The idea behind escape running formats is that you have to get away as far as possible from a given start point. The final distance for the ranking is pulled by taking the straight distance between start and end location. Meaning – efficiency in running a rather straight line is important. As planning tracks is something I really like I tried to optimize the route as good as possible.
I am not used to have support while running. My usual running style is self-supported. But for the given format and the fact that running full-geared and self-support is never the fastest way to travel I reached out to the ultra family – and was not let down. It all started with Desi who started in the early Saturday morning to see me at around km 96 for the first time with a car full of supply and my drop back – what a relieve. Saturday evening Ingo joined our party with his bus and equipment for crossing a whole continent. The three of us fought the second night and in the morning Maarten and Christine completed the crew. I mean: 4 highly gifted and experienced ultra runners at the sideline just for me. What an honour. Thanks a million. I am getting emotional quite easily and I continued for those four as much as for whatever km/race goals to reach.
After a day with Deutsche Bahn, a Pizza at a local fast food close to the start the runners assembled at Grauer Kopf in Taunus – our start location. Strange to enter a race where you realize you will not see any of the other runners ever again during the duration of the race. Everyone with own routes, own plans, own strategies. Interesting. (This is not entirely true because I met Lars Willborn several times more as we managed a rather similar speed during the first night).
So it started Friday 07.07.2023 1800 and given the characteristic of the region it was pretty clear that a good portion of runners would need to get to Koblenz first to be able to cross and/or follow the Rhine to whatever North/West direction they would want to take. So lots of folks were basically running the same stretch but with tiny differences in the individual routes. One major challenge for the weekend became pretty obvious during those first hours: temperature. My water consumption was higher than expected but I started with a backpack for 100 solo km including 4 L of water. Detlefs crew added 1.5 L to that in Koblenz – thanks a lot. I as well bought another 1.5 L before leaving civilization to be on the safe side. Luckily the temperature became bearable after midnight and all went well in this first night.
At around km 96 my first crew member Desi entered the race – and changed it. What a relive to change from the 10 kg backpack to a race vest to ease up the job – and to know that I could see the car every 5-10 km from now on if needed. It was not only nice but also crucial with the conditions the weather offered us. My route was made with the intention to be flat and fast. The downside with a hot summer day this meant running the endless corn fields of Jülich-Zülpicher Börde in full sun with temperature around 40°C at the highest heat. What a disaster. Heat is nothing I like and running in those conditions is nothing one should do. It was only manageable with the car support and the combined experience to overcome difficulties. Tempo slowed down but what kept me moving was the hope for the second night and some relieve (I had no idea about the difficulties waiting in night 2) and the crew that was waiting/supporting/awaiting me at certain landmarks. So the only option was to continue as good as possible.
In the evening we were joined by Ingo – the one and only chez Ingo-Ingo. With his bus. So we were equipped to conquer the world. Entering the second night it became obvious to me that I would pay for moving in the heat with exhaustion. The ultra moments began. It usually goes in waves and the low points are getting lower and lower and more frightening. I was a bit shocked about myself as I found a track portion which was completely overgrow and undoable – and I was standing there for a minute unable to decide what to do. Of course these situations are standard scenarios and with 500 m extra the problem was solved. But I realized that I was more stretched that I wanted to admit. Good that we already decided for a proper break at the end of the stretch so I only had to make it to the cars. Two plates full of pasta and 30 min sleep in a chair was the plan. All in all a break for around one hour with the hope that it would get easier afterwards.
Well – that did not work. The hours 0100-0430 during the second night were the darkest of the whole race. Still deadly tired, weekend by the heat and easily upset about small things I more stumbled than properly walked through the night. It was also not really getting cool – but that may have been a personal issue with my strained body. So what to do? I decided to have another long break to escape from that dark place. So another time the chair was up (in the middle of a small village on the street) and another longer sleep followed.
Restarting from that break did not feel good but soon after the effect I hoped for was there: mood was rising and running was again possible. The second sunrise brought light and the heat was still a few hours away. I got rid of the race vest, put the tracker in one bag of my shorts and carried a water bottle. Minimizing the weight to push for some km as long as it was doable.
The next sections of the route had some nice “goals” at hand as well – the “westlichster Punkt Deutschlands”, the border to NL and shortly after the border to BEL. Plus Christine and Maarten joined the support crew now consisting of four people. The weather played its last card with some thunderstorms around. Luckily we got some light rain but the big bursts did not hit us. Running was no longer doable – exhaustion all over. The second place in the 48 h runners was safe so a last target was to reach 240 km on the watch to secure the 5 km/h average. After some final walking to reach this goal I stopped with 20 min left to 48 h unable to continue and waited until it was finally time to end this race:
Looking back it really is an interesting format. The time goal is not as strong as a distance goal – making the motivation a bit more difficult. Running for 48 h with no normal race environment like in a traditional 48 h race around is not as easy as it sounds. Especially when some nice numbers or certain levels are reached: why to continue? At the end its plainly the question if you take the game seriously and are willing to really stay moving for the complete time. Good experience way out of trails and forest I usually prefer. Also getting the crew up and running and seeing the crew dynamics was really good. My ultra family was united for that 48 hours. Thanks to the Schinder to get this format to Germany. I guess it will find its place over here.
Lastly: crossing Rhein and Maas in one run and running in 3 countries – that is a really nice thing.