Monday, August 25, 2014

100MeilenBerlin – Berlin Mauerweglauf

“If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten.”  Rudyard Kipling

The 16th of August 2014 saw the third running of the Berlin Mauerweglauf or 100MeilenBerlin.  Like many aspects of this great 100-miler its running date is tied to a historical event or memory.  This one marks the official start of construction of the Berlin Wall which occurred on 13 August 1961.  Each ultramarathon I’ve run is unique on many levels; the Mauerweglauf is individually unique to any of the other running adventures I’ve pursued.  Established as a memorial event to recognize the terror of the Berlin Wall, it is singularly focused on the circumstances and rich historical background that shape your every step along its course.

The 100MeilenBerlin honors the memory of one of the victims of the German Democratic Republic that lost their lives along the Berlin Wall.  2014 was held in memory of Peter Fechter who, on 17 August 1962, was shot and left to bleed out in the death zone between East and West Berlin.

The course of the Berlin Mauerweglauf is almost identical to that of the official trace of the Berlin Wall.  Orange colored posts, memorial crosses, remnants of the wall and watch towers remind travelers of this path of victims of this border.  At least 136 people lost their lives along this border between 1961 and 1989.

As a student of history or simply curious tourist of Berlin you may have the opportunity to visit several monuments in the heart of Berlin near the Wall or perhaps the Memorial Center Berliner Mauer on the Bernauer Strasse.  The Memorial Center provides a singular experience in the construction of and life with the Berlin Wall.  Each offer an important, but singular glimpse into the past.  Only by following the course of the Berliner Mauerweg can you begin to develop a deeper appreciation of the scale of the crime that occurred here.  Over the course of its path memorial sites and markers slowly unveil glimpses into the hundreds of attempts at freedom and their individual stories that occurred here for more than twenty-eight years.  This story unfolding, over the course of 100 miles was my deepest experience during this year’s Berlin Mauerweglauf.  Contemplation of its significance filled many hours of my day as I coursed over the Berliner Mauerweg.

The 2014 Berlin Mauerweglauf started in the Fredrich-Ludwig-Jahn-Stadion and coursed in a clockwise direction over its 100 miles.  Course direction changes are becoming a tradition of this race as they have switched each year.  The race course is supported by twenty-seven rest stops with VP1 located on the Zimmerstrasse at the Peter Fechter Memorial.  The last rest stop at 157.9KM is located on the Wlollankstrasse and is provided as help for the final push into the Finish located again in the Fredrich-Ludwig-Jahn-Stadion.  Included within the twenty-seven rest stops were three “Change Points” located at Sporthalle Teltow, Schloss Sacrow and in Henningsdorf at the Oberhavel Rudder Club.  Change Points provided runners an opportunity to pick up a drop back, change clothes and take on any additional supplies they may have required.  They also served as “Cut Off” stations for race time limits.  

The 2014 Berlin Mauerweglauf was my second deliberate 100 Mile Road Race.  I’ve run a several other events of greater distance, but they were not characterized like this 100 Mile event.  The 100MeilenBerlin is a road race with largely flat surfaces that course over roads, asphalted or cobblestone streets or semi-improved road surfaces.  I was glad that I chose my Hokas as my race shoes as I’m afraid that any other shoe would have smoked my feet.

The Langstrekenlauf-Gemeinschaft Mauerweg (LG Mauerweg) serves as the lead organizer and supporter of the 100MeilenBerlin.  LG Mauerweg’s design and support of the 100MeilenBerlin was first class down to the smallest detail.  I was particularly impressed with pre-race activities via their web site, runners care, an extensive network of superb race volunteers, course marking and the unique drop bag solution that was employed.  Pre-race activities in Berlin were outstanding with race headquarters located at the Ramada Hotel on the Alexander Platz.  These activities included final race check-in, the pasta dinner, race briefing and pre-race breakfast.

The 100MeilenBerlin started at 0600 with a loop around the track of the Fredrich-Ludwig-Jahn-Stadion.  The race field remained largely compact and together as we traveled through the first ten kilometers of empty streets in Berlin.  I was entertained by the “typical German” nature of stopping at street crossings as we’d been told that we would be pulled from the race if we failed to comply with traffic laws.  This bit was nice as we all got warmed up to the race and one another.  

Running at this time of day on a Saturday in Berlin was exceptional as we passed the Reichstag, Brandenburg Gate and other significant sites.

Running to the first Change Point at KM 58.82 and the Sporthalle Teltow was relatively uneventful for me.  I concentrated on finding my groove and working to still the “Monkey Mind” that plays havoc in early parts of a run for me.  The course was supported with nine aid stations to this point.  Going with the thought of fueling early I probably spent too much time in these nine stations.  At the Sporthalle in Teltow I restocked on energy bars and gels and refilled my water bottles.  I had packed a change of clothes, but did not use any of my spares.  Leaving Teltow the weather was good with sunshine and mild temperatures.

The going from Teltow to Schloss Sacrow (91KM) was pretty smooth.  I ran for a period with a German from Muenster that had studied Business in the US.  He and I chatted for a couple of hours, but got separated as I stopped to put on a rain jacket during a downpour.  I rolled into Schloss Sacrow with a quick turn plan in mind and was able to eat a bit of solid food and restock my pack’s supplies and get back out relatively quickly.  Going back out of this Check Point I felt solid.

A rest station or two after Schloss Sacrow I slammed three cups of cola and crammed several handfuls of nuts and fruit down in an effort to clear the station quickly.  Not a good move…  At about 110KM I became very nauseated and suffered from extreme stomach cramps.  I had not had a GI issue like this in a couple of years.  Like many things that you can’t or don’t practice I got very worried that this GI issue was going to undo my run.  I wanted/needed to throw-up, but was worried about doing so.  Not long thereafter the choice was taken from me and I blew up on the side of the road – twice!  I was pleasantly surprised with the relief that blowing up like this brought.  My stomach cramps and nausea immediately ended and my disposition and outlook immediately cleared up.  My lowest point came between 123 and 132KMs.  I think that this came on as I had cleared my gut and was low on fuel.  I refueled (at a little solid food) and drank a Red Bull at the final Check Point at the Oberhavel Rudder Club.  I remained somewhat down even after this final Check Point as I needed to poop several times which I thought was slowing me down a lot.

At 138KMs I “hitched a ride” with a German runner that was moving a bit quicker than I.  By hitching a ride I mean I drafted in behind this runner and used his rhythm and speed to pull me forward.  Not to be rude I passed him; tried to chat him up and led for a while.  He passed me; refused to talk and kept on going.  One of those dudes that was just in his place and moving on.  I hitched with him off and on until about 150KMs after which we went our separate ways. 

The last ten or so kilometers of the 100MeilenBerlin contained three aid stations.  Other than a lot of kilometers this race included a lot of aid stations!  I won’t say that I didn’t appreciate them, but will say that I didn’t use them this year.  I passed through these last stations only to register my timing chip and head back to the finish.  That last stretch between VP 27 (157.90KM) and the Finish (161.86KM) was one of the longest 3.96KMs I’ve traveled.  At VP 27 I attempted to frame the distance to a training track I use at home, mentally trying to associate the two with where I might be on the home course.  The mind can be a very powerful friend or simply a pain in the ass.  (smile)

After what seemed an eternity of four kilometers I finally rolled back onto the track in the Fredrich-Ludwig-Jahn-Stadion for my final lap.  At first I was alone on the track, but then Karl Rohwedder and Cornelia Balke pulled up behind me out of what seemed no where.  I had not seen them over the entire course of the last day, having hoped to do so much earlier.  Cornelia and Karl suggested we jog the last lap together and we wound up crossing the finish line holding hands.  A super way to finish a fantastic event!

The 16th of August is a historical landmark in the greater history of the division of Germany and Europe.  The Berlin Mauerweglauf affords a meaningful way to maintain the stories associated with this history and their significance.  Personally the Berlin Mauerweglauf afforded me with a 100 Mile Personal Best allowing me to finish the distance in race conditions in under twenty-four hours.  The wider race field did very well.  Of the 285 starters 211 finished.  The winner, Mark Perkins finished in an amazing 13:06 with the women’s winner, Grit Seidel, finishing in a solid 18:16.

My hat is off to Dr. Ronald Musil, LG Mauerweg, and all of the folks that supported the planning, coordination and conduct of this superb 100 Mile Road Race.  The 100MeilenBerlin is a fantastic event that I have added to my list of races to run again and again!