Yesterday it once again was time to run on the Rennsteig. I had put my name down for the hilly half marathon and had anticipated it eagerly these past weeks.
After having run the “test” half marathon 4 weeks ago my goals were a place in the top 20, a time below my time 2 years ago, which was 1:19:12 and maybe a top 3 placement in the students category. Originally I had also planned on trying to end up under the top 3 in my age group, but then I noticed that I’m now in the main class male category where a top 3 placement for me is near to the impossible.
My preparation for the actual race hadn’t been too thorough, but therefore I had, as usual for most of my competitions meticulously memorized the course and had written down necessary split times.
After a short nights sleep I got up early in the morning and got picked up at 5:45. We then drove to Oberhof and had the usual problem of finding a parking spot. After having found one, we then headed our separate ways and I joined the throng of people on the way to the start. Because my time and placement two years ago was very good, it enabled me to start in the elite section for the top 100 male and female athletes. This meant I could pass all the “slower” athletes and their starting sections, but beforehand there was the usual rush to hand in your bags of clothing, which are then transported to the finish in Schmiedefeld.
After finally getting to the front and having warmed up, I removed my state of the art thermal protection, aka a bin bag, and joined in during the traditional singing and dancing before the start. Luckily the sky had cleared up nicely after the thunderstorms the past few days, leaving behind cold 7 degrees and a sharp wind. As usual I was feeling pretty nervous before the start, wondering how on earth I would ever manage my time and placement since all the runners around me looked so good…
Anyway, shortly after 7:30 the gun went off and the race was on! I started of in the 5th row, hoping not to start to fast and that worked out well since I didn’t get to caught up in the moment and actually managed to run my goal pace quite quickly. Far more difficult was battling against the strong headwind and weaving my way through the runners in front of me. Luckily the course helped me along with this, since the first hill meant that all the runners where strung up like beads on a chord and I overtook a few.
We then headed into Oberhof under raucous applause from the spectators and me still piking of the odd runner in front of me but trying not to overpace myself since I knew the hills still to come really dug at your strength. After the first proper hill on the Rennsteig we headed to the first aid station, where I figured it might be a good idea to drink something. Unfortunately though, instead of getting cold water, what I expected, I got hot tea which, as runners tend to do when picking up drinks at great speeds, I managed to spill all over myself… You can guess that I wasn’t to pleased about that. Anyway, a good thing was, that they were also announcing the places of the runners, and, if they hadn’t forgotten anybody I was in the 14th place!
Crossing the road parallel to the course, heading up the hill I caught up with the group of runners in front of me. We now were quite high and there was fog everywhere. You couldn’t even see the runners in front of you. Earlier on during the start and the first few kilometers you could actually see the breath of all the runners around you… I managed to overtake the group of runners and was now running up the last hill before a long downhill stretch and was in 8th place. I would soon be arriving at the Schmücke waypoint, from where on, except for 2 hills it’s downhill.
All the while during these first 11 kilometers I was feeling terrible. The inside of my stomach didn’t really want to stay in the direction that gravity pulled it, but instead had the urge to go flying around. This made it quite hard for me running, especially since all the hills gave my stomach quite a hard battering. It was that bad, that I was seriously thinking of ending the race at the Schmücke, but then again how would I get from there to the finish?
In the end I decided to push on, but was weary of the content in my stomach. This meant that the group I had overtaken caught up with me again and overtook me, but I managed to keep up with them more or less. After the Schmücke then came the treacherous downhill part on small trails and my clock said I was running some of the kilometers in a pace of 3:10. Luckily for me the expected pounding of my body didn’t worsen the state of my predicament and I pushed on ignoring it from then on.
The group I was following consisted of 3 runners, which meant that I was back in 11th place. After two hairpin bends, which are tricky if you don’t know that they are there, you have to run up the last “murder hill”. Here I managed to catch up with the group ahead of me and overtook the last runner, meaning that I was now back in 10th place. This was at kilometer 17, meaning that for the last 4 kilometers I was constantly nervous that I might loose my place. These last kilometers, even though they were downhill we’re really hard, but the thought of being caught by the runner behind me and trying to stay close to the two runners ahead of me kept me going. Crossing the last mayor road and a muddy path it was up the last small hill marking kilometer 20 and into Schmiedefeld, the finish. Luckily I still remembered that two years ago this was the point where I thought the finish wasn’t far of, but because of lots of small bends in the outlying gardens it does take quite a bit of time. With that in mind I plowed downhill trying to run a good time and thinking I still had to run a bit. Then, all of a sudden I headed down the finishing straight amidst masses of people cheering and crossed the finish line as 10th over all with a time of 1:16:30!
Summing up the race I can say that I managed everything that I hoped to achieve. A great time sub 1:17:00 a top 20 placement and, as I found out later, second place in the student category. All in all I am pleased with my result, but I think if it hadn’t been for my stomach I might have even run a better time.
Anyway it was a great experience as usual and I immediately put my name down for next years race! After that I had a relaxing massage, a nice warm shower and to top it all off, a stop in the mobile sauna. In the afternoon I was actually feeling pretty fit, so I then decided to go for a little post race run…