The weather finally decided to adapt to the calendar. The rain, the mud and the fog are uniting with the all engulfing darkness again. It is that time of the year again to lie in bed all day and listen to the sound of the drops and the wind outdoors.
Lots have been written about how these conditions change the way distances running feels. It certainly adds a whole different level of remoteness, loneliness and vastness to it. Some enjoy this immensely.
Social media begins to fill with end of year summaries – looking back to what has been going on this year. It is not the time to jump on that train. There is unfinished business.
But one thing is clear already. With what has been going on behind the curtain in a certain challenge called „Marvel Slam“ self-supported unlisted distance running entered a new level. The level of braveness, stubbornness and determination was and still is extraordinary. Unmatched performances have been run on these hidden tracks, tons of personal limits have been broken and the barrier between what is bearable and what is impossible has been ignored many times.
Wether or not the folks finish their slam (due date is the end of the year) – we have seen, ran, followed, supported and dot-watched some real heroes.
Unseen and mostly offline they followed what was put on their schedule. They shared their updates to the other happy few and went on.
It is a really astonishing experience to see this happen and to be a part of it.
When opportunities arise one needs to step up and act. No matter what. With the ongoing and increasing heat wave which would dominate the weekend there was only one logical decision: start with a night so that two full nights would fall into the run and should ease up the heat pressure. Everything was packed and ready Friday evening after work – Wolverine was attacked around 2100 in the evening.
At the end it took me 41h39m to finish this 202 km track. Hard to describe what happened while running – the biggest concern was the water supply with these weather conditions. The backpack was heavier than usual because I always carried as much water as possible. With the help of cemeteries, school parking lots with water taps, shops, restaurants etc. everything worked out with regards to water.
The track is divided into three parts 95 rather normal km – a tough section between km 95 and km 170 with lots of funny climbing included – and an again less technical final section between km 170 and the end.
It was a unique experience as I was running alone and this time without any support and also without any chance of support in case needed. Completely remote except the virtual connection via social media. At the end everything went well. No bigger problems, no major mistakes and a huge relieve once it was done and the car was still there where I left it.
Time to rest until the next Marvel track calls for action. Left are 160 km in Hautes Fagnes and the long trip along #noourthenoparty. Both tough – both overgrown at the moment. So its time to relax and wait until the upcoming fall eliminates the vegetation and clears the paths.
First track of the Marvel Slam 2022 done. Always interesting to run a self-created route for the first time. There are still some minor „mistakes“ in the track and I may correct some as there are more runners to come and have a go on Mystique. But all in all it proved to be what I meant it to be – an easy sightseeing track in these nice Eifel areas at the first glance – and somehow creepy gruelling while doing it. A diverse route – lots of asphalt (compared to the usual self-created track) and even some km on street (those were needed to be able to combine all the nice parts in a reasonable distance). But there are single trails, non-existing single trails, steep and rocky climbs, overgrown miseries in as well – to acknowledge the basics of long-distance-travelling.
Its the area around Mayschoß and Altenahr (including the famous climbing part Engelsley), its lots of old roman architecture excavations along the way, its long demanding climbs on big routs through endless fields, its a good portion of old, overgrown and non-existing paths challenging the runner to climb-through and its lots of touristic sightseeing involved.
It took us 39h15m to finish it – another great walk for the two of us.
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.
Someone told me off for all the throwbacks (but I mean: how nice was LT272).
But yes – it is time to move on – so next stop: JUNUT. Heard a lot of nice stories about it and had this one on the list since a few years. JUNUT was part of the Millenium Quest – finish 4 of the longer races in Germany within one saison: JUNUT (239 km), TorTour de Ruhr (230 km), Hexenstieg (220 km) and Wibolt (320 km). This Millenium Quest does not exist anymore but all 4 races are for sure worth to run.
We did the full TorTour de Ruhr back in 2018 and in a few weeks we will finally have the chance to have a try on the JUNUT239. Really looking forward to it!
After hours of striving through remote areas there are signs of life. Sings of other human beings. In this dark and cold night with the rough terrain around the view of lighted windows sends a certain portion of hope, of warmth and comfort. A sign that there is a different world to live in. But it feels not right and it could not show more clearly that this is not our world. Not at the moment. The people behind those windows in their comfort zone – whatever they may do – are so close and yet could not be more far away. This hope, this warmth and this comfort is not ours. If they would open their windows they would not understand what we may try to explain. They do not open them anyway. And although we are so close to a connection to what is considered to be a normal life we feel like an unpleasant guest. A piece of a puzzle which is already complete. Our path winds in front of us and leads us back into this dark and misty chaos. Unseen we leave the village again. Leaving nothing but muddy prints on the tarmac. Soon those windows are faint light dots on the horizon.
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!