I did it! I’m an ultra runner!
How my 73.9 kilometer Rennsteiglauf ultramarathon did go – A race report by Sebastians_Bear
I’M AN ULTRA RUNNER! After two years of training I have achieved my goal running an ultramarathon.
24 hours before my first ultramarathon
Walking through Eisenach with more than 2000 athletes was kind of an awkward feeling. It felt like everyone in this world is running an ultramarathon, like this is a normal thing to do and for a moment I did forgot that I’m about to do something extreme. Something that should change my life forever.
After waking up at 4:00 am and putting some close on, I walked down to the breakfast room where a lot of ultramarathon athletes had already showed up. Drowsy, I grabbed two buns with strawberry jam, a slice of lemon cake and a cup of black coffee before I slowly noticed that there was kind of a special vibe in this room: tension. Everyone was by themself. Nobody was talking, 1.5 hours before the biggest and one of the toughest ultramarathons in Europe was about to start and I was one of them.
Starting Area – Minutes before the start
Being at the starting area felt like being at the breakfast room. Tension was everywhere. It felt a little bit like the beginning of an adventure, like exploring an unknown and hidden part of the world – something I would really love to do by the way. Not knowing what will happen, but determined and ready to explore it no matter what. 3 – 2 – 1 GO and so it began. I was finally running an ultramarathon.
Starting with 25.5 km uphill running
The first 25.5 kilometre of the ultramarathon trail were all about running uphill. Something I had not trained for in Hamburg. I started very focused and knew that if I want make it to the finish line I had to economise my energy as good as possible. Therefore I ran as slow as possible and did what everyone around me was doing. If some older ultra runners where walking up a hill, I was walking up a hill. If they were running I was running. After about 10 kilometres on the trail I picked up a talk between two athletes, telling each other, that when it comes to finish an ultramarathon the most important thing is sticking to your plan – no matter what. For me that was the final confirmation I needed to hear and now my plan I made before was really settled. To my own surprise after just 3:27 hours of running I made it to the Großer Inselsberg and I still felt good and motivated. I already made it this far without any trouble dealing with the elevation. I handled the first 25.5 kilometre much better as I expected. That played an important role in my mind and pushed by this my next goal was clear: I’m running a marathon.
From running uphill to running a marathon
To do so I just had to add another 17 km to the 25.5 km I already ran. Fortunately the next stage of the Rennsteiglauf ultramarathon trail was kinda flat – here you can checkout the elevation of the Rennsteiglauf. I kept running and focusing on a slow and steady pace. I ate something about every hour and drank water when my body told me to drink. All in all running to the marathon mark was kind of unspectacular. I just noticed that running was getting thougher step by step. Nevertheless after 5:50 hours I finished the marathon.
From this moment on I was running an ultramarathon and things were about to change rapidly.
Pain is my attendant
After a quick rush of adrenaline because of the excitement I already made it this far and still doing okay – I was running for more than 6 hours now – I noticed that I felt already very exhausted. That was the perfect timing for my friend pain to show up and joining my ultramarathon journey.
Now after running for more than 45 km every foot step I made was hurting. Not just a little bit, quite a lot. That was the first signal of my body telling me to stop now: “You ran a marathon, 42,195 kilometre! So why are you still running?”
The only reason I could manage to ignore the pain was that I was already hell-bent to reach the next step of the race the 54.7 km mark at Grenzadler in Oberhof. So I kept running and focused even more on listing to my body – I did not thought that was possible, but it was. I stopped at every supply point for something to drink and ate what I wanted to eat (a lot of candy bars, bananas, bread with cholocate cream, tea with a lot of sugar and so on).
During the whole race I tried listing to my body as much as possible and until now although I was already in pain that had worked out very well. After 7:40:26 hours I reached the Grenzadler in Oberhof and looked like the cat that got the cream. For a moment I forgot the situation I was in: the pain, my exhausted body, the distance I already ran and the distance which was still ahead of me. I just enjoyed the moment.
I was happy about how far I already made it and knew that I’m able to cross the finish line now and for a glimpse of a moment I even thought I’m already through the worst part of the race. That was a mistake. I painfully learned if you think you are doing great during an ultramarathon, just wait a little bit longer and keep running – especially if you have ignored the fact that the peak of the Rennsteiglauf ultramarathon is still ahead of you.
“If you think you are doing great during an ultramarathon, just wait a little bit longer and keep running – especially if you have ignored the fact that the peak of the Rennsteiglauf ultramarathon is still ahead of you.”
The moment my body broke – What it means to run an ultramarathon
The next 7.6 kilometre were the toughest kilometre I have ever run in my life so far. 7.6 kilometre were my body broke! Now I was experiencing what it really meant to run an ultramarathon! Running uphill again, only for 7.6 kilometre, was like being in hell! It wasn’t just pain anymore I felt and I had to deal with. I was on my physically limit and not able to run anymore metres. Every minute I kept going was torture. After more than 09:32:10 hours being on my feed and running, there was nothing left of me anymore. My body was broke and terrible in pain, kind of dying but somehow and I really don’t know why I was still able to run. I couldn’t but I still was running. Crazy!
“After I reached the highest point of the race, there was no felling left inside me. I felt nothing!”
I don’t know how long it took me to get to the top, but after I reached the highest point of the race, there was no feeling left inside me. I felt nothing! I didn’t felt good or bad about the fact I made it to the peak of the Thuringian Forest and the Rennsteiglauf ultramarathon. I didn’t felt released or happy. I just felt nothing and kept moving. A few moments later I noticed that I had some small stones in my shoes, but by trying to remove them I experienced that I wasn’t able to do so anymore, while standing still I couldn’t raise my leg anymore . Even by grabbing both hands under my upper leg and pulling, my leg did not move. After trying very hard I managed to raise it a tiny little bit and from that moment on my back told me “Don’t do it! You can’t remove those stones. Keep running”. So I left the stones inside my shoe and kept moving.
Doing the impossible – The feeling of being limitless
Now I have realised that this was the stage of my Rennsteiglauf ultramarathon where I did what I thought was impossible for me. I redefined my limit. My body was broke. I was not able to run anymore. I could hardly move or even touch my body, but somehow I kept running, because my mind never gave up!
It was my mind who was pushing me through my ultramarathon not my body. My mind was strong during the whole race and at this stage of my ultramarathon my body did what my mind was telling him to do.
I could keep telling you this again and again, but to get a real understanding of what I mean by that you really have to experience it on your own, like i did. Even if I didn’t know the reason at this point of my ultramarathon it was a crucial, kind of magic moment and responsible that I crossed the finished line after 10:56:46 hours and did what I thought was impossible.
I finished the Rennsteiglauf ultramarathon and did what I thought I could never do. My dream running an ultramarathon came true.
I ran an ultramarathon. I’m an ultra runner!