For centuries, farmers, shepherds, soldiers, and traders huffed up the steep faces of the Alps on a daily basis. Now, runners and trekkers reap the rewards of their efforts in the form of well-trod trails.
"The Alps in general provide a huge variety of running possibilities from which everyone can find something, from technical high-mountain trails to rolling pastures," Hawker says. "One special trail for me is the Tour de Monte Rosa in the Pennine Alps, lying on the border of Italy and Switzerland. It encompasses diverse landscapes, from a glacier crossing to some of the ancient pathways of the Walser people, grazing pastureland to wild passes."
Though pros like Hawker could run the 90 miles in a day or two, most travelers take their time over about ten days, staying in mountain huts and inns along the way—all the better to take in the Swiss and Italian villages and the 4,000-meter peaks that rear up out of the valleys.
Plan This Trip: A number of guide services lead treks along the Tour de Monte Rosa, such as KE Adventure.
Here are just a few of the things Lizzy Hawker has snagged in the world of endurance running: a women’s 24-hour road running world record for distance; a speed record for running between Everest Base Camp to Kathmandu; and five wins at the North Face Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc. In her spare time, she also got her Ph.D. in polar oceanography and ticked off seven first ascents on skis in Kyrgyzstan.
- Nat Geo Expeditions