210k Westweg

Already a month ago (9th of May 2024) we had a go on the Westweg in Southern Germany. The Westweg is a premium hiking trail crossing the whole Schwarzwald from North (Pforzheim) to South (Basel). Westweg has two variations West and Ost – we used the West variant. Strategy was to place two cars along the way (km 140/km 210) and we were lucky to get some company from fellow runners – which gave us another car opportunity to refill at km 50.

All in all a very nice experience in good company. We decided to call it a day after 210 km in Hinterzarten and not go for the last stretch to Basel. Strategy worked out fine but we did not had the urge to really push all out and finish it. Sometimes to not go ultra is also a legit thing. We had a good supply plan – everything worked out as expected and we had spectacular views (including a night full of polar lights), great company and lots of fun.

Some pictures and video expressions below:

With regards to statistics – this was number 39 100 mile plus run and continued the 200k plus streak to 4 months in a row.

The End

It was late 2009 when I moved to Aachen. This was two years after my first and fastest Marathon on the 13.05.2007 (3h21m). Coming from handball and cycling races I was afraid enough to actually train for that first marathon back in 2007. I came to Aachen to finish my studies here and well – stayed. I started to log my running km electronically in 2010, ran a few more Marathons the next years (Rurtal, Hamburg, Düsseldorf, Norderney, Monschau, Jungfrau, Saarbrücken) and then met Helmut and came in contact with the LTB Aachen running club in 2012. While continued to run Marathons I learned that there is more. The group run Rund um Aachen 2013 (63k) opened a whole new world. Running, eating and fun were combined.

2014 started with more group runs (Limburgs Halfzwaare from Willem M.) and it escalated in my first official “ultra” (Rennsteig Supermarathon; 72k) in May 2014. I also met Björn as well as Stefan Vilvo in 2014 – this should change things dramatically. It opened the door to endless hours in the Eifel and Greater Aachen Area. No trail was too blocked, no mud was too deep and no river was safe from us anymore. I came in contact with Olne-Spa-Olne – another run that can change perspectives. In 2015 we started to create with the “matschige Aachen Marathon” aka mAMa our own interpretation of a Marathon in Aachen – and should host not less than 9 mAMa runs (10 if you count the lonely “Race Director Edition” during Corona) from 2015 til 2024. But it didn’t stop there. I ran my first 100ks in 2015 (Limburgs Zwaarste and soon after WHEW) and after that it just continued – too many runs to mention them all. The first 100 mile-attempt took place during the 24h run in Iserlohn in 2016 (148k) and was then finally completed at the TorTour de Ruhr 2016 (Arnsberg-Duisburg; 100 mi).

By sheer luck I saw and followed a really strange live-tracking page of an event on FB in 2016 and contacted the RDs Maarten and Marek end of 2016/beginning 2017 to learn more about that strange thing. I tried their LEO180 in 2017: a hopeless, pathetic and unsuccessful attempt – but one which left a deep mark and opened the book to another dimension of running. We watched the Yiannis Kouros “Forever Running” documentary on YouTube the evening before that 2017 LEO180 and M&M mentioned a famous run called Legend Trails – and that this would be the real thing. It sounded strange, abstracted and way beyond my possibilities. It was the most tiny spark imaginable that was ignited that November 2017 but nevertheless that fire started to burn and grew over the next 7 years.

The stories have been written and are all preserved on this page. What a ride it was. Endless stories about endlessness – about what happens beyond the possible. Life finally started to change in 2023 and after exactly 15 years the time in Aachen will end in 2024. Time to run those trails one last time; time to say goodbye to the Eifel, to the Ardennes and to Hautes Fagnes – I owe them a lot.

How distance running started in 2014:

And how it ended in 2024:

Underground Update

In an uncertain world – endurance is the answer.

One third of 2024 is over – time to have a look behind the curtain. In a world full of shiny YouTube movies and fancy IG stories it’s getting easier for long-distance projects to stay in the dark and unnoticed void. However – some things happened.

The debut in 2024 was organized by the Teuflischer Biber Ultra. A double debut as it opened 2024 and was the first edition of that event organized by Michael and his great team from Biber Backyard Ultra. A very good, challenging and interesting format saw 4 starter and no finisher in this very first edition. There is a date set for 2025 and I heard some discussion from people who really want to own this format and from some people who are interested to try it themselves. If there is one thing about it – it would be another fantastic achievement to manage all loops. But with Teun and Wouter the right folks was present in the first edition – both may be able to pull this off one day. Definitely an event which deserves more attention and will gain traction the next years.

Campfire vibes before #tbu

The usual kick-off meeting for the whole bubble in February (aka. Legends Trails) was yet another fascinating edition show-casing all aspects of endurance. If you want to do it – your last chance is 2025 – registration is open and you better start to get ready for it now! Beyond 2025 we have been promised to get to know a whole different Legends Trail. Those who know the event are a bit more afraid than they are excited about that; so better get your shot in 2025. The general feedback in 2024 was: it´s more than worth all efforts.

Chez Ingo chez Ingo aka Toastie Time

Meanwhile there have been 4 successful attempts on The Dead Marshes which is the entry challenge to next years Slam. So far I got positive feedback on my track and looking at the fantastic list of applicants and the upcoming better weather window we will see quite a few more attempts in near future. To me these are the most fascinating projects. It needs quite some planning including scheduling it in a mostly full family life, it needs real dedication while running those tracks and at the end there are only a handful people in some weird FB group chats recognizing it. Those are highly underrated attempts and experiences. There is no one cheering, the supply orga is a real thing to get under control – and at the end you arrive at a parking lot and drive away. Unnoticed and unseen. Reading stories from what happened along the way –

(e.g. Addie and Christof with the worst weather conditions ending up sitting very long in the half-way car at Dead Marshes most probably discussing whether or not it makes sense to continue (it doesn´t – and yet they did it) and then not long after they started the second loop messing up navigation and tried to cross a river ending up almost swimming)

those are the stories I enjoy the most. There is still time to jump on this project – Dead Marshes needs to be completed til the end of 2024. And there is more to come in 2025 for the happy few.

Dead Marshes @ Night

Another astounding attempt was Monica´s FKT on the Pieterpad in NL. Lots of the lovely Dutch/Belgian family stood up to support and Monica managed the 500k with an impressive amount of dedication and discipline. When I joined for a few km she was pretty calm despite the fact she was facing the fourth night. When meeting the car one could feel and see the strain, exhaustion and tiredness quite clearly – and yet she stood up from that chair again and again like playing an endless game of horror just to finally being able to finish it off. Was a nice achievement to witness.

The unexpected marriage!

During the first months of 2024 I also joined Marek for a few runs on his attempt to collect all platsnaambordjes in Brabant and he is getting really close to complete this challenge. It’s both a really stupid and wonderful thing to do. It offers the opportunity to really get to know the region, it includes a lot of boring km and at the end there is a sheet which is on Mareks drive with the list. One may think: wtf. But Marek and I share a weird love for sheets and stats. Our chat is full of numbers, percentages and formulas – most of the normal world would be shocked to see it. But we don´t really care.

Bakel-Oost

I was also lucky to secure 24h in Maarten´s schedule for a project we have been discussing ever since we met. Not that we really talked any details but we knew that day would come. A combined hobby of us is Hautes Fagnes so we met at Baraque Michel and things got out of hand. Exactly as expected. It was a remarkable time up there and probably not the last time we met at this spot. We only managed to pull-off around 70 km in 24h but those were the most interesting ones in 2024 so far. A multi-dimension experience. In so many ways.

Into the Heart of Hautes Fagnes and Further
Further

Lastly the Legends Family met again at Legends Backyard Ultra in April. Although I am really disappointed about my abilities in this format it was lovely to meet all of the folks and finally have some time for some more words with some of the runners. Just got to love the Belgian team and their friends/family – the amount of amazing runners and the quality of running over there is unmatched. Yet all of them are calm and focused, always friendly and supportive and always humble. They celebrate ultra in a way I can feel to 100%.

Loops with friends!

Looking forward to the next period in 2024. Teun is going to tackle another GR aiming for an FKT, there are several Dead Marshes attempts coming soon and if we survive the tough off-season period (aka summer) the World Team championship of Backyard Ultra is coming. Although I don´t like it, it still fascinates me and I can’t wait to watch the battle between US, AUS and BEL – going to an epic one.



Hautes Fagnes

O schaurig ist’s übers Moor zu gehn,
Wenn es wimmelt vom Heiderauche,
Sich wie Phantome die Dünste drehn
Und die Ranke häkelt am Strauche,
Unter jedem Tritte ein Quellchen springt,
Wenn aus der Spalte es zischt und singt! –
O schaurig ist’s übers Moor zu gehn,
Wenn das Röhricht knistert im Hauche!

Fest hält die Fibel das zitternde Kind
Und rennt, als ob man es jage;
Hohl über die Fläche sauset der Wind –
Was raschelt drüben am Hage?
Das ist der gespenstische Gräberknecht,
Der dem Meister die besten Torfe verzecht;
Hu, hu, es bricht wie ein irres Rind!
Hinducket das Knäblein zage.

Vom Ufer starret Gestumpf hervor,
Unheimlich nicket die Föhre,
Der Knabe rennt, gespannt das Ohr,
Durch Riesenhalme wie Speere;
Und wie es rieselt und knittert darin!
Das ist die unselige Spinnerin,
Das ist die gebannte Spinnenlenor‘,
Die den Haspel dreht im Geröhre!

Voran, voran! Nur immer im Lauf,
Voran, als woll es ihn holen!
Vor seinem Fuße brodelt es auf,
Es pfeift ihm unter den Sohlen,
Wie eine gespenstige Melodei;
Das ist der Geigemann ungetreu,
Das ist der diebische Fiedler Knauf,
Der den Hochzeitheller gestohlen!

Da birst das Moor, ein Seufzer geht
Hervor aus der klaffenden Höhle;
Weh, weh, da ruft die verdammte Margret:
„Ho, ho, meine arme Seele!“
Der Knabe springt wie ein wundes Reh;
Wär nicht Schutzengel in seiner Näh,
Seine bleichenden Knöchelchen fände spät
Ein Gräber im Moorgeschwele.

Da mählich gründet der Boden sich,
Und drüben, neben der Weide,
Die Lampe flimmert so heimatlich,
Der Knabe steht an der Scheide.
Tief atmet er auf, zum Moor zurück
Noch immer wirft er den scheuen Blick:
Ja, im Geröhre war’s fürchterlich,
O schaurig war’s in der Heide.

Anette von Droste-Hülshoff; “Der Knabe im Moor

There is this one place to whom we owe a lot. It has been featured in each of the Legends Trails and it left a mark.

We started to include it into our projects as well. In 2021 during our Titanic Slam this place played an important role in the KATE180 track. Most of the runners were a bit of overwhelmed that one had to cross this area not only once but twice – a rather interesting twist.

In 2022 during the Marvel Slam the track The Dark World combined three heavy loops in that area into a 100 mi long endless journey – most probably the only 100 mi in the world in these kind of environment. A really unique but rather unknown challenge.

Last and most certainly not least in 2024 applicants for the Lord of the Ring Slam in 2025 have to finish the entry challenge The Dead Marshes – in which start, end and middle point are once more right in the middle of that area. One has to leave, return, leave again to finally return…

Here are some somewhat recent impressions of: Hautes Fagnes – collected as yet another collaboration between acceptnolimits.eu and pfadsucher.com. Providing some unique shots of the beyond following the motto: “the tendency is to push it as far as you can“:

A bunch of older video content featuring Hautes Fagnes from Maarten:

The Dead Marshes 2024

Gollum laughed. ‘The Dead Marshes, yes, yes: that is their names,’ he cackled….

‘Who are they? What are they?’ asked Sam shuddering….

‘I don’t know,’ said Frodo in a dreamlike voice. ‘But I have seen them too… grim faces and evil, and noble faces and sad…. But all foul, all rotting, all dead.’….

‘Yes, yes,’ said Gollum. ‘All dead, all rotten…. The Dead Marshes. There was a great battle long ago, yes, so they told him when Sméagol was young, when I was young before the Precious came. It was a great battle. Tall Men with long swords, and terrible Elves, and Orcses shrieking. They fought on the plain for days and months at the Black Gates. But the Marshes have grown since then, swallowed up the graves; always creeping, creeping.’


The Two Towers, LOTR Book 4, Ch. 2, The Passage of the Marshes

What is this?
The track The Dead Marshes is the entry challenge to be part of next years #lotrslam2025. All information on the slam and what you can expect can be found here and here. To sign up for The Dead Marshes just enter your name in the sheet and download the GPX from there as well. You have until December 31st 2024 to complete The Dead Marshes and to prove your completion with your .fit, .gpx, your Garmin or your Strava link sent to slam@acceptnolimits.eu. Upon verification we will publish your attempt in the above mentioned sheet and you will receive the GPX files for the 2025 Slam on 01.01.2025.

About The Dead Marshes
Whenever I create a track in an area I know well I try to make sure to include all the highlights I know but to also use ways/paths I never took before. The Dead Marshes is a tribute to Hautes Fagnes but also includes some nice spots in the Rursee area in Germany (featured during KATE180) and the Coo area in Belgium (aka. Iceberg and the Basin). Hautes Fagnes is exactly in the middle of those two “ends” – thats forms a nice concept. Start/Middlepoint/Finish at Baraque Michel also provides the opportunity to enter and leave Hautes Fagnes not 1, 2 or 3 but 4 times. A nice tweak – you should be really obsessed with plankjes, dark/rocky river valleys and wet grass/endless marsh areas.
While finally running The Dead Marshes it felt a bit weird. There are quite some stretches of big paths easy to run and quite some streets/asphalt parts as well (esp. in the German part). All in all the first 120k until one reaches the car to complete the first loop has more runnable parts compared to the second loop (90k). But dont be mistaken: there are demanding marsh stretches, longer climbs (total of > 5000 m D+), forgotten river valley, there is the Basin downhill (which is not fun), Iceberg uphill (lots of fun) and last not least Schloß Rheinhardstein area (serving the steepest ups and downs right around 190 km on the watch – exactly when one does not want to climb anymore). After running it myself I think I am happy with it. Not too hard but certainly nothing one can run at marathon pace for the whole time. Make sure to embrace the Fagnes – its more a scenic adventure than a Legends Trail; exactly what it should be.

How it went for me
Well, it took longer than expected. I started with a night with the idea that I would finish the first 120k in 22-24h so that folks could join me in the evening for the final 90k. Company is always good to have. Turned out I finished the first 120k in 23h as planned but it also turned out on very short notice that the support would not come to push me/us through the second night. The second night alone was horror then. Sleep depriviation effects hit harder than expected so I found myself safety-blanket sleeping for 3 times 15-20 minutes and still had to push harder than I wanted to. As if the Legends night 3 was making a surprise visit (not that I would ever ask for such a visit). Weather was a bit unstable with somtimes light and sometimes severe rain and lots of wind up in the Fagnes. To be fair there were also some more stable weather windows in between. All in all I managed The Dead Marshes in 46 hours and leave it up to the rest of the fellowship to follow me. The path has been layed and I am really curious what the others will experience! Have fun – if there are any questions: don´t hesitate to ask!

Elapsed Time Moving Time Distance Average Speed Max Speed Elevation Gain Calories Burned
45:59:45
hours
45:59:44
hours
213,91
km
12:54
min/km
2:10
min/km
5.496,00
meters
13.156
kcal
⛰️ Honigberg (495 m) • ⛰️ Signal de Botrange (694 m) • 🦶⬆️ 2024 = 35,371 m | 🌐 summitbag.com  👍 97.83 new kilometers — From Wandrer.earth

About Facebooking

I am receiving a lot of criticism for posting #whilerunning. While I get the point that its annoying you: the option to block or unfriend me is a valid escape from those updates. While most of you probably think I am only doing this because of my desire for attention – this is not true. What you don’t know is that I have a lot of friends with special interests:

  • some are really interested in dead animals and parts of dead animals – so I take a picture of each of them I can find
  • some are really interested in blue bordjes with white writing on – so I take a picture of each of them I come across
  • some are interested in wrotten/old/degenerated/at risk of collapse buildings – so I take a picture of each of them I can find (outside and inside if doable)
  • some are interested in old/new/wrotten/in action military stuff – so I take a picture of each of them (if I can safely get into camera reach)
  • some are really interested in coke bottles/coke advertisements/everything coke-related – so I take a picture of each sign of coke I can find
  • some are really interested in caves – so I take a picture of each of those as well (with GPS coordinates)
  • some are really interested in forbidden/restricted/fenced/poisoned/radioactive areas – so I take a picture of those places (with GPS coordinates)
  • some are really interested in funny stickers on cars/street lights/houses etc. – so I take a picture of them as well
  • some are interested in flowers – so I take a picture of all of them (I really enjoy the winter)
  • some are really interested in different fences and how they are constructed – so I take a picture of all of them as well (GPS coordinates for the interesting ones)
  • some of them are really interested in everything related to the Netherlands and Belgium – so I take pictures of those evidences (cumbersome to run in those countries…)
  • some of them are interested in pictures of mud – so I take those puddle pictures
  • some of them are interested in pictures of everything related to alcohol (abuse) – so I take a few shots for them
  • some of them are interested in pictures of wooden planks – so I picture these as well
  • some of them like pictures capturing feelings like: pain, despair, endlessness, eternity, hopelessness, wideness and loneliness – so I take a few more pictures (tbh – I love those as well)
  • some of them like blurry pictures shot during horribly bad weather second or third ultra nights full of despair with numb fingers and half conscious brains – so I try my best of fiddling my phone out of the pocket (while asking myself: “how did I end up here – again?”)

Its not about me – its about my friends and what I can do to make their life´s a bit better. Its the small things that really matter at the end of the day. Please respect this. Its a gesture of respect to send those pictures to them. My way to say to them: “I feel you and I am here for you”!

Neutral Moresnet – das fast vergessene Land

Neutral für immer, belgisch vielleicht – preußisch niemals!

Ein Projekt welches schon lange auf Umsetzung wartet ist nun endlich vollendet – die Umrundung der ehemaligen Nation Neutral-Moresnet. Für jene die in Aachen bzw. der Euregio wohnen und unterwegs sind ist der Name Moresnet allgegenwärtig. Schließlich heißt ein Ort in der Gegend noch so. So richtig beschäftigt mit dem Thema Moresnet und der überaus verblüffenden Geschichte hinter dieser Bezeichnung und dem Staat Neutral-Moresnet der für immerhin mehr als 100 Jahre in dieser Gegend existierte hatte ich mich persönlich vorher ehrlich gesagt nicht.

Gut, dass der absolute Lieblingspodcasts “Geschichten aus der Geschichte” eingesprungen ist und die Story schon vor Jahren aufbereitet hat. Gehört hatte ich die Folge vor ca. einem Jahr und sofort war der Plan geboren doch einmal die komplette ehemalige Grenze abzulaufen.

Bevor es hier aber weitergeht bitte zuerst die unten verlinkte Folge hören; anschließend geht es darunter weiter:

Der Wikipedia Artikel hält noch ein paar weitere Infos und Daten zum ehemaligen Zwergstaat wie zum Beispiel die Flagge von Neutral Moresnet bereit:

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Die Planung der Laufrunde erfolgte war dann doch recht simpel: zuerst den ehemaligen Grenzverlauf möglichst exact auf die Karte bringen (rot im rechten Bild) und anschließend schauen welche Wege möglichst nah an dieser Grenze verlaufen (blau im rechten Bild). An einigen Stellen war dann doch etwas Kreativität gefragt; gerade die letzten 2-3 km hoch um Dreiländereck haben keine wirklich passenden aktiven Wege entlang der ehemaligen Grenze. Da war also im Vorfeld klar, dass es etwas durchs Unterholz würde gehen müssen um einigermaßen korrekt zu bleiben.

links: Karte mit Grenzverlauf von Wikipedia; rechts: Übernahme des Grenzverlaufs auf die Karte (rot) und Steckenverlaufsplanung (blau)

Insgesamt eine schöne Tour:

Anbei noch ein paar Bilder…

… und ein paar Eindrücke per Video:

Vielen Dank an Daniel und Richard von Geschichten aus der Geschichte für die schöne Aufbereitung und die Inspiration ein Stück Heimat noch besser kennen zu lernen!

Are you ready for Legends Trail?

“There is a button on your tracker. When you press that button for 3 seconds you will feel it vibrate. Once you do that we consider this to be a REAL emergency and we will try to be at your position as fast as possible. On your number and hopefully in your phone there is a phone number. If you have a problem, or another runner has a problem you can call this number and we will try to help you. Please do not call if you are hungry, feel tired or feel lonely.”

A wise man.

Are you ready for Legends Trail” was one of the most asked question in the last 3-4 hours before the start of 2024 Legends Trail. The question came from runners/volunteers/crew members. The only honest answer – and the answer I gave – is “no“. My opinion is that one is never truly ready for such a challenge. One reason is that the amount of uncertainties is enormous (and its impossible to prepare for the unknown) and the other reason is that Legends Trail is a really long race. Really, really long. For the shorter distances you can take measures such: at this point in race I do this or that and that will safe me for a certain amount of time/distance until I do the same thing again. If that does not work I have here a plan B/C/D/E/F – one of those plan will ultimately do the trick and will make me finish.

Most runners (including me) try to apply similar strategic breakdowns to the Legends Trail – simply to make it a bit more manageable in the head before the race. Although that might be an important first step to do to not already freak out at the start line most of us secretly know that this is not worth for the whole thing. The amount of plans you may need during Legends Trail exceeds the letters in the alphabet and then there is the unknown hovering above the runners as well. Waiting to strike.

Lets take one step back and have look at the question from a different perspective. If the question only means: “Are you prepared for Legends Trail” the answer should be a different one. The answer should be: “I did everything under my control to prepare myself“. This preparation should include running, gear and mental preparation. And this preparation is or at least should be the basis for even thinking about starting

With regards to running everyone has very unique strategy but there are two general thing to take into consideration:

1. Go out when the conditions are the baddest you can think of. Because that’s a very likely scenario at Legends Trail. And you don’t want to be surprised by wind, rain, cold, hail, snow or ice.

2. Know the nights. Really know them. Embrace the darkness. Know how and when to sleep rough. If all goes down the drain at Legends Trail you may stand in pouring rain at freezing temperatures, shivering as hell already, but deadly tired with nothing else in mind than the urge to sleep. You may want to make sure to know every step you need to do in exactly this moment which safes you and prevents the DNF. Because the DNF will seem like the only way out of this situation.

With regards to material and equipment the considerations of Maarten “BEN JE KLAAR VOOR DE LEGENDS TRAIL?” are worth reading. Also his Material Checklist and his blog about feet and how to keep them operational should be must reads. The topic feet (an important one) and other packing considerations are also addressed here. Not everything is a 1:1 adaption but there is inspiration and there are successful strategies out there to copy from and to adapt so that they work for your individual needs. What also applies here: know your stuff. You may find out that you work best if you change shoes, you may find out that you want to wear multiple layers of socks, you may find out that waterproofs kill your feet – just make sure you find out BEFORE Legends Trail. Another advice would be: do not freak out at the CP sitting in front of your drop back. I don’t know to whom I talked about it lately but he/she mentioned that he/she wanted to change to new clothes at one of the CPs and ended up to put on the wet base layer from the stretch before just because it was too “complicated” to search for a fresh and dry one in the drop back. Stupid but it happens with a fucked-up mind. Live with it and don´t let it kill your race.

Well. Nothing really to say about the mental preparation. That’s an individual thing. My mindset is to be humble and thankful for the fact that I can take part in these kind of adventures and to embrace every step during it no matter how painful they may be. And I know that there are people both at the finish line and watching the dots which I don’t want to disappoint. I own and embrace a deep desire to make them happy. That does the trick for me. Make sure to find your best motivators and strategies as well.

With these point you should be prepared for Legends Trail (as good as you can do) so why are you not ready?

Because Legends Trail is absurd. Its a challenge which is tough from the very first step. Relentless climbing in ever changing but never easy conditions. Topped with most of the time interesting weather in the Ardennes in February. The energy the average Legends Trailer takes with them lasts roughly one day. The first night is considered to be kind of ok given the conditions and the first day is mostly fine as well. At the end of this time period (mostly around CP2) the energy is used up. It was a rough and very difficult 100-130 km ultra and its time that its over. Although perfectly normal feelings, this is the point in Legends time when the race slowly begins to start.

And no one is really ready for this second night. A night meant to break the runners, to finally crack them. To strip them down to their pure will and mental strength. One needs way more than those 100% to make it out of this second night. And there are still 24-30 hours left of Legends Trail at this point. Undoable.

Legends Sunday is usually a fragile construct. On the one hand its daylight (which makes things considerably easier) on the other hands the finish is too far to feel realistic and to pull you mentally. Its a demanding battle of attrition against Legends Trail and against yourself. And the worst is yet to come: night 3. If night 2 was already something one was not ready for – night 3 is the ultimate trip.

Things tend to break apart in night 3. Just like that. From one second to the other. The ability to orientate and to navigate is gone, the urge of sleep is overwhelming beyond description, your tired brain paints things into the forest which seriously distract you. You may see runners staring at stones. For minutes. You may find them wandering off track. You may find them crying, you may find them lying down with hypothermia, you may find them talking to themselves. Nothing prepares you for this. In night 3 everything finally collapses. The worlds disappears and you are not quite sure if the world may resurface. The only hope is daylight on the morning of Legends Monday.

Day 3 (aka Legends Monday) is the saviour, the ultimate relieve. You may be unprepared for the fact that you are not longer able to control your emotions. Every ever so tiny encouraging or beautiful thing you see or encounter may make you burst into tears. But in a good way. Close to the finish with the main effort behind you its an absolute astounding feeling. These moments as well as the moment of finish are the moments you came for. And they are beyond description but more than worth the effort. They truly belong to you and they will last. Most describe them as something which becomes part of their identity.

In the Trailmagazin Podcast Tom (LT finisher from 2024) is being asked if the race director of Legends Trail is just inhuman and cruel. Tom´s answer fits perfectly as he says: “I think its quite the contrary”. I truly believe its exactly this. Legends Trail is designed to confront runners with the DNF – to push them on the edge of their limits and then continue to push further. Only by doing this, certain abilities, certain mindsets are revealed. The lucky few escaping and being able to finish Legends Trail have gone further than they thought they could. Its deep in the DNA of Legends Trail to reveal exactly this in the competitors. To be able to great these people at the finish line and to live with them through their emotions must be a truly satisfying moment. My believe is that Tim is truly worried about if the Legends Trail is difficult enough to push us that far but that he truly respects and admires the ones he can congratulate at the finish.

No, one is never ready for this. To a certain extend you go there empty handed but you if you manage it its truly unique.

Legends Trail 2024

Suddenly he was behind me. Couldn’t figure how long he had been following me – I was sure I was quite alone. Focused on following the track and listening to some music I was a bit shocked to see another human being. The track made a funny little curve to the right and then turned more than 90° to the left. In reality there were two possible paths roughly 30-40 m apart from each other which could be the ones. Normally easy with the correct zoom on the map but on Day 3 you rather stop for a second to let the GPS fix a few % more. No stupid extra meters now. We briefly looked each other. I could see the strain, the exhaustion and the emptiness in his eyes – I looked the same I guess.

“I think its this one”
“No, wait – I think its the other one”
“Ja – could be”
“Ok looks good”

And off he was. Faster walking then me he tackled yet another steep climb. It was raining. Fog rising – everything grey in grey. Legends weather on a Legends Monday – roughly 12 km from the finish line. I saw him walking off in the grey zone and knew I would need to follow. But I was forced to take the phone out to take a picture. It was one of those moments. Moments which last. Moments which summarize everything in one picture – at least for those who have been in similar situations.

Those who know know…

Before:
Preparation is important for adventures like Legends Trail. Especially to get the mental setup cleared and determined is crucial. With all uncertainties happening in my life at the moment I was not 100% sure whether or not I would be able to get the focus, to get into the zone. But well – I asked myself: do you really want to stand on that start line and the answer was a clear yes. There are so many personal reasons to go which do not matter here but one thing is for sure: deep inside you want to have an overwhelming longing to get this run done. Otherwise a start does not make a lot of sense.

Material preparation was straight forward – it gets to a routine. Running pack (everyone makes fun of me how much I carry but I think I will stick to it) and drop back with 4 smaller bags inside for each CP. Especially new socks at each checkpoint. Food was also packed in 5 portions – one for backpack, 4 for the drop back.

On Friday I picked up Uwe who saw my re-post that LT was looking for volunteers and jumped on the train for the whole weekend to get a look behind the scenes :). Its only a 1h drive from home to LT so that’s convenient. First thing was to survive the kit check including a “before” picture made by Caroline Dupont which would be completed by an “after” picture if all goes well. Can’t wait to see them. I was not feeling very well, was with slight headache the whole Friday so I greeted everyone as this is the family but went to the car for some quiet moment with my eyes closed with the hope the headache would clear and to finally put on the running cloths. The last hour before start was then again in the cafeteria of the school and its actually frightening and glorious. Runners, volunteers, crew – most of them friends – wait. Lots of chatter and laughter and excitement. Everyone knows (or think they know) what is about to start. I am not connected to German trail runners at all so it was really great to finally see more of them at LT. Tom was about to run himself, his girlfriend Moni was a volunteer, Volker who finished LT already was there with Maren to volunteer as well. It was really great to meet you and get to know you. Those events connect people and I hope it was not the last time we met.

The German delegation (Uwe took the picture) @ LT24 🙂

Night 1:

Almost

Well, the headache did not got better until it was finally time. Weather was indifferent but I decided not to put the rain jacket on – which was the right decision. There were some discussions about the conditions and whether or not the feet would stay dry for a while. Funny thinking. After 400 m the first downhill started and was full of slippery and deep mud – so we would be confronted with heavy conditions the next 280 km. After 1 km the first creek crossing was reached. No bridge – why would there be one? So that one was settled as well :). Bring it on.

During the first stage I was not really able to connect to the race. The mind was not fully there but well – its a never ending race so lets stay calm and carry on – better days to come if all goes well. The highlight of the first stretch was a part on the Ourthe where the trail went through the water. And due to high water not just a little bit into water but waist-deep. For 20-30 m. Wow – that was cold. Getting the whole lower body dipped into a winter river in the Ardennes – it was a moment for those with very special interests. Being half wet in the middle of Night 1 was a nice twist to the challenge as well. But – its Legends – we are here for the struggle. I realized that my otherwise perfect strategy with the waterproof socks was a real problem now. My feet were swimming now with no way the water could escape. I decided to act and took out the waterproof socks. I had shoe insoles in my backpack (I take them out when wearing waterproof socks as those are thick enough), put them in the shoes and continued the journey to CP1. Its one of those decisions – it really sucks to stop, unleash the muddy shoes, open the backpack, try to figure out where to put the completely wet socks, take the insoles out and get the shoes back on. But the golden rule is: if there is a small problem fix it immediately or it kills you later.

One of those moments…

Day 1:
I reached CP1 after roughly 10 h – that was pretty much in the timing I envisioned before. I was just glad that the first stretch was over and no major issues were there. Given my overall condition I was not too happy with the race yet. I fell twice on slippery mud, the headache was still there and I knew this was not even the start of thew real shit. The pasta was heel lekker and I continued on Part 2 – hoping that the daylight would do the usual magic. And it finally got better. I finally felt stronger. In the dusk of Day 1 I met a group with Adriaan and Irene – that was really good to talk and joke and climb together for some moments. With Irene I also quickly discussed the standings in our Garmin Connect running challenge and send funny messages to our lovely little FB group – brilliant moments.

Weather on Day 1 was quite good as far as I remember. We had some sun and the focus was to use the new energy to get as much daylight km in as possible. Part 2 with more than 70 km was just endless. We had the usual “in-between” CPs including one with hot soup (so good) but it was clear it would be starting to get serious in Night 2. Although I really enjoy running with others – at runs like Legends I really feel best when I am alone with myself and a bit of music to fully dig deep. I think I may offend people with it – its really nothing against anyone. But when I can do my own tempo, be alone with my thoughts and completely focus on the tasks that is when I feel calm and secure. The world quiets down and fully feel one with the challenge. Especially at Legends I love and need those moments. Sorry if that seems rude – its not meant to be. I reached CP2 in a perfect timing. I wanted to have 6-7 hours before cutoff to have a bit more room to breath when the shit would hit the fan and I managed to be fast enough. Two helpings of delicious kip curry with rice – fresh socks – and off – off to a part I was actually looking forward to.

Night 2:
Hautes Fagnes time means crunch time. As always at Legends. Before the race there were some discussions on how short the stretch up there was at this edition – but looking at the map I was quite sure the selection was well chosen. Chosen to get us in real trouble – chosen to let the ultra really start. And I was not disappointed. Endless river climbing up and down, the best part of Hoenge, Statte, Sawe and Tros-Marets – places I know by heart but with the mud and the rain it was a real party. Especially the last downhill with the km next to the lower part of the river Tros-Marets. It had everything. It started to significantly rain, mud, stones, water everywhere – finally truly in a situation which makes Legends so unique to me. It seems overwhelmingly difficult and every stone with a false step can send you down and end the race. Its a bit frightening but those are the moments to actually fully embrace – I was finally 110% in the race. Everything was against us runners but that was exactly the battle we (or at least I) came for. Naturally CP3 was a great relieve. It is a good feeling to get out of Hautes Fagnes alive and to have survived one of the more tricky stretches of LT – no matter how unique the feelings up there were. Time for some stew with mashed potatoes and some new socks.

Day 2:
At CP3 the mood was dense. All of us strained, stretched, edgy. 170 km in – Hautes Fagnes in fresh memories. The race was really on fire. CP3 was in Malmedy – and just to mention the name of the city frightens most of my friends. We know those steep hills around the city all to well. But all was well. 7 AM on Day 2 – daylight approaching – 5 h before cutoff – better than I could have hoped for. Stretch 4 started with a real treasure: the area around the Beverce pipeline. Every time I wonder if it is really allowed to send people there; esp. people with lack of sleep. But maybe that is a stupid question. It was manageable. I felt pretty good for the given conditions so Malmedy area came and became memory within a few hours. It was clear that the last stretch of Part 4 was the tricky one so it was again the task to make the most of the light, to try to not lose against cutoff (4 km/h) and focus on not making mistakes.

Somehow people know me well nowadays…

Being that good in timing meant that the complete Part 4 would be daylight – that was really great and comfortable. Part 4 ended with the greater Coo area including Iceberg downhill. Steep but home. We lived there for a while in a long gone area. And CP4 had Tortellini: wow. I love them so much. To top that Moni, Francois and Martino were there. Having dinner with some friends feeling. Was hard to have to leave the place but it was not the end and I was pretty clear at that moment that I would not miss the opportunity to return to the folks waiting at the finish. And I would not return to them in a car – I would do whatever needs to be done to return as a finisher. The dream was so close – and yet: Night 3 was lurking behind the trees.

Night 3:
And it started immediately. The first climb let to fenced farm land. Not unusual as we had to climb fences before in the race. But it was like two compartments and I couldn’t figure the direction anymore. As navigation is normally a thing I manage quite ok I knew immediately that the Night 3 was going to be much worse than expected. With a shock I realized that I was standing there and staring into the nothingness for some minutes probably falling half-asleep while standing. This brought some Adrenaline back and the brain tried to re-start. The first steep climb of Part 5 was the one to the water basin in Coo. A well known stretch but I was honestly surprised how difficult it felt after 210 km. Luckily on the top Volker and Maren were doing their Legends Safety Team job. We had to take a detour and they were explaining the way to each runner. Although I just left CP4 I asked for water as I felt horribly thirsty and I felt really hot. I think I spent too much time at CP4 and body started to shut down. A mistake in a race where no mistakes are allowed. At one point Volker looked at me questioning and I realized he was waiting since ages that I give him back the water bottle. Oh man. Not the best start of the last part at all. After that shock some more runnable parts came and the body slowly re-entered the game – at least for 1-2 hours. After that the sleepwalking started. Sleep deprivation is a beast. Slowly everything went out of control. The raindrops on the rocks looked like smileys in a way I couldn’t bear to look at them, the mossy stones turned into green frogs, every reflection of light was a runner with a headlamp. I don’t now how but I made it to CP 4.1 (Chez Ingo) where we had a great time. The real Ingo (racing himself) came in after me and Karen and Peter were there already. Suddenly all was well again. We had Toasties and Coke – we joked and laughed and listend to the intensifying rain outside.

Toasty Time – km 245 @ LT24

Outside – where the last 30 km were waiting. The last 30 km of the endlessness of Legends Trail. We could have stayed forever but Karen, Peter and me decided to group due to our conditions – at least for the first stretch in the remaining night. The moment we stepped out of the tent all illusions were gone – the horror started at that very second. None of us was well, we were all sleepwalking, couldn’t talk but we were still in – crawling up and down Ninglingspo area. A disaster. There was only one last hope: daylight. Close to this and at the end of yet another long and horrible climb I let them go their way. They were a bit faster and I couldn’t stand keeping up with them. A quick stop to eat something, put some music on would do. And then the shock: the GPS signal on the watch jumped by about 100 m – just like that. I took out the handheld but it was weird as it was showing the same position. Horror. The one thing which should not happen at all, happened. I stood there frozen and shocked in the rain for a while until I realized that would rather kill me than help. I stopped the watch track and reloaded it – didn’t change it. As the direction was still moving when I was turning I decided to use the position displayed and go straight line back to track (about 100 m away). This at least seemed to work. So I stood again on that purple line. Good. Finally the watch signal was turning when I was in the direction I moved. Good as well. It seemed to stabilize. This really hit very hard. I was confused as I almost lost everything so close to finish. With the watch issues I forgot to put the other rain jacket on and was starting to get very cold. Mistakes on top of mistakes – it was out of control. Completely. I called Maarten to make sure that I was not hallucinating and really was on track. He checked the tracker and confirmed that all was well. Matthias called as well before leaving to work. Oh – the world was still there. Random news from a very distant reality but good to hear. And the light was returning. First thing I put the real rain gear on – an hour too late but well. At least I could see the world again and the watch behaved normal again. Had a look on the tracking page after the race and I nailed it the whole time. So what was that – was I having a really bad dream? Never had something like this before. With another 30 min in heavy rain but daylight and a watch behaving normal I took it as the last strike of Legends. The last attempt to finally beat me.

Day 3:
But no. Not this time. Daylight, horrible weather, Day 3, 15-20 km to go and 6-7 hours to get there. I was exactly where I wanted to be. Nothing would stop me now. The last km did not went easy but I was still able to jog which meant I was in considerably good shape this late in the game. Some more climbing. With the rain everything was completely watered but I did not care anymore. The only job left was to get those km in. It was time to return to those waiting at the finish. It was time tick-off another Legends Trail. You would have found me crying during those last km but luckily I was alone. Alone heading to Ferriers. Hard to explain those feelings.

Finish – thanks Nick for the Video.

#4

Shoutouts to the whole LT team – whether it was the crew, the safety team, the volunteers, the support teams of the runners – another weekend which will not be forgotten.

Here are all my video snips from my phone randomly put together for some additional views on this years LT:


Numbers in perspective:

There were some discussions before and after the race whether the course was easier compared to 2023. I would say: maybe a bit but with the conditions it felt harder. The numbers tell us that it was indeed a bit on top. More D+, higher climbing score. That with the conditions made 2024 a rather difficult edition of Legends Trail. This is also displayed in the finisher rate which dropped down to 30.3% (from 31.6% in 2023).

Recorded LT climb views – screenshots from @Runalize

Other than that it was Legends Trail #4 for me after 2020, 2022 and 2023. 4 finishes in a row and simply grateful to have been able to take part of this great event.

1105 Legends KM – WTF

Legends Trail 2024

00Days
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You can follow LT24 livetracking here – #119 it is: LINK

If you want to get random update or message some (de)motivation:

The preparation is in full flow:

The different Part of LT24 look like this:


That’s how the previous versions looked like – 828 km – 9 nights – 7.5 days – stories for eternity. Will it work one more time?

LegendsTrail 2020
LegendsTrail 2022
LegendsTrail 2023