Engadin Skimarathon: rolling along!
More than 12,000 cross-country skiers all requiring transport on the same day: for the Rhaetian Railway as transport partner, the Engadin Skimarathon is a logistical tour de force. But of course the 42 kilometres also present a challenge for those taking part in the race – including Samuel Rindlisbacher, Head of Controlling at RhB. Contura "ran" the race with him.
Just time for him to enjoy one last cup of tea and a banana, change his shoes, deposit his bag of clothes at army truck no. 21, then it’s off – lugging his skis – in the direction of the starting area. A few short sprints, a swing of the arms and a couple of stretches, then the skis get buckled on and Samuel Rindlisbacher lines up next to hundreds of other participants. Vangelis’ "Conquest of Paradise" blasts out – somewhat melodramatically – from the loudspeakers. Although: maybe the 12,000 or so skiers gathering on the snow-clad Lej da Segl – as Lake Sils is known locally – for the start of the 45th Engadin Skimarathon on this beautiful sunny morning in Maloja really do feel as if they are about to conquer their very own piece of paradise. Three, two, one – and they’re off. After a few minutes, the sportsmen and women are no more than tiny dots, barely visible on the frozen surface of the lake.
Recipe for success: relaxation and pasta
In 2013, Samuel Rindlisbacher is taking part in the ski marathon for the third time. Already an old hand, he shows almost no sign of nerves: "I’m just doing this for fun", he says. He wasn’t able to train as hard this year as on previous occasions, having just recently become a dad. A full-blooded sportsman, however, he makes sure he eats mountains of pasta the evening before the big race. The 34-year-old took up cross-country five years ago – "out of curiosity", as he puts it. He used to be a downhill skier. But now he enjoys the fact that there is no more queuing up for ski lifts and no jostling for position on the slopes. Samuel Rindlisbacher is entered in the 'general class' category: "I just missed out on qualifying for the 'main class B' category last year by two minutes." Those taking part in the general class are energetic but nevertheless relaxed; the ambition to traverse the 42 kilometres from Maloja to Schanf via Pontresina on crosscountry skis is palpable, and there’s a touch of excitement in the air, but the mood in the starting area on this sunny winter morning seems pretty relaxed. "The Engadin Skimarathon is always perfectly organised; there’s never any chaos", according to Rindlisbacher.
A breather with Pippa Middleton
We catch up with him again in Pontresina, the finish point for the half marathon: as predicted, Samuel Rindlisbacher arrives at the food and drink station after one and a half hours. Dozens of volunteers line the edges of the course, handing out drinks to the thirsty participants. Music, party tents and barbecued sausages: the atmosphere here gives the spectators some idea of what the celebrations will be like at the finish in S-chanf. Pippa Middleton has just whizzed past, the loudspeakers announce. Prince William’s sister-in-law finishes in 233rd position (out of 494) in her category. Samuel Rindlisbacher is also doing well at the halfway mark: "I got off to a really nice start across the lake", he tells us. "But the Staz forest just outside Pontresina is always hard going – however, I’m happy with my time so far."
Party mood in S-chanf
By car we – naturally – reach the finishing line long before the marathon skiers. Although: the fastest participants cover the 42-km distance between Maloja and Schanf on crosscountry skis in less than ninety minutes. Our man from the RhB takes a little longer: Samuel Rindlisbacher crosses the finishing line after three hours and 33 minutes. He is very happy: "I was only one minute slower than last year! I enjoyed myself and felt really great up to the halfway mark. But the 'Golan heights' at the end were really quite tough. There are two or three brutal climbs – everyone is made to suffer so close to finishing." He has no trouble whatsoever in retrieving his stuff from army truck no.21. Perfect organisation, like he said. And then a satisfied Samuel Rindlisbacher disappears among the crowds of skiers and spectators milling around the food and drink stands, bands playing carnival music and massage tents.