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Nägele triumphant at Germany's toughest and highest mountain marathon

by Press Release
Monday 25th July 2016
Spectacular rugged mountains, high alpine trails and growing participant numbers with 1500 runners from 40 nations in total during the three days. That seems a pretty apt summary of what the 3rd SCOTT ROCK THE TOP TRAILRUN CHALLENGE held in store for visitors and athletes this past weekend. 
The event finished on Sunday with short and intermediate distance trail races under sunny skies. The festival had kicked off on Friday night with a City Sprint race but culminated on Saturday with the iconic Zugspitz Trailrun Challenge Marathon as well as the Zugspitz Uphill. German National Team trail racer Lukas Nägele dominated the shortened marathon (42.5 km) among the Men while American-born Dreama Walton proved victorious among the Women. Two Germans claimed first ranks in the Zugspitz Uphill over 15.1 km: Andreas Seewald and Tina Fischl were not to be outdone.
The SCOTT ROCK THE TOP Zugspitz Trailrun Challenge has gained a bit of a reputation. Three years in the making, the ROCK THE TOP Marathon now has the distinction of being Germany's toughest and highest race over this distance. Still, 307 marathonistas  and 360 uphill sprinters from 21 nations managed to reach the finish on the glacial plateau of the Zugspitze up at 2,562m. While the race had to conclude 300 meters (vertical) shy of the proper summit due to concerns over lightning storms most racers had had their fill by the time they reached the ski station 'Zugspitzplatt'. 
First of all, 27-year-old Lukas Nägele of Germany was elated to arrive in first place after a cumulative elevation gain of 3,954 m over the 42.5 km distance. “I wasn't heart-broken about missing out on the final summit pitch, it was enough as it is. All in all a great race through impressive mountains but at the same time very demanding and really tough“. 
Nägele (ASICS Frontrunner) put in 5:22 hours on the trail for the honorable distinction of being the winner in the ROCK THE TOP Marathon which distinguishes him as one of Germany's top trail runners. His victory was even more impressive as he finished almost 20 minutes before second-ranking Swiss athlete Ralf Birchmeier (5:42 hours). The Swiss pursuer had endured a shoulder injury during a nasty fall on the trail but still managed to come through for a noteworthy second-place finish. Indeed, the trails proved treacherously slippery after thunderstorms in the days leading up to the event and during the festival weekend repeatedly had soaked the Northern Alps again and again.  So much so, that course directors felt the need to tighten the time limits during the race in an effort to stay ahead of any lightning storms. 
Third to arrive at the marathon finish was Moritz auf der Heide (5:55), who had taken a measured approach to the race given the tough conditions out on the trail. While the German had kept up to the leading couple of athletes for the first bit, he eventually took a guarded approach that would manage his position in third place but with an extra margin of safety.  Auf der Heide concurred with all other leading racers that “some trail sections were super hard and this is what sets the race apart from others“.  
The defending champion and the athlete who was widely considered a top favorite, Markus Mingo, did not have one of his best days – by his own admission.  “I recognized early on in the race that I wasn't able to harry myself today. So, instead I decided to enjoy the day.  It was a fabulous competition, an inspiring race atmosphere and a great course“. Most other racers agreed with that assessment and, given the challenging trail conditions, decided to relish what the race had to offer despite all hardships. 
Among the Women, American athlete Dreama Walton, currently from Kaiserslautern (Germany), claimed victory. She arrived at the finish after 7:27 hours on the trail with 9 minutes lead ahead of Austrian Marie-Luise Mühlhuber (7:36,15.0). The two racers dominated the field with barely a threat from other female racers. Their double-digit lead on third-ranking Alexandra Gundel (GER, 8:03,47.8) proved them to be in a different league. The leading duo likely would have faced stiff competition if defending champion Maria Koller had raced. Unfortunately, the top athlete had to withdraw her registration due to an injury ahead of the race. Dreama Walton, supported by her husband and 1-year-old son was taken by surprise arriving in first place. “It was just sensational and so exciting. I love this area. But it was also really tough“.  
The Zugspitz Uphill, a sprint race up Germany's loftiest peak, seems to pale next to the marathon event but can't be discounted. It's clearly a specialist competition and attracts a different sort of trail runner. It's all about a short and snappy, thigh-busting race that just never lets up over its 15.1 km distance. German athlete Andreas Seewald took just 1:52 hours to reach the finish line at the Zugspitzplatt which translates into a vertical gain of 1.793 m over that time period. Second to follow was Italian Christian Moser (2:00,09.8 hours). Third place went to German Hannes Namberger (2:04,52.1 hours). This podium line-up goes to show how popular trail-running has become in recent years. All three racers are accomplished athletes in other mountain sports. Seewald had recently won the coveted MTB-race Salzkammergut Trophy. Moser is a decorated trail specialist on even steeper and shorter courses and, last but not least, Namberger is a skilled free ride  skier.
Tina Fischl of Germany defended previous year's title in the Zugspitz Uphill among the Women. The National team member finished in 2:23,44.9 hours, well ahead of fellow Germans Anke Friedl (2:40,04.1) and Vroni Brand (2:42,20.7). The victorious Fischl proved humble as she shared that “the thighs still felt some abuse from the AOK City Sprint the previous night“.  
While the City Sprint tends to pale in terms of pure race statistics next to the Marathon and Uphill races in the Zugspitz Trailrun Challenge, it clearly packs a punch that can't be ignored the following day.  In total, 250 racers were up to the urban challenge affording the large crowd of spectators an inside perspective on trail-running.  Some of those would have come for local hero, Laura Dahlmeier, a recent Biathlon Wold Champion, who had registered for this event and for the longest time held the evening record on the short course through the heart of Garmisch-Partenkirchen. The pro athlete clearly enjoyed herself at the race. “I really got a kick out of the City Sprint, a pretty cool competition and heaps of fun to boot“. Victory was claimed by another local, however. Melanie Albrecht (10,47 minutes) of nearby Wallgau proved to be five seconds faster than Dahlmeier (10,52) who herself came in a hair before Tina Fischl (10,53).  
The third and last day in the SCOTT ROCK THE TOP Zugspitz Trailrun Challenge was all about short and intermediate-distance trail races. Early-morning fog quickly lifted for blue skies and ample sunshine which brought out 360 athletes for the half-marathon distance and 160 racers for the 10K course. Petra Faune, Managing Director of the regional Tyrolean Tourism Board Zugspitz Arena was satisfied with the turnout. “All in all a very successful event. The decision to shorten  Sarturday's races well below the Zugspitze summit proved to be a wise choice given detereorating weather conditions. Today's sunshine and the panoramic vistas over the nearby mountain ranges should make up for what visitors missed out on in terms of scenery on Saturday. The races were well recieved by visitors, participants and the community at large. Only the 10K course could have had a touch more racers“.
Title Sponsor SCOTT was also satisfied with the festival which it has supported since the inaugural event three years ago. Christina Reger, Marketing and Project Manager of SCOTT SPORTS GERMANY noticed that “the event has grown quite noticeably. Interest in the event was most impressive in Ehrwald where the landmark races were held and fit the surrounding mountainscape. The event raises interest among athletes of all sorts – among the pros as much as total newbies. There's a race for just about anybody. This seems an ideal match for us and our ideas about developing our trail-running portfolio further“. 

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