After I got home from the row (more on that in another post soon!), I decided that although I needed to give myself some time off exercise to recover properly, I equally needed to have a goal on the horizon, to make sure that the time off didn’t just turn into me being lazy. Since neither I nor my friend Jo had managed to get ballot places for the London Marathon this year, we instead opted for the Hermanslauf 31km trail run, held around Bielefeld in Germany. I should just point out that after we both lived in Oman, Jo moved back to Germany, and this was in fact a local race for her! As entries normally sell out within about 20 minutes of opening, Jo was on entry duty whilst I was bobbing around in a boat mid-Atlantic.
I got back to the UK midway through February, and after a week or so in the UK (trying to find a new house etc., all fun stuff to do!), I was straight back to the Middle East for a couple of weeks work in Oman and Qatar. I joined in with the usual club runs with Muscat Road Runners (our old running club in Oman), and even managed to sneak in a hot and hill half marathon (HETT – the Heat Equator Time Trial). My running was a bit slower than normal, but I managed the 21km with no problems, just under 2 hours, so I figured I’d probably be ok for the 30km in April, and that my residual fitness from the row would see me through
After a less than auspicious start to the weekend away which involved me getting half way to Birmingham Airport on a Friday afternoon in rush hour before realising I’d left my passport at home (the mother bear did a sterling job of turning around and making it home, then back to the airport in time!), I literally ran through the airport and made the flight by the skin of my teeth. Then it was picking up a hire car at Dusseldorf airport and driving the 2 hours to Paderborn, my home for the weekend! Jo thankfully knows that I’m a bit of a nut, and was very accommodating to the fact that I was in the middle of yet another round of Whole30, and aside from missing out on an icecream at the icecream factory, my favourite food-related part of the weekend was discovering that in Germany you can buy hard-boiled eggs in the supermarket, and they DYE THEM WITH FOOD COLOURING! Literally blew my mind, so cool.
We picked up our race packs from Bielefeld the day before the race, and both opted for blissful ignorance about the profile of the race; I knew nothing other than the fact it was 31km of (mostly) trail running, starting at the Hermannsdenkmal statue on the Grotenburg hill, and finishing in the town of Bielefeld. After parking the cars at the finish, we caught the shuttle bus to the start with Sonya, and were faced with the usual dilemmas whilst we waited for the start; have I got too many (or too few) layers on, do I need to pee (again), have I got enough water with me. We were the fourth wave to set off (I think), of the 46th Hermannslauf, with a total entry field of 7000 people, being set off with almost military precision.
The course itself was great – lots of steep ups and downs, some single-track, some steps, and some tarmac running through local towns. The support along the course was absolutely fantastic – we were running on closed roads, and so many people had turned out to spectate. With that number of runners competing, I expected to be tripping over feet a lot, but in fact it was only on a few of the narrow, steep uphills where we had to form a bit of a queue, which generally moved pretty quickly, and forced me to take a bit of a breather anyway!
The first 20 km went really well, and I ploughed through them in around 1:55, just about heading for a sub-3hr finish, feeling strong, but the wheels fell off in a major way at around 22km! After a stern word with myself, and a bit of shuffling, I finally finished with a time of 3 hours, 9 minutes and 18 seconds, with major chubby-rub (those of you who suffer from this will feel my pain) from the wrong shorts, and some generally very grumpy quads due to the amount of elevation. My time put me 51st in my age group (W30), with an overall ranking of 2706. To put this in perspective, the winner of this year’s race ran a time of 1:46:38. That’s around how long it takes me to run 21km on a flat road surface! After that, it was a case of getting back in the hire car, and heading straight back to Dusseldorf airport, having a baby-wipe shower in the airport toilets (classy) and putting on some clean clothes for the flight home (and texting the motherbear to bring me food when she collected me at the other end!).
The summary of the race? Fantastic. Yes it hurt, but it was a good course, some great views, and the organisation and support were second to none. I thoroughly recommend it if you ever fancy a European trail run pre-marathon season.