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:

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.

10 years

Back in 2014 we had no idea:

2014 – Limburgs Halfzware 75k

Back in 2015 we asked ourselves some questions:

Limburgs Zwarste 2015 – 100k

Back in 2016 we started to explore…

2016 – random fun

Back in 2017 we met new friends:

2017: DCUrbN 100k

Back in 2018 we tried new things:

2018: TTdR 230k

Back in 2019 we received some Dutch Bling Bling:

LEO180 2019 – 210k

Back in 2020 we explored the darkness:

2020 GR Hageland – 150k

Back in 2021 we figured daylight is also ok:

2021 Krönungsweg Bonn-AC 140k

Back in 2022 we started to conquer the unknown:

2022 The Mystique – 200k

Back in 2023 we started to relax:

2023 Biber Backyard Ultra

And what is next? After thousands of shared kms we rarely meet to run these days. But when we meet its for something big, something new – its for an adventure. On, on we go. Hop hop don’t stop!

2023

After the pandemic years 2021 and 2022 with the two Slams (Titanic Slam in 2021 and Marvel Slam in 2022) it was finally time to get back to a “normal” schedule in 2023. Whatever that would mean.

February 2023:
As a kind of tradition the long-distance running year started with the Legends Trail in February 2023. It was the usual fight with the elements and with the own body – but at the end it was finish #3 at the third attempt. Maintaining the 100%. Its a race hard to describe but the final thoughts from my race report in February summarize the 280k of emotions quite well:

And then the moments were there. The moments I envisioned before and during the race – the moments I came for. Not just a usual Monday – the Legends Trail Monday. All efforts of the past long hours were meant to reach exactly this: the final 10k of Legends Trail with enough time that the finish is safe. As if nature wanted to join the party a glistening sun flooded the hills of the final stretch. It’s a bit like dream walking. Shook by the emotions of the upcoming finish. Deeply connected to the surroundings. Unbelievable thankful for being able to reach that point and to be part of this story once more. One of the last hills brought a nice view and standing there in the warm sun was an amazing feeling. It could have last forever but it was not done yet. There was a finish waiting, there were people waiting – time to ultimately finish it off – time to also tick-off the last kilometres of Legends Trail 2023.

LT 2023 – The Bus. The Walk. The Paradise.

March 2023:
As a Legends Trail cool-down I decided to enter the flat 24h race in Sittard. A nice and boring course – no excuses at hand for any break. I secretly hoped for a PB (>166k; something in the range of 180k should be doable for I hope) but at the end there was still some tiredness in the body so the mind could not push and required some breaks. I DNFed with a 100 mi attempt – at least the minimum goal was achieved.

April-June 2023:
In April we seized the chance to test out the new hiking trail Venntrilogie, in May we met for a running weekend in Sauerland and finally the first Backyard of 2023 in June – the Biber Backyard Ultra. Tough track for a backyard and mind and body were not really ready that day so it ended early.

July 2023:
Summer. Usually a time unsuited for running. But it was time to collect another long distance and the Schinder Prison Break offered a new format for me and a new chance for some decent running. Even better: as it was an escape running event it involved a lot of planning of the best track on the computer before it even started. Something I really love. The event itself was a great journey. The first night I was alone with my backpack but then I was accompanied by a great crew. The greatest crew. Car support, running without backpack, meeting my friends. It made running in the heat much more comfortable (although it was still a real torture). 48h of escaping and 241k – it was a nice adventure.

Prison Break 2023 – without crew you can’t conquer the desert!

August 2023:
Another transition month – connecting two long events. The home event – the Monschau Marathon – offered a good chance to squeeze in a long run. I never ran the K70 distance before and with a midnight start in Aachen it nicely added up to a 100k training run.

September 2023:
Showtime again. This time further away from home and for the first time in the lovely Vosges region in France. 200k Infernal Trail des Vosges was a well organized event. A bit too big and too commercial compared to what I usually run but a great team and great supporters at start/finish and the various CPs. A midnight start with a burning Infernal logo, a really spicy track, over 10k D+ of elevation gain and a brutiful landscape. On top of this – again hot weather. A tough one – 50 hours of fighting and it was done. It was satisfying to see that these things are doable backed with the experience of the last years. All in all a great trip – thanks to Claudia for the support.

The Vosges@Infernal Trail des Vosges

October-December 2023:
The final period of the year. Plans were made and could not executed. As an alternative and to get another long run in I chose another hiking track which is fairly new on the map of NRW and in a region I’ve never been before. It was a nice run on the Hohe Mark Steig but also pretty lonely and tough in a most of the time empty stretch of land.

In total 5×100 mi+ runs in 2023 – 2 less compared to 2022. Around 3800 km in 2023 – also less km compared to 2022. 72k of D+ in 2023 in total. A difficult year in many aspects but a year with great moments while running and some rare shared moments with good friends.

DateTime[km]#
Legends Trail 202317.02.202366h 56m275,0031
24h Sittard 202318.03.202324h 0m163,0032
Schinder Prison Break 48h 202307.07.202348h 0m241,5933
Infernal Trail des Vosges 202307.09.202350h 14m215,8034
Hohe Mark Steig 202301.11.202328h 36m161,0035
Sum1262h 29m6.676
Average36h 4m190,75
Updated List of Ultras – +5 in 2023
Statshunter as of December 2023 #tilehunter

The picture of the year can only be the one below – curious what 2024 may bring?!

Hydration while running – so important!

It Does Not Matter

An often discussed question while comparing different distance running tasks is: what is more difficult? The only true answer is – it does not matter.

But lets have a look into the various factors which can contribute to difficulty and what they may/should/can mean – or at least: what they mean to me while striving:

Support. Clearly this is a nice to have. Really. It helps a lot to see friendly faces esp. if their supply bottles are full. On the other hand this distracts you. Breaks your rhythm. And no matter how desperate you were waiting for those moments of relieve – at the end they are dangerous. Offering you a possibility for an easy way out. A quick DNF. You cool down (body and mind) quite fast and its getting more and more difficult to get back into it the longer you rest. To leave those nice folks to continue is getting more and more brutal.

Race Atmosphere. Also great. A lot of people source all of their energy from the competition. But to be dependent from this does not help at all. What if you end up in these useless and nonsense adventures you do with a bunch of friends. There is no one competing. No one to run to or away from. Sometimes no one is following what you are doing. What drives you then? What is THE motivation to finish although its stupid? I overcame this a long time ago. I can envision an entry into an excel sheet, a Garmin badge or the chat entry into a group of idiots as my reward and grade it equally high as an official finish at a race. I would have stopped a million times if I needed a race around me (I still enjoy the atmosphere though).

Other Runners. Also a nice thing. Even better if its friends during one of the stupid long adventure runs. On the other hand its not only you then. A certain percentages of their problems become yours as well. If the other(s) DNF what are you going to do? Will you have the guts or will you fall as well? So to be able to manage everything alone is essential. Maybe esp. in the moments where you are not alone. Because everything can happen.

CPs. Similar to support. Really nice. A warm, cozy and safe place if you are lucky. Some food. Friendly people. So why not stay for good? So many runners couldn’t resist the comfort. So enter the door carefully. Brace yourself. Make sure to remain a cold, distant and not belonging atmosphere deep inside you. While eating through delicious Tortellini with ham, cheese and pesto (credits to CP4@LT – you are amazing!) be clear to yourself: your destiny is that dark world outside of that door. All too soon you will need to face the hell again.

Conditions. Nothing to say here really: its the same for everyone. Of course that is a strange statement when its only the two of you out there on that ferry in Ijmuiden with rain and wind howling and punching your face. Its around 4°C but feels like freezing. Its the middle of the night and every human on earth is safely sleeping. But. So? Its the same for everyone. Just shout it often enough into that night until it makes you laugh or believe. Whatever. It does not matter.

At the end it should be crystal clear: it does not matter. Not at all.

What drives me at the end is shear determination. Determination to get the task done. What else would have made me finish?

That one LEO180 at the end of night 2 – alone for what felt like days. With a bad ankle. It hurt quite a bit and although nothing serious it was immensely annoying. I stuffed frozen gras into my socks to cool. Then I met a surprise support which felt nice until I realised that the promised Coke was empty. There I stood. Too far from finish to dream with enough issues for a solid DNF. With my no coke face. But I started to realize that I should accept all my issues. Welcome them. Collect them. Wear them like an invisible crown. Make them my little treasures and make it my task to deliver them to the finish.

That other LEO180. This time it was the two of us. After a horrible second night we were left with 60k and 10h of time limits. Moving with 4-5 km/h. A clear DNF – 0% chance to finish. Both of us were at the very low. But B. came up with a little game. We should run 6k starting from the full hour without any excuses and stops and were then allowed to walk the rest of the hour. We finished with 50min spare.

There are tons of more moments like this – you will find them in all those report across that page. Letting the demons and problems being a part of you has been THE essential thing to get it done. Each and every situation was too much to endure – the relieve of resistance and finally finishing is a priceless reward.

No-Coke-2018

DNF

By following the live-scoring of the individual Championships of Backyard Running (aka. Big Dog´s Backyard Ultra) which may or may bot approximately half-way of what everyone think could be the limit – there is an interesting terminology to be found on that tracking page.

In normal ultra races there are usually three things which can happen apart from finishing:

DNS: Did Not Start/Show aka “something went wrong and that’s why I couldn’t come”

DSQ: Disqualified aka “oops”

DNF: Did Not Finish aka “‘something‘ happened along the way which, unfortunately, made me diverge from the initial plan of finishing. You know. Well. Fuck.”

The Backyard family added three more detailed sub-levels to DNF – among them one really great one. Those three sub-levels are:

OVER: Backyard-specific expression of finishing (a loop) but over the given time limit of one hour per loop.

DNC: Did Not Complete loop. Well – it says quite clearly what it is. But in an honoring way. Its not a simple DNF – it values somehow the runner who had the guts to start the (most of the time) hopeless try to complete another loop. To go out another time. To fight the overwhelming task.

And then there is:

RTC: Refuse To Continue. And I mean: wow. Its not a simple DNF – its an RTC. A REFUSE to continue. Its a different and way more intense expression of a delicate situation. We all know runners (incl. ourselves) and their (our) various reasons and explanations of why they (we) did not finish a certain run/race. But the deeper story behind most of those “stories” is nicely summarized by the expression: RTC. Because at the end – whomever/whatever we are blaming for our failure – the reason of discontinuing is mostly to be found within ourselves. The strong inner voice, the strong outside discomforts, the whatever – it is our decision and its an active one. We actively refuse to go further because in front of us lays the uncertain beyond, even more misery or whatever makes us pull the easy option. The way out. The instant relief.

And by that I don’t mean to underestimate any effort taken nor want to criticise any RTC. It never comes easy and may be the better/safer/more reasonable/healthier option in many cases.

But still. Did Not Finish is a fact. REFUSE TO CONTINUE requires an active decision. A decision which could have been a different one. It feels like it leaves the door to continue a tiny bit open. Some would say both expressions are the same and technically that’s true. On the other hand – its a completely different view on the things – a view only those can understand who really dealt with certain circumstances…

Next time casualties arise I will try to remember – try to make myself clear that its me, and only me, who is making an active decision to not continue. It will certainly make the decision more difficult and by that hopefully pushing me beyond that point.

Just go on…