If you are in Germany during October, and you don’t want to run a big city marathon stay tuned, here you will learn all that you need to have a successful pleasurable memory of running what at first sight seems like an unspectacular 42,2KM in the heart of the black forest.
Hi, my name is Heiko! The black forest marathon is located in the south of Germany. From Frankfurt airport, just head south, can’t miss it.
In today’s blog I want to share with you what awaits you on those 42,2KM.
But wait Why make a blog post about this marathon? I ran it back in 2014, and it grew on me.
The first time I participated was a spontaneous decision. Actually the weekend was supposed to be a recuperation, perhaps a slow 10K run, but when I realized there is a marathon close to my home, it didn’t take long for me to decide to participate.
When I prepared I didn’t know that it has a 50-year history, nor did I know that since 1968 women were allowed to participate as well.
So, it is the oldest marathon that allows this.
Now pay attention, If a marathon that is run 80% on gravel is something you haven’t yet tried, you should.
Yes, your shoes will get a little dirty, and if you usually just run on tarmac, you will feel muscles in your ankles and calves you thought you never used.
The race is held in October, so the changes of great weather are so-so but unlikely. But here is the good news, even if it rains, the forest is so dense, you will be quite well protected from the elements.
The race starts in Bräunlingen, approx. 6200 inhabitants and you need to go to the local sports hall, where you get your bib number. It’s a very friendly and uncomplicated environment.
What I want to say is that it seems like a low-key event, with local sponsors, and the reason for this is in the race’s history.
The founder of the race, Roland Mall, wanted to create a 100K event. But could not find a suitable route. So the decision was taken to plan a marathon ”not only for specialists”, but “for those that feel fit enough”.
The race was quite famous in its day. Back in 1971 it was even mentioned in the American “Stars and Stripes magazine”: The Black Forest Marathon, one of the most scenic and popular runs in Europe, measures 42 kilometers. It is the first international marathon to have categories for women (1968) and teenagers (1977) “).
In 1971 the Stuttgarter newspaper proclaimed that: “1505 Participants in the biggest marathon event in the world. Apparently Boston only had 1200 .
Word of the race spread, and even last year there were 43 nationalities taking part. Not bad for 3000 runners. Of course as big city marathons grew in popularity, and runners’ preferred going for personal bests, the participation numbers dwindled, but have remained constant over the years.
If you need supporters and big bands, and people cheering you on, this definitely is not the race for you.
But if you really want to get close to nature, breathe fresh air, and feel close to the outdoors, you have come to the correct event.
Now let’s look at the route. First thing you notice is 3000 ft elevation, and that is during the first 20K. Whow.
From the start it’s a bit narrow, a couple of turns you have to watch out for, and then after the first aid station, you start to climb. Subtle, you don’t notice it at first. It’s one of those limbs that sneaks up on you. And after a while you realize, why am I breathing so hard, and how come I am bent over forward ever so slightly. Then it hits you, uphill.
There are aid stations every 5 KM and please don’t be a jerk and throw your empty cup into the forest. Some people do that, finish the water quickly and use the bins provided a couple of meters after the aid station.
As the route is on gravel, it pays off to concentrate on where exactly you are going to run. The path is smoother left and right, obviously vehicle tracks. And in the middle there are some uneven surfaces, well compared to the tracks left and right. But at some stage you are going to want to overtake someone, and this requires some planning and focus. Suddenly choosing the middle lane, so to speak, and not being prepared might just lead to a little spraining of the ankle.
This can be avoided if you plan ahead, so especially those of you that usually run only on tarmac, keep this in mind: watch your step!
When I ran the race, it was a cloudy day which meant that I had lost my orientation completely. Actually it’s quite simple, you run into a northerly direction, then west, then back east. But due to the low clouds, so no sunlight came through the dense forest, and the 30 to 32 turns, some of them 90 degrees, meant I felt lost.
Completely disorientated, running in a trancelike state. Not knowing where in this immense forest I am, just focusing on concentrating not missing the next sharp turn. Running as though hypnotized is the best way I can describe it.
Before the start, my aim was just to have a relaxing run, no focus on time. But you know how it is, suddenly I spotted a sign, must have been 22 KM or somewhere around there, and I realized I felt strong, what a waste not to run a faster pace.
So I decided to go for a negative split. This meant that I spent most of the race running all alone. No one in front of me, and no one overtaking me.
This along with the disorientation, the turns, the cloudy conditions, means I had complete mental focus on my pace. Especially reaching the 30KM mark, I remembered that the next 10 KM would be a straight line more or less, and then I would reach Bräunlingen where the start and finish line was. Feeling even stronger as I saw buildings, and for a few seconds I was so impressed with myself “this is it, I have made it” but really could it be no wait this is only 35KM mark. A small village just 7 KM before the actual finish line.
Oh boy, means now I needed to pay close attention not to lose the time I had gained during the last couple of KM’s. Again straight line, until there are two 90 degree turns, no problems, no other runners’ nearby, and then finally reaching the finish line.
I was relieved more than anything else. The feeling of running through the forest without sunlight, and the lack of knowing how far I was made it a tough race for me. Definitely if the weather is great and I believe last year that was the case, this is a memorable run that I can recommend to you.
Find more tips like this on heikostribl.com or in our online mental running tool course. An in-depth 4 hour video course on my youtube Blog, along with an easy-to-read guide to understanding mental techniques for runners’ in depth. It comes, along with our R.E.S.E.T.® branded coaching certification.