What do you do when you are poorly trained and your favorite Ultra is coming up on the weekend? With just two runs long runs up to 24 km (15 mi.) in the last month, and having just returned from a trip to the USA three weeks before, most people would not have the idea to run a long distance race. Rest assured I didn’t either, at least until a day or two before the race. But don’t worry, old age is catching up to me, so rather than run the 50-Mile (80 km) Ultra, I decided to downgrade and run the night marathon.
The Fidelitas Night Marathon begins at 8:00 p.m. at approximately the 38th km of the Ultra race route, and follows the same route to the finish line. Because I wasn’t signed up for the marathon, I had to arrive early in Rüppurr, where the Ultra begins, to guarantee a starting number. I ended up getting there shortly before the Ultra started at 5:00 p.m., so helped cheer them on as they started the race. It was a cool day, around 16 °C (61 °F) so I settled in my car with a book and waited for the bus that would transport us to the starting line.
I arrived at the start in Mutschelbach about an hour before the start, so found a place to sit out of the cold wind until shortly before the start. Shortly before 8:00 p.m. I lined up with the other 48 participants and soon after the starting gun sent us off into the night. I ended up tagging along with 4 other runners to first 10-15 minutes, and after a bit started chatting with the female runner in the group. It turned out she lives in the same town as I do, and we had the same time goals (just to finish), so we decided to run together as the other three runners began to outpace us.
The first half of the marathon contains the majority of hill climbs, nothing really long or steep, but due to my lack of training we walked the hill climbs to save energy. Lucky for me Linde wasn’t worried about the pace, she was happy she didn’t have to run alone when it got dark. Despite a couple short walking breaks on the hill climbs we finished the first 10K in around 1:07:00 and the first half of the marathon in about 2 ½ hours. When I consider my longest training run was the week before (24 km / 15 mi.), this was for me totally acceptable.
About two hours into the race we had to break out the flashlights, it was an overcast night and the forested sections of the course were dangerous without a light. After around 28 km (17-18 mi.) my pace started noticeably dropping, the lack of training taking its toll. I had warned Linde from the start that this would occur sooner or later, fortunately she was very patient and encouraging throughout the night.
The last 10K was mostly Galloway, with regular walking breaks every couple kilometers, but mostly just for a minute or two. Having run the Ultra 8 times previously, I knew the course like the back of my hand, so really never had any doubts about finishing, it was only a question of how long it would take. In any case I was happy to finally see the streetlights of Rüppurr as we wound our way out of the last forest section and headed toward the sports stadium and the finish. I did my best to keep running as we entered the stadium and circled around the running track to the finish line.
Linde and I exchanged congratulations and joined her friends who were waiting for her. I stood and chatted with them for a few minutes, but my legs were tired, so I excused myself, and headed home. We ended up finishing in 5:20:50, one of my slowest marathons ever, but without proper training I really didn’t expect anything different.
After an 8 month break from racing, it is good to know that I still have the mindset to keep going when it gets tough, now I only have to work on the speed and endurance. I also was able to enjoy at least part of my favorite race course, and made a new friend along the way.
As always the Fidelitas Ultra and Marathon were well organized, the helpers friendly and encouraging, and the route well marked. For anyone looking for a somewhat different run in Germany, both of these runs come with my highest recommendation.