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Emile Chouriet - Amid the Alpine summits with the Sierre-Zinal race

Emile Chouriet Amid the Alpine summits with the Sierre-Zinal race

For the 45th edition of the “Race of the five 4000s”, the reigning champions held onto their crowns. But unlike many of the runners, this was a first for Emile Chouriet, joint main sponsor of this Alpine event. And it was evidently a success, given that the watchmaker will continue the partnership in 2019.

Since 1974, mountain-loving athletes have been pushing themselves to the limit, running from Sierre to Zinal via Beauregard, Ponchette, Chandolin, Tignousa, the Hôtel Weisshorn, Nava and Barneuza. The demanding 31 km circuit in the heart of the Swiss Alps features 2200 metres of elevation gain, and 1100 metres of descent. The race is also known as the “Race of the five 4000s” because of the five peaks that can be admired by the participants along the route: the Weisshorn (4506 m), the Zinalrothorn (4221 m), the Ober Gabelhorn (4073 m), the Matterhorn (4478 m) and the Dent Blanche (4357 m).

A l’assaut des sommets alpins avec la course Sierre-Zinal

The circuit of the Sierre-Zinal race © sierre-zinal.com

The Sierre-Zinal race, considered a classic of the genre, this year joined the international Golden Trails Series that includes the world’s five most prestigious mountain trail races. “This traditional race, with its history – as a mountain runner you simply have to experience it,” said Jonathan Wyatt, who holds the record for the best time.

Emile Chouriet and Sierre-Zinal

While, on the face of it, watchmaking and trail running have little in common, the partnership between Emile Chouriet and Sierre-Zinal would seem to indicate the contrary... Like the Valais sports event, the Geneva watchmaker is strongly anchored to its local region, but has an international audience. Runners from all over the world come to conquer the route; similarly, the watches produced in the city of Calvin are exported to every corner of the globe.

Amid the Alpine summits with the Sierre-Zinal race

© Emile Chouriet

Tradition is also a key value for both the watchmaker and the elite sports event. Since the beginning, the grandfather of mountain races has taken place on the same route, with the same efficient organisation, as regularly as... clockwork. For Emile Chouriet, making watches is an ancestral craft that is passed down from one generation to the next, while continuously incorporating innovation and increasing complexity. And, just as it takes years of experience and dedication to master the Alpine environment, the same applies to watchmaking skills.

A sixth victory for Kilian Jornet

Kilian Jornet of Spain, a race regular, won his sixth title on Sunday 12 August at the 45th edition. He came in first in 2009, 2010, 2014, 2015 and 2017, tying for first place last year with Ricardo Mejia of Mexico, a former record holder with five wins to his name. Kilian Jornet is now the uncontested master of the Alpine classic. In the women’s race it was Lucy Wambui Murigi of Kenya who was first across the line. This was her third victory, after previous wins in 2015 and 2017.

Amid the Alpine summits with the Sierre-Zinal race

Michelle Maier, Lucy Wambui Murigi and Simone Troxler ; Rob Simpson, Kilian Jornet Burgada and Panin Surum Robert © Emile Chouriet

At the end of the race, Emile Chouriet gave a watch to each of the winners: a Challenger Cliff model inspired by the Alpine world for Kilian Jornet, and a watch from the Fair Lady collection for Lucy Wambui Murigi. Another of the 4900 participants won the same women’s watch, after her bib number was drawn.

Amid the Alpine summits with the Sierre-Zinal race

The watches given to the winners © Emile Chouriet

Easy on the eye, not so easy on the legs

While the experienced runners were chasing victory, amateur runners entered in the “tourist” category were in it for the fun, and were happy just to reach the finish line. Two Swiss participants taking part in Sierre-Zinal for the first time shared their post-race impressions with us. Emile Chouriet was not the only participant intending to come back next year after a successful first outing – the same applies to these two amateur runners, who will be back on the start line on 11 August 2019.

“It was amazing! I loved running in the mountain scenery, in the calm, with the sun rising over the five 4000s,” explains Solène Perruchoud. “At the beginning, everyone was on the start line, and the announcers were building up an incredible atmosphere. What is really great about this race is that you’re never alone. There are always people cheering you on, and it creates a family atmosphere that keeps you going. Our family and friends also came to encourage us,” she continues. “I’ll be back next year, for sure! Even though you’re exhausted by the end, you’re happy and proud to have finished.”

Amid the Alpine summits with the Sierre-Zinal race

Bérangère Prongué et Solène Perruchoud © Caroline Friedrich

“At several points along the route there were bands playing, or young people playing music to keep us going,” adds Bérangère Prongué. “The warm and friendly atmosphere made a big impression on me. The encouragement of my family and friends during the race helped me to keep going to the end and push my limits. There were difficult moments but, when you cross the finish line, you feel proud to have pushed yourself."

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