To say participants “run” the vertical kilometre in Fully, Switzerland may be a bit of a stretch. Climbing may be more appropriate a term.

The course is held on a former cliff railway track in the Alps. Those brave enough to attempt the vertical kilometre climb a staggering 1,000m in the span of less than 2K, at an average grade of more than 50 per cent. Helmets are mandatory for all those who participate.

Saturday’s race was the 16th edition of the vertical kilometre, known as one of the world’s fastest 1K courses. The Red Bull 400, which stops in Whistler, B.C., is a similar race as are events ascending Grouse Mountain in North Vancouver, B.C.

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According to the VK Fully website, the definition of a vertical kilometre is “1,000m of difference in height, coupled with the shortest possible distance, and all that to be performed in a time-trial.” There are other popular vertical kilometres in Europe and around the world.

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The men’s winner, Nadir Maguet, managed to complete the 1.9K course in just over 30 minutes (30:17). The top woman, Christel Dewalle, “ran” the course in 35:57, according to Trails Endurance Mag. Many competitors used ski poles to help ascend the steep slope. Every 100m of elevation gained is marked on course, like every kilometre is marked in most road races.

Kilian Jornet, one of the world’s top trail runners, was among the field on Saturday in Switzerland. He finished fourth overall.

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By the Numbers

Where: Fully, Valais Alps, Switzerland
Vertical climb: 1,000m
Course length: 1,920m
Average grade: 52 per cent
Steepest grade: 60 per cent
Number of racers: Limited to approximately 600


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