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42 Kilometers of Sweet Torture

Glacier Trailrun in Gurgl

Covering a distance of 42.1 kilometers and 2785 meters of altitude gain: these are the quite intimidating key features of the Glacier Trailrun held in Gurgl. Enjoying and suffering at the same time? Yes, of course! Martin Scheiber, Glacier Trailrun organizer and local Trail Running Expert from Ötztal, can tell you much more about this challenging event, its specific characteristics, the right running tactics and why you should also pause for a moment.

Trail Run Gurgl, Water, Legs

Trail Running: at a run on Alpine paths

Let’s start with a short introduction: what exactly is trail running? There is not a single definition but the following explanation comes very close: trail running starts where asphalt roads end. Additionally, running on unsurfaced paths has become more and more popular over the last years – also in Ötztal where runners can choose from incredible 1600 kilometers of trails, paths, routes and treks.

The Glacier Trailrun in Gurgl takes into account the latest trends – leading right across picture-book landscapes of awesome natural beauty, close to the breathtaking glacier areas of the rear Ötztal.

One event, four competitions

The race’s supreme discipline is, of course, the marathon. But extreme trail running is not a must – only in this case: the track covers 42.1 kilometers and 2785 meters of altitude change on climbing and descending stretches. The second competition comprises the half-marathon distance of 22.9 kilometers and 1910 meters of altitude gain.

Young and upcoming talents can join the Junior Glacier Run with a distance of up to 1500 meters. One day prior to the event, on Friday, the unrivaled Mountain Star Night Run is scheduled as the weekend’s very first highlight. It’s not difficult to guess that this mountain running event ends at the Top Mountain Star (about 3000 m above sea level) in Hochgurgl. The air becomes thin up there!

Trail Run Gurgl, Panorama, 2 People

The 42-kilometer event has the biggest number of entries. Martin is quite surprises about that! The harder the challenge the bigger the number of trail runners interested in the event. The field of participants is varied, comprising a couple of running pros, many ambitious amateur sportsmen and women as well as trail running beginners – the latter are recommended to take part in the half-marathon to give high-altitude trail running a try.

Characterful running course

Trail Run Gurgl, Panorama, 2 People

During the last two weeks, Martin – originally he is a pastry cook from Umhausen – has examined the route again and again to install refreshment stations and signposts. More detailed trail markers, flags and ribbons are fixed only two or three days prior to the event.

Martin is also responsible for the running course. But why did he choose exactly this part of the valley? “Because it’s so incredibly beautiful,” he explains with a twinkle in his eyes. And because of its perfectly fitting terrain – almost without asphalt tracks or forest trails. Only the start and the finish area in the village center of Obergurgl travel on asphalt roads.

Furthermore it had to be a technically challenging trail with tree roots and gravel surface, requiring a certain level of surefootedness. The runners also conquer glacial polish areas on the downhill stretch from Ramolhaus to the new suspension bridge. Of course, the entire track is varied and demanding, covering the whole valley floor and mountain flank area of Obergurgl-Hochgurgl.

Martin Scheiber, Organizer of the event

Running at high altitude plus an excellent advice

Are there any key sections? Not really, states Martin. The high altitude location can be a real crux which makes the track fairly incalculable. But the route also features enough running sections – an important detail for experts: for example on the “Urweg” trail towards Ramolhaus refuge hut at about 2500 meters above sea level.

The first rule is to pace oneself right from start as the high altitude doesn’t allow real regeneration. In fact, once you feel exhausted you can’t restore your energy anymore at such high Alpine altitudes beyond 2000 meters. The best advice given by a trail running experts: do not start with too much speed, start slowly!

Picture-Book trails

Gurgl Rotmoostal,  Horses

If you ask Martin which section of the trail he likes best he can’t give you just one answer. The entire route is worth a run! More leisurely sports aficionados – who don’t fight for the marathon win – should take a break now and then, and admire the marvelous Alpine surroundings. Nature is one of the reasons that give wings to the athletes.

But then Martin points out two stages he is especially fond of: First, the “Urweg” trail traveling past lake Nedersee to Ramolhaus hut, this a very speedy section for runners and offers wonderful views of Obergurgl located below and the valley basin in front of you. Second, the section leading from Schönwieshütte refuge hut into the high Alpine Rotmoostal valley and back again across the saddleback of Hohe Mut.

Wishing good luck and an excellent stamina to all participants in the Glacier Run. Please don’t forget – although talking in platitudes: The journey is its own reward…


  • All important details on the Glacier Trailrun plus program highlights, marathon course, GPS tracks, itineraries, obligatory sports equipment, etc. available HERE
  • Go to online entry HERE – for all Glacier Trailrun competitions
  • In 2016 the “Ötztal Trailrunning” club was founded, offering further activities in the valley. If you want to informed about running nights or other events visit their Facebook page HERE.
Benedikt Steiner

Author: Benedikt Steiner

When it comes to activity and motion, Benni pricks up his ears! He is a passionate snowboarder, mountain biker, climber & hiker and he knows no better playground for outdoor sports than the Ötztal.

He is not the type to sit still - therefore Benni can be often found on the valley's most exciting bike trails and pristine powder snow slopes.