He’s tackled some of the biggest and most famous races out there, sampling the high mountains in the UTMB, the OCC and the CCC, all of which are staged on the sumptuous slopes of Mont Blanc. He’s also done the Eiger 51 in the Swiss Alps and closer to home, he’s completed the Scott Snowdonia and the Scaffell Pike Trail Marathon.
The huge elevation and tough terrain suits Jacek Cieluszecki well, even though he doesn’t regularly train in the mountains like a lot of his competitors in these types of races. He was taking things up a notch further though when he signed up for the Vertical Kilometre in Fully.
Vertical kilometre races entail reaching an ascent of 1000m. They aren’t races where you simply run uphill for a kilometre. The measurement is vertical, rather than as a horizontal distance covered.
Jacek has in fact done one before and that was the Salomon Mamores VK in the Scottish Highlands. That race was 5km in length to reach the kilometre of vertical. The one at Fully was a very different prospect though. This one was only 1,920 meters in length. That of course must mean that it is a much steeper gradient, as the kilometre of vertical is reached much sooner. It’s the shortest, steepest VK race in the world.
What makes this race different though is that there isn’t really much running involved at all. It’s only really the first 200m that is runnable. After that, it’s more like climbing up a very steep stairway for the rest of the race. It’s truly gruelling.
The average gradient exceeds 50% so poles are required. Competitors must also wear a helmet as, due to the severity of the climbs, a fall could get you seriously hurt. The route starts at La Belle-Usine de Fully at 500m and follows an old railway line up to Les Garettes at 1500m. First crossing the vineyards that cover the hillsides of Fully, it then passes through the meadows of Mayens d’Euoloz before leading into the forest and up the long straight path to the finish.
It wasn’t the ideal build up to the race for JC as he arrived in Switzerland quite late the day before the race due to a delayed flight. That left him feeling a little tired on the morning of the race. He hadn’t done too much in the way of specific preparation for the race. He’d done a few steep hill rep sessions but there was no easy to way to train for a race like this. It was just a case of powering up the slope as best he could.
Completing the race in 45 minutes and 25 seconds, Jacek finished 150th out of 461 men who attempted it on the day. In the first veterans category he came in 21st out of 93.
His elevation gain came up as 3,200ft which is staggering considering he only ran 1.2 miles in distance. The first mile contained 2,500ft of climbing and after that there is a further 800ft to get through before making it to the finish.
Swiss man Aurélien Gay was happy to pick up the win, reaching the finish in 31:24. Italian Henri Aymonod was just six seconds slower, forcing him to settle for the runner up spot. Loic Dubois finished 3rd in 32:02.
French woman Christel Dewalle took the ladies title, clocking a time of 34:12 which was way faster than any other female. Jessica Pardin was 2nd lady in 38:14 and British woman Holly Page finished as 3rd female in 41:39.
Although it was insanely tough going, Jacek found it to be a great new experience and he didn’t regret doing it. It had been an adventure that he had really relished and it was no doubt a race that will stay in his memory for years to come.