Natural running (wearing Five Fingers) has become my ultimate source of pleasure. The exhilarating sensation of being outdoors, immersed in the invigorating fresh air, ignites my spirit. It’s a transformative experience that connects me intimately with my environment, training me to adapt effortlessly to diverse terrains. Engaging in natural running cultivates a heightened state of awareness and alertness. Over time, distances cease to be a barrier. When I embarked on my first ultra trail-run, it was the perfect opportunity to test the boundaries of my capabilities, relying on disciplined training and a resilient mindset. Against the awe-inspiring backdrop of the Swiss mountains, every step I took surged with empowerment.

Breaking Barriers with 51k Eiger Ultra

“Why would you run a distance greater than a marathon?” and “Why subject yourself to additional elevation challenges?” These are the questions that inevitably arise. I do not consider myself a conventional runner nor a trail enthusiast. Just a year ago, my maximum distance was a mere 10k on flat terrain, sporting minimal shoes. My focus lies in cultivating proper and efficient movement. Thus, natural running became my path of choice. With a cadence ranging from 180 to 200 steps per minute, I adopted a shorter stride length, landing on the fore- and mid-foot beneath my center of gravity.

Redefining Success

My aim is not to outpace others or achieve faster 10k times. Instead, my singular goal is to cultivate strength, enabling me to move freely without reliance on expensive shoes or the latest branded gear. I thrive on challenging myself and discovering the true extent of my capabilities. Events like the Eiger Ultra Trail provide a safe and structured platform to explore these boundaries (albeit far from cheap), supported by impeccable organisation. Stamina, breathing, and sheer willpower serve as the essential ingredients to conquer such endeavours. Needless to say, adequate preparation plays a crucial role.

Confronting Footwear Predicaments

A few weeks prior to the event, my footwear dilemma remained unresolved. Most long-distance runners opt for cushioned shoes, cautioning against minimal footwear for mountain running due to the potential strain it places on the legs, especially during downhill sections. Consequently, I purchased a pair of normal, nearly zero-drop trail shoes for the occasion. However, even after completing approximately 80k of training in these shoes (Inov-8 Trailtalon 250), they continued to afflict me with blisters.

Throughout 90 percent of my training, I had relied on Vibram’s. Just two weeks before I bought a new pair with a bit more protection and grip (Vibram Spyridon MR). But opting for Five Fingers on race day meant risking wet feet in case of rain. As the event approached, anxiety crept in due to my lack of experience with a challenge like the Eiger Ultra Trail. The last thing I needed was to fret about gear, so I packed both options, allowing for a last-minute decision.

Nature Calls for Five Fingers

Five Fingers Spyridon ultra runningMy journey to Switzerland unfolded seamlessly. I had the privilege of staying at a friend’s house for five days before the race, providing ample time for acclimatization, hiking, and immersing myself in the refreshing mountain air. The weather forecast appeared promising, with mild temperatures and no rain in sight. I had made my decision—I would run in my new Five Fingers. The race began at 7:00 AM, with a time limit of 14 hours. How did it unfold?

To be completely honest, I felt invigorated. There were two minor mental setbacks throughout the day. The first occurred during the arduous climb from Feld to Faulhorn, a seemingly interminable ascent. Although physically demanding, I maintained a strong sense of fitness and resilience. Step by step, I propelled myself forward, knowing that reaching Faulhorn marked the halfway point, with approximately 26k left to conquer.

The second mental hiccup arose when I underestimated 6k of mountainous terrain. Upon leaving the Egg refreshment zone, I noticed a sign indicating 6k until the next stop. After some time, I glanced at my watch, expecting to be near my destination, only to discover that I had covered a mere 3k. Determined to overcome this setback, I made a conscious decision to avoid checking my watch again and focused solely on the rhythm of my stride. It turned out to be the best advice I could give myself.

Five Fingers Running Naturally

Natural running rough terrainDescending the treacherous slopes was an exhilarating experience. I remained completely focused, effortlessly leaping and bounding alongside my fellow runners, tapping into a primal warrior spirit. We were a pack on a mission. The choice for Vibram’s intensified this feeling, although my feet felt the punishment of rocky mountain passes. Running on those sections was impractical, and yes, it was uncomfortable. However, it was a discomfort I knew I could handle.

In that particular moment, I briefly questioned my decision, but I reminded myself that the rugged terrain was only temporary, much like the challenges we face in everyday life. The descent transitioned through steep forested areas, and the final kilometers presented a relatively flat terrain. During those last 10k, I felt an exhilarating surge of energy, continuing to run while others resorted to walking. I was determined to finish strong!

Freeing the Mind

My primary objective was to cross the finish line unscathed and relish the joy of running amidst the majestic mountains. I achieved that and more. Completing the race comfortably within the time limit, with a total of 10.5 hours on my feet, including rest stops, filled me with immense pride. I realized that I had never run an “ordinary marathon,” and after this transformative experience, I doubt I ever will. Road races, pounding the pavement, hold far less allure.

Nature not only provides clean air to invigorate the lungs but also nourishes the mind with clarity, a sense of belonging, and pure joy, fostering a serene connection with our surroundings. The camaraderie among ultra and trail runners is distinct, as they share a profound connection with the earth beneath their feet and remain committed to preserving its beauty—no littering, no intrusive music at every pit stop. Truly beautiful.

Eiger Ultra 51k


Upon crossing the finish line, I found myself on the precipice of a common mistake—immediately seeking the next challenge, chasing longer distances and exploring new mountain trails. However, I resisted this temptation. I recognized the importance of allowing my mind to find solace, to bask in contentment, and to reflect on this extraordinary journey before embarking on new endeavors.

I now possess the confidence that my bones and ligaments are robust enough to endure a 51k endurance race. Since I won’t be training for an ultra, I can bid farewell to the 60k weekly runs, reclaiming valuable time that I will invest in revisiting my barefoot practice and researching other types of functional footwear.

Right now I’m looking forward to an ultra running on Luna Sandals as my primal weapons of choice. Unrestricted toe movement with proper padding is going truly Tarahumara style.

This article was first published in 2017 and rewritten in 2023 to celebrate a new edition of Eiger Ultra Trail.