running the wave – Rueningen 24h 2018

infos to the race:
All pics with permission by Julia and Janine Schwieger

Four weeks later, I still felt this race in my legs. Apparently, this was not only the farthest I have ever gone, but also the most long-term exhausting thing I ever did. Somehow it felt like I got the perfect wave, and rode it. As long as it lasted. And then this was it.

After the kids bailed out last year for various reasons, they were determined to run Rueningen this year. My parents were on vacation, but Reinulf promised to jump in and also sleep with the kids in our tent on site, so they were able to ‘run’ as much as they wanted. Only our lift back home was unclear. I almost convinced Kristina to do the ride from anywhere (Berlin?) to Braunschweig, to drive us back to Goettingen. But Ilka decided to come with us, meet her mother and take us back home.

I followed a FB announcement to send a picture and some words about me so they can present some of the runners and teams in their event newspaper. I thought there would be tons of little pictures and was surprised to be featured that prominently, well, going a bit bold into that race might not be the worst thing:

Preperation was much less sophisticated as the previous years, but it got a routine anyway. All besides the almighty Guarana-Cola was available (thanks to Tanya’s mom to ship Bag Balm from the US!). But even with the Cola I was lucky, as Ilka found some a day before we left for the race. Hooray!

I went into this race with different aims and feelings. Last year, I was determined to race it, and make the podium. At least in the age group (which, mind you, is big in this race, 0-16y, 17-40y, 41-60y and above). This went all down the drain when the national ultra running team of the cape verdian islands showed up. Three guys, fast as hell in the first 100k, and then hanging on to their lead. But I found the perfect run that day when I synchronized with Henning and we had 12hours of happy running and chatting. Placing did not matter, the maximum distance did not really matter, we were just having such a good time. And logged the longest run, I ever had. How could I outdo this performance this year? No way I could hope for such a long stretch of feeling well. Also, pushing too hard was the receipe for failure, I knew.

Still, I wanted a trophy from this race since I was there the first time, and was tempted by the good placing I had in the night (and before my crash) that I can place there. So, my My A goal was the podium, B goal a placement in the age group. C goal at least to run further than last year. Of course winning was somehow not impossible if the right people were not there 😉 so I was hoping and dreaming big.

We pitched our huge family tent at the sports ground, arranged the beds for the kids, and put the table at the barrier. Same as last year with some tiny improvements. I loved the water basin in the rain cover over my chair last year to wash my hands and face, so I took our camping water container and put the faucet through the fence. I took plenty of boiled potatoes and some salt. Three bottles of beet root/ginger juice, four litres of guarana-cola, all thermos bottles with green tea but one with broth. Took several packages of gels and no standard cereal bars, but just raw fruit-nut bars. The kids got their own little box with food, so they would not mess with mine.cIgfwKe8S76NWwQUC5ZwOg_thumb_56.jpg

Running is so much fun in the beginning 🙂

The race started pretty unspectacularly. It was a bit too hot and there were water basins with sponges to cool off and a mist shower to run through. None of the downpours in sight that made for some complications in the previous years, though, what a relief. We entered the starting corral, I tried to give all kids a heads up , which was not too easy as they spread out immediately as was their preference. Tom way too far to the front, Ronja a good bit back and Jule with Reinulf near the end of the crowd. Then some words, the countdown and we started our journey to nowhere. When the dust settled, I found myself running way too fast, but it worked and felt effortless. Also, I saw many runners running in a diabolic pace. It took a while to identify the relay runners, which became more easy with time when most of the individuals settled into a slower pace. But there were a few that seemed to stick to a 10k pace for hours. I was talking quite a bit with Steffen, who was again aiming high but felt not too well that day. He showed me Patrick, one of the full boar runners. He was quite funny to look at, because he ran with lots of determination and did not look like the prototype of a long distance runner, but more like a body builder. Way too much upper body mass. And he ran. I figured he must crash because of overheating any time. But he did not. And he influenced many runners to overpace too. For example Steffen, who threw in the towel at some point. I learned that Patrick was in the younger category (and I just turned 40, so I was in a different age group, but expected more competition there, as no fast young guns showed up like last year). That gave me the freedom to let him run himself to pieces. At least that was what I expected to see. He survived much longer than I thought. And by pulling all competitors in the sinkhole with his outrageous speed he won the young age group at the end. With 125k. Darn.


It’s not so much fun after a few hours in the baking sun

It was around three hours in that I figured, I could not keep this attitude of running too fast and stopping to eat whenever I wanted, as the former became too exhausting and the latter too frequent. I made a longer stop at my table to find an inspiration how to approach the race from now on. I even laid on my back for a while to cool down with the back to the grass and have the legs stretched over me, which made several people ask if I was out. No way? It was just that my first strategy was worn out, and I needed a new one. I trotted on and tried to find a gait where I was moving well but which was not too taxing. I found that I might push a tiny bit to not get too lazy. I got into a rythm and ran. Every lap I took a manual lap on the watch so I had the splits and my lap count without looking at the leader board for too long.  When I read my reports from the previous years before the race, I saw that in the first edition I ran for 5k and then had a rest loop with drinking and eating. But five loops of consistent running. The second and third time I walked shorter but more frequent, or with Henning I walked a stretch every 3k. Why? I did not know.  It took me quite a while to the there. For the first half of the race, I did shorter run sections and then, when I felt thirsty or hungry I had my stop at the main aid station drank two cups (and did not bother to have my bottles filled) walked with the drinks to my table, drank another two cups of tea, coke or Magnesium, ate a bit, walked to the end of the grass like I did with Henning last year, and started running again.


Kids entertainment program is spot on in Rueningen!

I overtook the kids every now and then, which made for nice, cheering encounters. Ronja and Tom usually ran a few steps with me. Beforehand I told them that I would not wait for them or anything, but will be focused on my race. They were really good in accepting this. I owe Reinulf a lot for taking responsibilty of Jule who would have stopped me a lot otherwise. The week before, I told the kids about the moonlight runners shirt, because I figured they will find out anyway, and dealing with this on site would not be feasible. Of course all three were immediately determined to get that shirt. Going 15k? From midnight to four a.m.? Of course! I dit not believe them. I told them, they needed to be in bed at 20:00 if they wanted to run in the night, to which they all agreed. Well, I saw them right before, but somehow all four got into the tent by eight and into their sleeping bags. Impressive. Until then, all three already logged big mileage, so I was dead sure they would not crawl out the tent at midnight. How could I be so wrong…

It helped a lot that the sun got lower and it got cooler. What struck me was the ease with which I cycled through the above routine. Over and over. During the night, I finally came into the 5k/1k rythm of my first year. And how well that worked. Every look at my watch after the mat made me smile. I ran so consistent. 5:47, 5:43, 5:49… Well that is how it felt. Here is the lap protocol: Definitely not as consitent as it felt, but I was on cruise control at that time.

During the evening I got to talk to Patrick, who was still running full boar, from an effort perspective, but qite a bit slower now. He pointed me to Fabian, who had the lead by a big margin and was circling very smoothly around the course. He was not much faster than me, but looked very efficient and like it was not taxing what he did. OK, this was the guy I had to hang onto. But I promised myself to not race anyone until 18h into the race. So I tried a lot to ignore him. With minor success. I tried to focus on myself and the miles I logged. And they were big. I always had Andre’s wise words from last year in mind that a hundred miles in 24h is only 40k per 6h and not more. Only, Henning laid a seed last year, when he said that we should aim at 200k in 2018, when we would do this again. Well, he got his Löwenherz-project and was not there, but the number was in my head. Like some kind of fantasy goal. This would mean only 50k in 6h. And this is what I focused on. Against Andre who was warning again to not go out too fast. 56k in the first 6h. A nice cushion to get to 100k in 12h. I kept the cushion and had 106k in 12h. This was working out so nice!

Somewhen in between it got midnight. Right before a bigger and bigger crowd gathered around the starting line. To start the running exactly at midnight and not have a half round on top. Well, I reached the mat a minute later and the crowd was on its way. I was not in the mood of finding my way through it, but was on a mission and in a nice trot that I did my best to overtaking slower runners. And then I found my kids. All three on the course. Looking good and fresh. And determined. To run 15 rounds of 1k each in the wee hours of the night on a sports ground in Rüningen. Wow. I was moved by their determination. I just did my thing and got my shirt a bit before 2a.m. and wondered when my kids would falter. But they did not. As I told them, they all walked most of the way. Tom the least, he ran every now and then, but Ronja just power hiked the course. And the other two walked leisurely as an eight year old kid walks in the middle of the night. After three hours they were still on the course. Counting the remaining laps. And it became obvious that they will do it. Even Jule, who needed almost the entire four hours to reach her goal. I was so happy for them. And proud. What an effort, how much grit. Only, as I never thought they might pull this off, I did not order them the smallest size shirt, but size M, so there will be enough of this size for me. Well, I admitted this and was hated a lot. All the more as the small sizes were all gone once my kids reached their 15k. This made for some deep frustration, and I needed to focus a lot not to have the regret ruin my run. In the end, I was saved by the fact that many people ran in the moonlight runners shirt that did not preregister and they hadn’t enough shirts for lots of people so they needed to reorder, and now all my kids have their small shirts (which is still a dress to Jule…). And I learned my lesson.


15k in the middle of the night? Piece of cake!

So, the kids rose and went to bed with their 15k sacked. With deep respect for their performance, I continued my journey through the night. With less and less runners, calmer and calmer atmosphere. I liked that. And bathed in it. I asked myself if i’ll ever get sleepy, and during the question (where I was on the part of the course where there was no more light, entering the night) my eyes shut and I felt a big drag. But opening my eyes again, looking into the tempting darkness, the fresh air in my lungs, I was immediately awake again. This was just too much fun, why sleep? I ticked lap after lap, and was so happy about my consistency. Wow. I was not slowing down at all. Even when the morning broke, and it became light again. So, I kept doing what I was doing for ages. At least it seemed to me as such.

And then the sun came up. I realized the day before that heat might become a problem at some point, but lived so well through it on Saturday, that I forgot about this through the night. Only. with the sun came the heat, and I found myself more and more struggling. OK, the legs did not feel fresh anymore, but it was mainly my heart rate which bumped up when I tried to keep the pace that was so easy in the night. Also, the transition from walking to running became more and more painful, as I was used to from the previous years. There I was, not able to run fast, resigning to a walk every few hundred meters, and then painful running. In the night, the off lap was always sufficient to shake off the pain and run smoothly again. Only, I did not run an entire km anymore. It was 300m and I was getting hot, out of breath, heavy legs and no motivation to push through the pain. So I walked a bit. Then started over. Always keeping an eye on my rivals, who were struggling as well. Fabian, still 7k ahead of me, and Marek a comfortable 21k behind me. There was no way to convince myself to push to reach Fabian, but I could not rest and have Marek take my place. No way! For this I needed to keep moving. Which was really painful and took a lot of mental effort. The sun blew all enthusiams away and I was left with my pure will to reach the podium. So I trotted on. And on. And on.

the kids had gotten up and were on the course already at 7 in the morning. I hoped that they slept in after their nightly effort, but they were excited and went on. Ronja on second position for the kids (up to 16 years, mind you!) and she was fixated on placing as well. Tom had realized he had no chance and was more and more supporting Ronja and me by checking the leaderboard, scouting the competition and pointing them out to us. And then he had bad news: Ronja went down to third place. Overtaken by a much older girl, a real runner, who was about to run the entire remaining time after a night of good rest. Ronja was broken. Sat down on the side of the course and refused to move. It took me one round to readjust my plans: I could need some company, had no desire to run, and maybe Ronja could still keep her place. So I asked her if we should walk together. And she agreed. We walked, hand in hand, barely speaking, both deep in our pain and the wish to keep our places. I found so much connection in that phase that I had many emotional moments, sometimes hiding away my tears from the race photographer, sometimes not.


father and daugther united in pain

I made a gamble on this, and also told Ronja that when Marek will be only 5k behind me, I needed to run again. Luckily, he was not in a better spot than I was. He was running more, but also taking many and long breaks. So we walked and walked. In my head I had the mantra ‘only three hours until this madness is over’ etc. But kept it to myself not to demotivate Ronja. Around 23h Ronja was falling apart completely. Her legs refused to work, and she lost the battle of brain versus pain. We did another lap and made an inventory. Marek was 13k behind me. My place was secure at a respectable 180k. Ronjas direct competitor was a mere 3k behind her at 50k. And Tom tried to point her out to us, but Ronja was done. She took the last lap to let go of her dreams of placing in her age group, and so we retracted from the course and went to the shower routine. Very good that we had help here. She needed to be carried. After the shower, a very excited Tom, who had been so disappointed that Ronja left the course after all she had done, and he had done for her, ran to us and proclaimed that her place might still be possible as the fourth girl left the course as well after seeing Ronja 2k in front of her, half an hour before the end, not knowing that we had left.

We then had our ice-cream feast and were interviewed by the local newspaper. The guy was very happy to have a rich source for a whole story for his article: Not only did we both get our trophies at the awards ceremony, we were the stars of the event now. As this is my old home town, I got lots and lots of heads up for the article and many hard copies. The awards ceremony was a little less overwhelming than I expected, but I found a lot of satisfaction knowing how long I wanted this and how hard I worked for it.



Hooray, I did it! Finally got my podium in Rueningen. And yes, the kids are eager for another family outing next year!