It is not my style of running and it is not my favorite type of track either. It is flat, it is sometimes boring, it is exhausting and demanding. Most horrible is: there is no excuse for a little walk and chat – TTdR is all in: from minute one until the end.
But there is something shining in #RAL2004 at the very end of it which pulls us down that river. There is something attractive and magic about this race. A huge part of it is for sure the amount of dedication the RD, his team and all the volunteers at these great CPs put into the these two days. Another part is the mandatory crew – although lonely you are never alone and you do not run that race for you alone – you run it for your crew as well. You definitely want to reach that very last 1000 m from where you can see the orange block of steel with and for all of them. The moment you know it was worth the effort. The moment of peace and relieve between Ruhr and Rhein.
3 attempts, 3 distances, 3 finishes – time to say thank you – time to say goodbye!
Place us around a campfire and we will be buddies within minutes. Stories to be told about recent and distant adventures. We all have been there. We all have gone through. We all have been in those fights, we all pushed ourselves through the misery, we all saw all imaginable real and non-real things, we all went through some pain – and we all were confronted with the most funny and even dangerous weather conditions this earth holds for us. We are united in these aspects and we love to tell and to listen to them stories.
This is probably what this ultra family thing is all about.
But it is not what fascinates me most about long distance running. It is undoubtedly a nice thing to sit together with a few fellow distance runners and have some stories to tell. But it is the edges of things where the real treasure of long distance running is hidden. Those edges which are a bit too private to share with anyone but which have a huge influence on performance and the outcome of adventures.
As we can’t look into the heads and hearts of each other there will be always something hidden. Something individual and private, something what drives or hinders us – an inner burden or power only real for the individual runner itself. This is where this sports, and other endurance challenges, gets so unique and fascinating. No matter how fit, well trained or however different the fellow runners are – all of them may fight inner devils or may be driven by inner forces we have absolutely no clue about.
Then you see them suddenly sitting there and giving up where they should be running as they did so many times before.
Then you see a good friend running a race and suddenly slowing down for no obvious reason. In an area where your friend is unbeaten on normal days.
Then you look into the eyes of your fellow runner and know it is unbearable for your mate – and yet there is no complaining, no arguing and most astonishing: still movement.
Sometimes you get to hear the full story and reasons afterwards and are left with no words. But most of the times you just silently wonder what forces and what feelings are revealed by long distance running and can only be amazed about the different strategies people come up with to deal with them. To whatever result it at the end of each of those adventures led.
That is the real treasure and fascination of long distance running to me. This is what calls for a lot of respect and humility for those out there on their various paths.
Das JUNUT Wochenende, wie wir es uns gewünscht hätten, ist leider nicht Realität geworden. Trotzdem haben wir die 50 km bis zum Ausbruch des Rennens inmitten eines Gewitters sehr genossen. Durchaus herausfordernde Bedingungen mit Dauerregen und Gewitter forderten volle Konzentration. Nicht unbemerkt blieb aber eine sehr schöne Strecke mit tollen Aussichten auf Altmühl und Donau und ihren Burgen und Schlössern.
In der schnellen Gruppe eingeteilt war uns eigentlich vorher klar, dass wir schnell Letzte im Rennen sein würden und das war eine interessante Erfahrung. Trotz Wetter lagen wir gut in unserem Zeitplan der uns durch die Cut-offs bringen sollte.
So blieb es bei 50 km in einer schönen Gegend und mit zwei mit Herzblut betriebenen und wunderbar ausgestatteten VPs – vielen Dank dafür!
Being remote has a lot of different meanings. The day-to-day life offers a variety of different flavours of it and yet – as with a loft of things – long distance running adds a whole new quality of feelings to this expression. To understand this, one needs to go out there and one needs to go far – beyond the point where everything went smoothly, logical and controlled: beyond the safety zone.
Remote out there does not necessarily mean to be alone it does not even mean to be at a very isolated place. One can also feel remote while running with someone or even small group of people – as long as they came the same long way. Most of the times those companions are close friends or at least people with which one has already conquered a bunch of adventures.
Remote in these moments is a feeling of deep understanding how small and vulnerable one is compared to the vastness of this world and compared to the distance one wants to cover in the ongoing adventure. One also feels deep within that there is no real connection with the ongoing stream of normal life. Passing through villages or cities and passing by other humans – the disconnection could not be bigger. What is going on in their lifes just does not mean anything at these moments.
Although it is an overwhelming feeling – it is not free of hope. At the end there is the assurance that it is meant to be like this. That this is exactly how it needs to be. That this is an essential part of the journey. That this is the place and feeling one belongs to. The actual reason why this adventure was started.
The strangest moment is always reaching the finish line. Despite a deep relief and thankfulness that everything went well there is alway a big sadness of leaving the remote – of resurfacing into the normal life. With the end of a journey one immediately starts to miss the remote.
Until next time – until we relentlessly strive through this wonderful world to finally do what we do best: enjoying the remote.
With the start Friday 25th of February 2022 18:00 we had a few minutes of daylight left. The first stage of Montane Legends Trail promised to be devided into two major parts: 45 bearable km and then 19 km left to CP1 down at the Ourthe. So the rough plan was to speed up as much as possible on the first 45 km to start to collect some time for later. The extremely crowded start did not feel that great but soon the rhythm was there. Nice to chat with a few fellow runners who would have been soon what feels like days ahead, to wish them all the best and let them go into the unknown. One moment within the first 45 km Fanny catched-up clearly heading to the front. I was able to hold her speed for the stretch until km 45 and it was great to finally have time to talk again after her crewing me at AOBtD 2020. Funny that it took that long to have this opportunity and that it would be during a 272 km race – but well, it is like it is. What speed and determination this women developed during such a short time – amazing. She would be the one winning the ladies competition at this years race – congratulations: well deserved. At km 45 down in Maboge destiny stroke. Close before one of the imaginary race timing points (which turned out to be small CPs all over the course – thanks a lot to all the Legendary Friends) we ran into Olav. Fanny did not enjoy the wraps we got long enough so that I could follow so I left with Olav. It was not planned nor clear to us but it was the start of team journey. We headed further and hit the Ourthe. It is not possible to describe that area so that it reflects it decent. Lets say: its a selective area and tends to test your determination. Interesting to have that in that extend quite early in the race.
Entering a CP at Montane Legends Trail means to start a very special routine which is almost identical on all CPs. We always took 1 to 1.5 hours break which consisted for me of:
Taking off shoes and socks – quick check on feet condition – let them dry Eat Refill the race pack what was depleted on food and water Quickly re-think on clothing: how warm/cold would it be the next stretch Tape the feet again – new socks – shoes on Big thanks to the Legendary Friends running the CP – go
CP1 (KM 64) – CP2 (KM 114)
Leaving CP1 was a cold moment – close 0600 Saturday morning – 12h in the race. We quickly descended once more to the Ourthe for some more stretches on that river. With the rising sun running got easier as it always does and we made good progress. The area around Houffalize slowed us again down a bit. What was more – tiredness hit both of us making us slowing down even further. We decided to take a 10 min nap in the bright sunshine – what an amazing weather. Lying in the warm sun was a good one. We reached CP2 in the afternoon – chicken curry time. Delicious. We packed a bit warmer clothings for the beginning night #2 and headed back out in the late Saturday afternoon sun.
CP2 (KM 114) – CP3 (KM 150)
The shortest stretch of the whole race. Slowly but surely the exhaustion kicked in and staying awake and at speed became more and more difficult. Olav started to have problems with his left shift so we reduced it to mainly walking. Not too much to remember other from being cold and getting even colder. The temperature in combination with a nightly wind was pulling energy. We quickly discussed strategy and decided for a decent and longer break at CP3. We arrived there close after midnight on Sunday morning, did the usual, and went outside for a 30-45 min sleep. Although sleep helps and we were aiming to gather as much energy as possible for the next stretch – sleeping outside at -5 °C requires some mental strength and a lot of warm stuff. We left CP3 at 0219 on Sunday with the idea in mind that the Legends Trail would now finally really start. Hautes Fagnes ahead, in the middle of night #2 – it was now or never to prove that we were up to the task.
CP3 (KM150) – CP4 (KM 204)
After a few more steep climbs around Malmedy the river Warche was our permanent friend for quite a few KMs. It was all in all a shivering waiting for sunrise to bring back some energy into our bodies. The long ascent to Hautes Fagnes then finally brought back the sun and what a blast this environment always is. Passing through on day 2 during Legends Trail was the cherry on top of it. Although exhausted one can’t pass through there without being amazed. And another special thing: it was all frozen so that the wet grass parts were hard frozen while the mud had a crispy surface easy to sink through – top. The descent on the river Hoenge is an area which is really familiar to both Olav and me so we just did not think of it much and headed on. We reached CP4 at around 1600 on Sunday – around 5 hours before cutoff.
CP4 (KM 204) – End (KM 272)
We left CP4 at 1730 Sunday evening – 3.5 h before cutoff with the last stretch and night #3 ahead. The first part was well know as it covered the Coo area where we did our nice Iceberg run during the Titanic Slam. Coming back there was a nice feeling. The other side of Coo and Iceberg held one of the steepest climbs of that area – up to the bassins above Coo. Not easy with 210 km in. After that first part with lots of climbing a stretch through Fagnes de la Gleize followed. A straight way up on the top with horribly cold wind. We were further slowing down and were keeping a closer eye on the cutoff times to not fall too much behind. The mood was on a low point – just fighting through longing for this part to end so that we could climb down to get out of the wind. When this finally happened we found a stretch of the Ardennes I did not know before. A funny mountain bike park area with lots of up and down. It was getting really intense now. We decided for another 10 min sleep in our emergency blankets to regain energy for the last few KM to timing point 4.1. It was the comfort of the „Chez Ingo“ tent which was waiting for us and pulling us forward. Sitting there in the warmth with sandwiches was just great. We allowed ourself another rest and headed out again at 0700 Monday morning – 7 h for the last 22 km left. As expected it would not get an easy one. More funny climbs were waiting on us. But the sun was back, Olav ignored all his issues and we made our way with two more fellow Legends: Nico and Jantine. With a constant look on the watch we fought through – slowly closing in. Slowly we realized that it would fit but it was a long and slow fight until the very end. What an amazing feeling with the usual sadness that an adventure would ultimately end. But the longing to finally sit down for the last time was really great.
A huge thank you to our RD, his crew and all the Legendary Friends who run the CPs, organized the small CPs, who cared about everything, served us food, brought us drinks, carried our drop back and so much more – amazing work. Without all of that it would be a different event and not half as nice as it is. A special thanks goes to Olav – your company was a great thing and I am more than glad that you did everything to keep us within cutoff. That one will remain unforgotten.
Personally I am pretty happy with how well it went. Sleep deprivation is no fun and that this would hit sooner or later was clear and unavoidable. But there were no other major problems. Equipment worked well, supply was always good, feet stayed in such a good condition that I could run until the very end – a nearly perfect outcome on such a long and demanding trail. Another nice experience and another great learning on what works well.
Credits for the pictures goes to Olav, Maarten, Harry de Fries and www.derennendefotograaf.nl.
Montane Legends Trail 250 2022 was around 273 km long with around 10000 m of D+. It took us 66h 41m to finish it (only a bit more than 1h before cutoff). It was my 24th 100 mi+ run and the longest distance so far.
With the narrow escape from SARS-CoV-2, the LT250 finish and the pandemic edition of AOBTD which concluded the Legends Slam in 2020 a circle closed. Everything came to an end. There was nothing more to aim for and the winter 2020/2021 was anyway dominated by restrictions to fight the virus. What to plan in these uncertain pandemic times?
Under the impression of these conditions we discussed our options and created our own private Slam in Germany/The Netherlands/Belgium to keep us busy in 2021 – a selection of 4 tracks and the task to finish them between Halloween 2020 and Silvester 2021 – the Titanic Slam. Few friends have been invited – even fewer finished it.
Being located in Germany and with travel restrictions/various night locks in place in the Netherlands/Belgium beginning of 2021 the chance to start this Slam early 2021 were close to zero. With the unsuccessful first attempt on KATE180 end of 2020 the hope of finishing the Slam was defeated quite early in the game.
May – September 2021: And then finally. With the end of wave #3 and the lifting of some of the restrictions we were able to meet in Belgium to climb the Iceberg. So nice to see all of them in person again. It was one of the strangest and toughest thing so far – with 11.000 m elevation gain in 100 miles the first successful attempt at the Titanic Slam. What could have been the start of a nice and smooth walk-through the Titanic Slam was abruptly ended beginning of July 2021: a DNF at km 140 of the LEO180 Slam Edition. To weak to come even close to a finish. The chances to finish the Titanic Slam were reduced to a tiny piece of faintest hope. The recovery from that defeat took long – running restarted end of August when the two of us tackled and finished a track we created back in 2015 but never ran – our own creation of circling around Aachen: BjöTiFul 50 – what a beautiful nonsense. The September was a low point again – really tired of running. Did not see or feel the meaning in it anymore. So – what to do? Give up? Come back?
October 2021: With the leftovers of energy a decision was made: all in.
We secretly planned our attempt on another Titanic Slam track: the Duinhopper. A weekend not to be forgotten: a stressful travel, the excitement in the final train to Hoek van Holland of finally letting the inner circle know what we were about to start in a few minutes, their reaction to that surprise, the unbelievable long journey on foot along the coast, the horrible weather in the second night and finally the bright blazes of the dying sun up there in Den Helder looking south to where we came from – an unreal and sublime feeling. What an experience, what an amazing long distance family.
To top it all – end of October KATE180 was finally defeated from a bunch of long-distance experts. It was an amazing journey especially to see how this self-created track finally expanded all its potential – and to see how everyone was fighting through. A run with everything long-distance running has to offer.
November/December 2021: After a lazy November it was time again to go for a run again. I could not stand the feeling of not at least try to complete the Titanic Slam. So LEO180 was left on the table. Lots of last minute changes set the frame of another remarkable experience of the lonely job of underground long-distance running. It was a narrow escape but it was a successful attempt. The next Slam in the books – another year of running done.
And 2022? Plans are made – races have been booked; the next Slam is set-up as well and will be kicked-of in January. What from all of this will become realty: who knows. Only one thing remains true:
Long-distance running is always waiting out there. Be aware!
A true journey changes those who are brave enough to travel wholeheartedly.
The Duinhopper is a 220 km long GPX track provided by acceptnolimits.eu on the Duinhopper page. It covers the whole coast of the Netherlands between Hoek van Holland and Den Helder. How you organize yourself while running, how you manage this long distance is your problem – there is no further service provided. If you are interested in running this track – get in contact with the guys from acceptnolimits.eu and check out the above mentioned Duinhopper page for reports, hints and videos. The original Duinhopper is meant to be run in the winter time in the months January or February.
While checking possible dates for long distance running weekends in 2021 we found the first weekend of October as one of the few possible options this year. As the Duinhopper is part of a private running challenge the decision on the course was easily made. We decided to keep our appearance on the coast secret until the very start of our run. For the fun and the surprise of it. As mentioned above the DH is normally meant to be run in winter but the challenge allows to differ from that. The final thing to do was logistics planning and it turned out that the best option we found is to park the car in the middle of the course at a train station (from where we could shuttle to the start and take a train back from finish line to the car as well). We decided to use the official parking at Driehuis train station which is 1,2 km off track but good connected via train and at km 120 of 220.
The travel to Driehuis by car and the train transfer to Hoek van Holland was horrible. We lost one hour in the traffic jams around Amsterdam and another hour because of a closed bridge (train just stopped and we had to wait for a transfer bus to the next station to pick-up another train). We finally announced to our running family what we were going to try and hit the start button on all our devices. Game on.
The First Night:
We started on Friday 1st of October at 21:37 – with the 48h time limit we had only one task: to reach the finish in Den Helder on Sunday 3rd of October before 21:37. Sounds like more than enough time considering that it is 220 km run.
We had light rain and some wind – but nothing too horrible. After a few hours the sky became clear and we had great running conditions. Within the first marathon the haven and boulevard of Scheveningen was probably the highlight of the night. Always amazing to enter civilization after hours of dark and calm nature. We made quite good progress and our first 15 min break around km 50 because we were quite tired. But sun was near.
The First Day:
Around km 50 the Dunes became more and more serious. The track does not alway uses existing patches – as with every great adventure: you need to walk your own path if you want to succeed. The sun was rising revealing the surrounding – and no kidding: we were amazed. What a beautiful coast. Km 50-99 cover a variety of different Dune areas – all of them different – all of them beautiful. Sometimes Savanna-like (a wide grassland full of animals) sometimes Sahara-like (sand) and sometimes covered with dwarfs (don’t ask). We had a blast. Not too fresh anymore, not fast but we had good weather and moments of pure unity with nature. We even stopped for the second 15 min break to take a nap in the sun. A dear was lying 5 meters away from us and stayed there as if he wanted to protect (or control) the sleepy Germans.
At the end of this stretch the next most welcomed surprise was waiting for us. Maarten and his car with some supply.
The news of us travelling along the coast was squeezed through the secret channels of the internet (we know we have to thank Maarten for a lot of work behind the scenes) and we were closely watched and supported by an amazing Dutch long distance running family. Maarten met us a second time at around km 103 – sending us on our last part to our car. He even found the time to shoot an amazing drone video:
The Second Night:
We reached the car at km 120 in the dark and in more and more intense rain. Long distance running reality hit us hard. All wet and freezing – changing clothes – repacking backs – trying to dry the feet a bit – eat something – finally a sleep in the warm car. The moment the alarm clock rang was so absurd. Kind of warm and dry sitting in a car looking into what was now clearly more than light rain and wind… In these moments: if you have any doubts don’t speak about it. We both were thinking the same about what would be reasonable to do but consequently did the opposite of it. I think we can agree that we do not want to speak about that second night. Luckily we managed to move a little, luckily the hardest rain and wind stopped after a few hours, luckily we were wise and brave enough to split up (after all these years of running we did this the first time) and luckily even the darkest and wettest night has to end. Even in the hardest moments with your best friend you have to stay rational and make wise decisions. Both of us were fighting different battles – and we did this alone. Pushed by the hope that it would be beneficial for a united finish. At the end of the night we were joined by Addie and Margret and had another section of great support. Can’t thank you enough!
The Second Day:
The first daylight of day 2 revealed the Dunes around Schoorl. A nice hit in the face. And, even more horrible, the last 9 km of real Dunes down to the beach. Exhausted, hopelessness, slightly unconscious and zombie-walking through the endless hills. It. Must. End. So pissed about the Dunes at that moment. But finally – the Beach – and another family member: Francois. Three figures shuffling on the beach. Absurd feeling. Would this endless beach really bring us to Den Helder? Still 38 km to go – long hours of „running“ ahead. But we were still in, we had support and we had hope. We met Francois´ car at km 191 and 204 – great to have something to hold on. It felt like no progress at all sometimes but slowly we were approaching.
We left the beach 12km before the finish line. From now on it would be cycling/walking paths through mild Dunes followed by the last long grass part on the dike of Den Helder. Completely exhausted the final relief was slowly approaching. We would really do it. Together with this certainty the sun was back. Some unforgettable km up there in North Holland. Painful but happy moments.
The FB call from our running family was the ultimate sign – we did it. And off course we were not alone – Francois came with beer. I mean: how great was that.
225,66 km; 45:35h; 2600D+; 50% TS
Maarten, Addie, Margret, Francois, Stefan, all members of the TS group – one for all, all for one! Fantastic long distance family!
There are sometimes phases in which running (especially long-distance-running) seems to be so far away that you slowly really disconnect from that world. Finally retired from that bullshit with no way back. Either it is because of injury, other things in life which need all of your time or a long down period from a previously encountered great victory/huge defeat (its really the same in long-distance-running).
In the beginning it’s a weird feeling: you open e.g. Strava, one of the (un)social networks or your Garmin Connect app and everyone – EVERYONE – is running like hell. And this does not feel nice. All of them (some of them are even your friends) are so strong and running long distances as if it is nothing. Again and again. Meanwhile you sit at home looking into the dark night outside unsure if it is regret or relief that you are not out there with them. Then you silently close down the live tracking page, switch off your PC and go to bed.
With a little bit more time into your new running-free life this heavy weight lifts a bit. You start to feel better and are happy for them who are running. You are able to applaud again, cheer with them and even support them while they follow their running dreams. Further and faster – beyond all boundaries. But this is no longer your mission.
When you stumble over your running shoes or your running gear you sometimes have to smile a little. A faint smile from far, far away. What infinite amount of hours you used all that stuff. All those dark and painful nights, all those shivering beginnings/ends of days where you felt like the tiniest and weakest particle of dust in this huge universe. Good that this is the past. Good that this is over.
But is it?
What if …? – what if you open your database one last time and check for that one track you drew ages ago and never ran? Just look at the GPX. Remember how you created this file. What a fool you have been back then. How could you honestly think that these connected dots would make a nice adventure? How could you think they really matter?
Somehow these unanswered questions also do not feel great. Quite the contrary.