Monday, 27 May 2013


This is Germany’s biggest off road trail event and possibly one of the biggest in Europe with 10-15,000 runners and walkers at the event. A series of trail running (73k ultra-marathon, marathon and half marathon) and Nordic walking (17 and 25km long walks) are held on different sections of the Rennsteig, a long distance footpath running through the forests and hills of Thuringa, in central Germany.
The start is crazy, lots of dancing and signing.. all a bit OTT for a Brit but they do like a song in Germany.. the worst part about the race was lack of toilets at the start, nowhere near enough, plus no toilet paper.. in the end people were just shitting in the local woods at the back of the school so they really need to address that. The logistics were all fine, you drop your bag at the start and get it back at the end.

Initially I’d wanted to run the ultra but due to other events I opted for the marathon. Looking at the times I assumed it was all on the road, but it’s in fact mainly on the trail after the first 5k. I got chatting a Brit, Solomon sponsored Chunky Liston who lives over here, and a German runner as we started running and they saw my Britsich club vest and Chunky was aiming for 2:45 and reckoned it was 15 minutes off a pb course. Last years winner ran 2:38 and had ran 2:24 in Hamburg 2 months prior so it made sense. I felt Chunky’s pace was that bit too quick for me so backed off and tried to hold 6:05 min mile sort of pace for the more  runnable miles. I never saw him again, but he finished in 3rd just under 2:45.
The race starts in Neuhaus am Rennweg and climbs up a road for a k then 4 k along a main road to access the trail. With 3000 runners the start was a tad congested but I managed to push through to the start line and got a good start, if anything a tad too good and my early few miles on the descending road were possibly a tad quick. The route then follows a cycleway which traverses Sandberg and after 10k you hit the second climb along muddy forest trails. As soon as the gradient hit my pace slowed, not overly so but I now realized how hard it would be to hold low 6 minute miles.

The aid stations were great with coke, energy drink, water and fruit and then a large sign letting you know how far to the next station. From the off I’d got into the top 6 but was soon caught by 2, then a 3rd runner as we hit half way and I was down to 9th but soon got that position back. The runners in 7th and 8th were often visible ahead but to be honest as we entered the latter miles I was feeling tired and was happy in 8th, 3rd in my age group, in a time of 2:51:10. As a rough target I’d had 2:50 and top 10. I knew I was looking at around 2:50 but wasn’t sure on the length, I’d seen 43.1 km listed but you never know with trail events how accurate the measurements were.

From 12 miles to around 20 miles in the hilliest part of the route and that was tough going but I knew most of the last 10k were downhill so mentally that helped. The route is never overly rough but there is one long fairly technical descent. I wore road shoes and for a few miles had wished I had trail shoes on, but then again for the roads I was glad of my adizeros. No shoe is perfect as it’s a mixture of everything but the trails I largely firm trails, even in a wet year like this it was OK in road shoes.

Pretty happy with the run, felt tired but I had no rest before hand and it was just a hard training run. Great series of events though.

On Friday night you can stay in the local school in Neuhaus for 2 euros, just sleeping in the corridors and then on Saturday I got the bus back to Neuhaus and camped in the festival field. The local pub had the game on (CL final) and there was an excellent band on in the tent. You can stay the whole weekend in Schmiedefeld am Rennsteig, where the race ends and get the bus out to the various start locations in the morning.

After the race I drove back down the course and took some photos to give an idea of the terrain.. below..

Video of the post-race party now uploaded on youtube which should be visible..

Some more photos on the blog of a runner who finisihed just behind in 12th.

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