Sometimes you just want to go running. Just enjoy a couple of hours. No thinking of time or pondering about distances, just having a great run.
Well, sometimes that plan doesn’t add up. Especially if like me you tend to sign up for marathons without any background information.
Hi my name is Heiko, thanks for reading.
If you want to get firsthand review and information of a really challenging run, along with some tips on becoming a better, more regular, smarter and faster runner this is the right place for you. Because. What I can do and what I am quite knowledgeable about is running. Not Darts, not Bowling, not Curling all great sports I am sure, for me I am passionate about running. And I want to share with you the opportunities to run races that are not so famous or familiar, but still worth every step.
Now if I decide to do a marathon, for me the most important thing is not to spend too much time in the car. Huh, how does that work? Well, what I mean is, there are many great race events all across Germany, or Europe to choose from on nearly any given weekend. But, spending too much time traveling there and back is a no-go criterion for me. Living in the south of Germany there are actually many smaller, lesser known running events. Lesser known outside their region that is. Some have been held for over 15 or even 19 years. Like this one, the Schurwald or Lichtenwalder LIWA marathon.
There are two ways to get your best run time for this event. (I shall reveal them at the end) Because it is a unique course but I am getting ahead of myself.
It’s less than an hour south of Stuttgart, in the Lichtenwald Light-Forest. As most regional German run events, there is no big sign or festive atmosphere like you would find in the States, or in Australia. It’s just a normal day in the local town. Meeting place is the City Hall.
There are other run distances you could choose from, 10K half, but my plan was to do the marathon. I mean it’s a Sunday morning, what could be nicer than a slow long run.. that was the plan remember.
120 Marathon runners had signed up. Pretty impressive, plus the day’s weather was looking great, sunshine and about 20 degrees.
It started at 9:30, in front of the city hall. It’s then that I hear someone mention “680 elevation”, and someone else mentions “steep climb”. I’m like what? Who said that, wait a minute too late we are starting the race.
Well the first couple of KM’s we pass through wonderful green fields, like those painted in a kid’s story book, all on tar-road, deep forest to our left. The marathon and half marathon runners’ start at the same time, so as the road ahead gets a bit narrow there are some odd moments where it’s difficult to pass. What you hardly notice is, it’s a pleasant downhill, so you feel absolutely great. Then I recall a sharp long left turn that leads you into the forest. Still downhill, all gravel and you feel even better now, like whoa this is what running should feel like. Great. Completely different to the Allgäu ultra run, you can find the details in my review, where you climbed the first 10K.
The aid stations are aplenty, and then suddenly it is there. An incline. It is the first short climb and reminds you that someone mentioned 680 meters of elevation. But before you have time to think about that, its again downhill This is really great. Already past the 7 KM mark, the pace is too fast, I am on fire today.
Oh. Suddenly the “greatness” stops.
It’s uphill. And it goes on , and on, and on. Until 13KM. So, unless you have done some hill training, it’s that type of hill which might mentally break you, stop you from running, ruining your pace. The danger is of course that once your head hangs low and you start to indulge in some negative thoughts, it will be a tough race day for you.
I passed a group of English-speaking runners that had decided to walk up. They were not impressed as one of them mentioned he never trains hills, and came here without any prior knowledge about the event. (There are more of us).
Then. I agree it will be a tough unpleasant walk in the forest rather than a leisure run.
It is a difficult choice, because the incline is one of those: too shallow to walk, but just difficult enough to sap your energy whilst running.
The next 5 Kilometers was a constant, being overtaken, and overtaking as most runners struggled with the incline. But once you have made it this far, you have overcome the most difficult elevation gain of the marathon. Now there is a nice clear level path for the next couple of kilometers, you are out of the forest, some cheers from the odd couple walking their dog, hey every bit helps.
At the 20K mark the half marathon runners split off to the left. Good feeling to have made it to the halfway mark, although a look at the time left me in shock. Far slower than anticipated. You pass through the town Thomashardt, and suddenly you are on your own as there seems to be a larger participation in the half marathon.
The next couple of Kilometers felt good, and I am sure the scenery has something to do with it. It’s a really idyllic German countryside. Typical Fachwerk häuser, that’s the typical wood and clay construction, good route, enough shade, and plenty of aid stations. In between all this “I feel great running in the shade”, suddenly it turned into a killer incline.
No shade, and I found myself walking. Oh my goodness.. haha. I don’t recall how many kilometers it was, but it felt too long, until finally you reached the shadow of the forest again.
Running becomes easier, although there are still a couple of meters of elevation, nasty ones, they sneak up on you and require your brain to stay in a positive state of mind, to keep on running. It’s that type of course if you start walking now, you will not start running again soon, and you will regret it too.
Finally you reach Baltmannsweiler, lush green fields, supportive crowds and here you can pick up your pace or find your rhythm again. Until suddenly you reach the 37K mark. Perhaps you know this, it’s like the past Kilometers flew past in a daze you cannot recall how you got there. I mean now you only have 5K remaining. The motivation level spikes, and there are just a few inclines, nothing compared to the beginning though, but I felt them. As you head towards Lichtenwald, you hear the cars from the main road, and feel like you are heading back into civilization again. And next thing you are on soft grass crossing the finish line.
For me, as I like a hot and tough course it was a perfect run event. Challenging and full of surprises. Sure, not the type to get a PB, nor a beginners marathon, but if you want some new thoughts, some new mind processes other than pace to go through your head whilst running, this marathon is it.
The pace is nearly irrelevant, as the inclines depending if you walked or ran them, will spoil any possible planning or outcome you have set yourself.
OK so here are the two success factors:
Remember in the beginning I said there are only two ways to get a great time for this 42,2K. Either you have trained a lot of trails, and you don’t blink an eye if there is a lot of uphill running. Or you prepare accordingly and come back next year, which will be my plan.
If you are interested in mental techniques that can help you push through a difficult patch of a race, or just getting back the positive aspects whilst on a run, check out Hypno-running.com a unique mental training program designed for runners’, that will ensure you avoid those mental moments which are not helpful. With over 4 hours of video material and hands on exercises you will grow as a runner where it matters most, your mindset.
Attitude is everything, so have a good one.
My name is Heiko, Take it easy.