably the hardest mountain race in the world

The Patrouille des Glaciers (Glacier Patrol PDG) is the largest ski-mountaineering race in the world, and one of the most challenging and attractive competitions in international ski-alpinism. The course is unique on account of its length, its high-alpine altitude and the demanding profile of the route. From the 21st to the 25th April 2010, more than 4,300 participants took part in this extreme competition, in which more than 8,000 metres of altitude have to be completed. In addition to soldiers from the Swiss army, 22 foreign troops and many civilian teams took on this sporting challenge. 

These foreign troops included the German Rainer Egger, who, at fifty-two years of age, was one of the oldest military participants in this year’s Patrouille des Glaciers. He has already run in the Patrouille des Glaciers eight times, and acted as a local supporter once. Since starting his career as a biathlon athlete, the PDG was probably the greatest sporting challenge of his life. The PDG is also a unique form of training from a military viewpoint, however: „The Patrouille is not an exercise, and everything must work together perfectly from start to finish. Like war, the PDG is the highest form of proving yourself. You run in a team, and, in the same way as it is difficult to survive alone in a war, you are only as strong as the weakest link in the team during the PDG.“ Mutually encouraging one another in the Patrouille, and thereby helping to achieve the best-possible performance, represents real character building. Fundamental values such as comradeship, growing beyond yourself, sporting fairness and striving for maximum safety are the characteristic elements of the Patrouille des Glaciers - a really hard test for body, mind and comradeship. 
When asked how he trains for the Patrouille des Glaciers, he simply replies: „It’s not enough to train one or two years for the Patrouille. Training is an attitude towards life.“ It makes no difference that his team colleagues Jörg Rauschenberger (39) and Jörg Woitek (30) are much younger than him. „You have to be tough and resilient for the long distance of the Patrouille des Glaciers, and these are characteristics that remain despite age. Every runner has to work hard to build up condition, regardless of how old he is.“ The three first ran together as a team in the training run organised by the Swiss army shortly before the Patrouille. 

Their target was to beat the best time set by the German army of 8 hours and 15 minutes, and they did indeed arrive in Verbier in a time of 8 hours and 13 minutes. And this was not the only best time that was beaten in this year’s Patrouille des Glaciers: together with his team colleagues Florent Troillet and Yannick Ecoeur, Martin Anthamatten from Zermatt beat the course record by more than 20 minutes: the trio arrived in Verbier after an unbelievable 5 hours and 52 minutes. The women’s patrol of Nathalie Etzensperger, Emilie Gex-Fabry and Marie Troillet, the sister of Florent Troillet, also set a new record in their category, and ran the course in 7 hours and 41 minutes, 12 minutes faster than the fastest women’s patrol, two years ago. The excellent conditions also played a role in the setting of these records, and the Patrouille des Glaciers 2010 will certainly go down in history as a competition with many records.

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