Every summer, I spend a few months at altitude preparing for the major Championships of that year. Previously we had always chosen Font Romeu in the French Pyrenees because it was the preference of British Athletics (both Mo Farah and Paula Radcliffe have apartments there). But with the track in Font Romeu under renovation, I decided to head out to Switzerland instead. It was a month earlier than normal but my training had been pretty flat and so I wanted to head abroad in search of some consistency – running in the thin air!
I wanted to try St Moritz, in the Swiss Alps, as it was highly recommended from other athletes and triathletes from around the world. Initially it was a little daunting booking an AirBnb apartment in a country I had never visited before but with Font Romeu being shut – it ended up being a blessing in disguise. St Moritz is one of the most beautiful places i’ve ever had the pleasure of running in and it’s safe to say; it’s stolen a piece of my heart!
Travelling to St Moritz can sound a little laboured as it is a three and a half hour train ride from Zurich airport but honestly it will be the fastest, smoothest and most scenic three and a half hours you’ll ever spend. I highly recommend taking the train for the views. You can hire a care but it’s an extra expense of which you don’t really need. The trains are so frequent and unbelievably reliable compared to the constant drivel of delays we get in the UK! When you arrive into St Moritz, itself and the nearby neighbouring towns are serviced by the Engadin Bus which again is very frequent and easy to use. Make life easy; get the train; sit back and enjoy the views!
St Moritz isn’t huge but I would certainly recommend staying at the bottom of the town in St Moritz-Bad. All the apartments and hotels overlook the track which means there is no need for a car. I was so fortunate to find a beautiful one bed apartment but if you book in advance there are loads of different feasible options. St Moritz isn’t cheap but if you plan ahead, it’s no more expensive than other altitude destinations. Residence de Seez and Hotel Sonne are also very popular with elite athletes.
As an international athlete, you can pick up a yellow card which allows you free access to both the track and a small gym at the ice rink. I know a few athletes wanted bigger facilities so they paid for a membership at Guut Training but to be honest, I was more than happy with the small gym – especially when travelling on a budget. All I need is a cross trainer, a spin bike, a swiss ball and a few resistance machines and i’m set!
Another great addition with the ‘athlete card’ is the opportunity to use Overavea Swimming Pool for free once a week. (ps. If you’re injured, you can get more passes with a doctors medical note.) The pool is beautiful and whether you’re looking to aqua jog, swim or just relax in the outdoor pool – you have to check this place out! (ps. There are also hidden water slides! Next to the kids pool, there is a little corridor hidden away with a small sign outside saying ‘funtower’. Inside are three big water slides which are completely enclosed and hidden away from the rest of the poolside. Thank me later!)
Unfortunately I didn’t get to sample any of the divine food I had been hearing about. I was travelling on a budget but secondly I was travelling alone – a table for one is a sorry state of affairs! About 200m from the track is a large supermarket – Coop. It’s reasonably priced but if you have a car and want to pick up groceries for a little cheaper then head into the next town Sameden and hit up Aldi instead!
The running is what truly sets St Moritz apart from other altitude destinations i’ve trained in. Most ski resorts are located in hilly areas for obvious reasons and in order to get to better, flatter trails – it usually requires a drive. But St. Moritz is located within a valley which means there are numerous flat trails right from the door. You can literally step out of bed and onto the trails. After two foot surgeries, I have to be really careful with regards to the terrain I run on but the lakes around St Moritz and heading down into neighbouring Silvaplana are perfect. Flat, pristine, gravel trails with views that are so spectacular you’ll have to keep stopping on your run to take in all the sights!
With the athlete card, I could access free gondolas up all of the mountain ranges which was pretty cool! Unfortunately not all of them were open during my time here as June is a little early for the summer season – everything is thriving and open by July. Muottas Muragl and Corvatsch were stunning.
You can also go on a day trip and head down to Lake Como – i’ll certainly be doing this the next time! Lej de Staz is only a two mile jog away and the water in the lake is much warmer than the glacial streams which makes it really popular for swimmers and triathletes.
The track is located at 1800m at the base of St Moritz and due to it being very open, it can be windy most days. However I found that the wind didn’t particularly have a huge affect on the set paces I wanted to hit within my sessions. It’s definitely not as warm or sun splitting as the French Pyrenees but but by no means is the weather bad. I was still running in crop top and shorts most days! The best thing, for after tough track sessions is that the river is only a few metres away! Meandering it’s way into the lake it acts as natural ice bath with several little barges that make it easier to jump in from. Be warned: it is baltic!! But you’re legs will thank you later.
With the track being so open and exposed, there will be other athletes and coaches down at the track at every minute of the day. So if you’re very secretive about your workouts then St Moritz definitely isn’t for you. But if it’s good enough for multiple world and olympic medalists then it’s certainly good enough for me! And if you’re an upcoming athlete looking for inspiration, you only have to walk a few metres to the track and you could be watching some of the top athletes in the world get to work.
For a little more specific work or time trial sessions, you can head down to Chiavenna, Italy which is only 1000m above sea level. It’s a favourite amongst elite athletes and insta-worthy views!
So I hope this gives you a little into St Moritz as a training destination! Beautifully unique. If you’re thinking of heading out but have a few questions – pop them below! I would highly recommend it to anyone looking for an altitude hit. To be honest, it’s SO beautiful I would return for a European holiday and I will certainly be basing myself here next summer.