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.
We created the Marvel Slam 2022 due to the fun we had with our small Titanic Slam in 2021. The basic idea is to promote the style of running we like most and to enable the community to participate in that. All details on the challenge and conditions can be found at acceptnolimits.eu.
With now almost 4 month into the Marvel Slam it looks like our plan does work out.
Runners who accepted and entered the competition did not complain about missing information – they know it is part of the challenge to plan and prepare yourself independent of everything around you. It is up to every individual runner when to start, to chose with whom they may want to partner or if they want to conquer one or more of the tracks alone – there is no organisation. The Marvel Slam community lives independently, useful information and experiences are shared amongst – and only amongst – the runners and help/support is offered both with and without being asked for. Exactly how we understand the concept of long-distance-running.
And what performance we already saw… We saw them fail, we saw them coming back (and once even coming back a third time) to finally conquer one of the tracks. We saw impossible situations and we saw a few of them solved nevertheless. The overall success rate of 28 attempts is 43%. So it is still more likely to fail than to succeed. We will have really interesting rest of 2022 within the Marvel Slam.
How many of the 40 runners will be able to complete all 4 tracks within the given limit of 48h/track? How many more great stories of success and failure will we told? How many of the runners will not accept their limits and go beyond?
The newest habit is to just post the live-tracking link into the Marvel Slam community group without any pre-warning and the last attempts have been started and finished of one runner alone. We like that a lot. Being remote is a nice experience. Keep on pushing.
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!
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.
There are not too many things really matter at the end. With the past weekend fresh in mind this will not be the ordinary race report but some thoughts which came to my mind or were the results of the discussions prior, during and after the Montane Legends Trail 2022 edition. The race report itself with an overview of what happened can be later found here.
Entering Montane Legends Trail 2022 was a kind of spontaneous decision for me. With finishing the 2020 edition (LT250) and the Legends Slam 2019/2020 everything was like it should be with no need to continue the Montane Legends Trail races. I still consider myself als a lucky one that these 4 races 2 years ago could take place (Corona) and that I was able to finish all 4 of them. So why should I go again? I decided to not register for the 2021 edition and Corona cancelled the whole event finally. So thats it? Still following the news of this race and being in contact with registered runners I did not loose contact to the Legends Trail family. Somewhen end of 2021 the message came through that the registration re-opens with some last places available. I did not wait more than a few minutes after that messages and got my ticket – I am still not sure why I was so clear in my decision that moment. But I think one part of it is, that Legends Trails is way more than just a race.
It starts with that uncomfortable pre-race hustle and bustle no one really likes. The week before the event you are organizing a hell lot of things including how to get to the event and back to normal life again. On race day the entry procedure includes a detailed kit check, check if all information you entered while registration are correct, you get your GPS-tracker, your race number, need to place your drop back, etc… Finally when all of this is done successfully the waiting for the start begins. Although waiting for start is never nice – this is the moment when the spirit of Legends Trails begins. It was so nice to sit together with the other participants (with most of them either being good friends or people you know from previous editions) and the whole Legends Trails crew and Legendary Friends. A lot of stories to tell, a lot of memories to share. Long time no see. Good to finally meet again and to be able to renew the bonds. All in all there was a huge gratitude in that room that we could be there and that we could spend our next days with something we love. This is not for granted with all what is going on in this world.
Montane Legends Trails has a set of rules which are quite easy to understand and even more straight forward. They are not just there for your safety and for the safety of others but they are also part of what is the DNA of Legends Trails. Especially the part of no support is always worth mentioning. Although it may sound like the race director only wants to make it more difficult it implies quite the contrary. When entering this event you should be an independent runner and should be able to fix and solve all possible problems you may encounter during the race with the stuff you have packed and with your mind. Only when accepting and respecting this you are eligible to become a legend.
In my eyes acceptance and respect are anyway important guidelines throughout the whole event. Legends Trail is so long and so demanding that you kind of need to free yourself from every schedule, every detailed plan and every expectation as the race will anyway kill them all. This does not mean that you should not have a well-sorted and planned drop back as well as race pack and that you want to have a look on the time to meet the cut-offs but other than that… For me one enters Montane Legends Trail best with a mind setting that whatever comes – no matter how difficult – is to be accepted. With that spirit one does not need to worry or complain or being frightened but just head through. This already safes a lot of unnecessarily spend mental energy which can be used for more important things.
Finally the gratitude returning to start/finish is something overwhelming and hard to describe. With all you put in you finally re-enter that room where it all started and everyone is there. Those who did not made it tend to stay a while after their race, those who were supporting and still supporting are there – a bunch of finishers. With that spirit in the air that something worth memorizing just happens. Its like coming home after a weekend spent out there with lots of adventures. A weekend which may not have been pleasant all the time but a weekend where you invested everything to get back to exactly that place. It´s the warm campfire after the long and dark cold. Stories to be told and beer to be drunken until it finally ends.
Just found something in the back of my cupboard. Something which has been lying around for quite a while. Unused and empty. Still this bib remained attached for all this months. This brings back memories – memories of a long gone adventure.
CP1 with all the hustle where I felt distant and not really into the whole thing. Too many people, to crowded place to find rest.
CP2 which was less crowded and a decent recovering brake at last.
CP3 where I entered broken – both mentally and physically – and where I was barely able to open the bag, resupply and close it again.
CP4 where I entered wet through and through and where it took ages to sort things out.
And the finally the finish – where I said: I will probably never go back through this.
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.