Race Report: The German Wine Route Marathon 2012

Bockenheim an der Weinstrasse is in the collective municipality of Bad Durkheim in the district of Rhineland-Palatinate in Germany. Bockenheim lies at the north end of the 85 km long German Wine Route, and has even adopted an epithet referring to its location there: an der Weinstrasse means “on the Wine Route” in German.

The Weinstrasse Marathon takes place every second year; I first ran the event in 2010 with a friend from my running club (Birgit) as part of our training for the 100 mile race that we completed the same year. This year Birgit is limiting her racing, and no one else in our club was interested, so I ran the event solo.

The weather was not promising as I made the hour drive to Bockenheim, rain was predicted and the gray skies did not offer anything in contrary. I arrived about two hours early, mostly to get a good parking place. The sun came out as I waited, than disappeared, it rained, than the sun came out again…all within about 30-40 minutes…a trend that would continue throughout the day, making the decision on what to wear difficult. The temperature was around 10°C (50°F) and the sky turned a threatening black, so I finally grabbed my running jacket as I started the 5 minute walk to the Start, this would turn out to be a wise decision.

I lined up at the start with roughly 3000 marathon and half-marathon runners, and soon the starting pistol went off. I slowly surged forward with the mass as we headed down the main street in town and made the first climb at around kilometer 3. The race course was a continuous series of uphill and downhill ascents and descents, with 1-3 miles of flat stretches separating them. The hills were not terribly challenging, but this was definitely not a fast race course. This however, was one of the reasons that I picked this race, in another week I will be attempting a 12-hour race. My goal for the race was a finishing time of around 5 hours, which hopefully would leave me in decent shape.
For a more detailed description of the course and some pictures refer to my race report from 2010:

http://www.breakingthetape.com/runningwithjack/2010/04/race-report-the-german-wine-ro.html

The first half of the race was non eventful, I passed over the halfway point timing mat in 2:07:54, a little faster than I wanted, but okay. I was pleasantly surprised shortly before this by the appearance of Lena from my running club, with some friends of hers. She ran up and gave me a hug and wished me a good race as I ran by, thanks Lena!

Shortly after the halfway point the course turned and we headed into the wind and our way back towards the finish. As I mentioned earlier the weather was changing almost every half-hour, when the sun came out it was so warm on the asphalt roads that we ran that I had to remove my jacket. But each time the rain returned, mixed with a steady to gusting winds, to pelt us into submission as we headed up and down the vineyards towards the finish.

With 10K to go I was pretty beat and was taking regular walking breaks. The lack of training (only about 60% of what is normal for me), too aggressive pace during the first half, and the weather were beginning to take their toll. I remembered that my goal was 5 hours, so relaxed and took my walk breaks as I felt the desire, ran when it felt good, and even sat down for a couple minutes for some hot tea at one of the aid stations. Sometimes you have to concentrate on your main goal and not be distracted by the race frenzy.

Eventually I began climbing the last hill that would bring me through town to the finish line. I saw that I would easily finish under 5 hours so took my time. Runners sped by, trying to squeeze a few more seconds out of their race, I’m usually among them, but not today. Finally I saw the finish line and did speed up a bit, passing over the finishing mat with a net time of 4:55:19, mission accomplished.

A day later my legs are tired, mostly due to the lack of hill training (and training in general), but I am confident that my slower overall pace will leave me in no worse shape for my 12-hour run on April 30th.

I would recommend the Weinstrasse Marathon for anyone that is looking for a well-organized, scenic marathon and is not afraid of asphalt and hills. This is not a fast marathon route, but very scenic, and there are several other activities that coincide, such as a wine festival in a neighboring town.

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