October 7, 2015
Last week I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to go to Germany for an education conference. I was really excited as I love Germany. For two years, I had private lessons whilst doing my German A-level (because no-one else wanted to study the subject at my school). I also attended extra evening classes and conversation classes. Then I chose to do a German module when I was at university.
Delicious German food
I have to admit a downside of visiting Germany is that it’s not always easy to find vegetarian food, but I am completely addicted to brezel!
The breakfasts in Germany are preferable to a ‘full English’. Most days I had some fruit, some yoghurt and some brezel – yummy!
The food at the conference was delicious – a selection of fresh fruit, open sandwiches, yoghurts and quark was available at every break time.
Fortunately, it wasn’t all eating and studying. I also got to see a little bit of the city when I was walking to and from the conference venue. I particularly liked this block of flats with its intricate mosaic.
Before going to the conference,
I happened to notice did a bit of research and found that a 10k race would be held in nearby Durlach on Saturday afternoon. It was reasonably priced at €10, so I thought I might as well enter. However, I had failed to take note of the date: October 3rd. This probably doesn’t mean much to many of you, but if I were to start whistling ‘Winds of Change’ by The Scorpions then it might remind some of you of Germany’s recent history.
October 3rd is Reunification Day, so it’s a Public Holiday in Germany, which means that only bakeries are open and public transport is limited. To compound this, it’s the 25th anniversary, so when I got on a tram at 10:15am, it was already packed with women in dirndls and men wearing lederhosen, swigging away on bottles of beer.
Trachten (traditional German clothing) has become increasingly popular in recent years, and there were displays in many shop windows.
Anyway, I carefully read through the race details: “Der Turmberglauf ist ein flacher, schneller Lauf durch die Durlacher Altstadt”… it seems that fast and flat are keywords that all Race Directors like to include in their race info, no matter where they are held. However, I was uncertain whether it would be true as Turmberg translates as tower hill.
The race wasn’t due to start until 4pm, so I spent the morning going on the funicular railway up the mountain and then climbing many spiral steps in the tower. I’m sure it’s great as strength training, but probably not ideal on race day. Then again, as a hideous Tuesday night track session has been my only run for two months, I figured any training would be better than none.
After I’d looked around the tower, I walked back into town and wandered around for a little bit before going to register. It was a simple process, so it didn’t take long.
Watching the children’s races
At 2pm the children’s races started. It was fantastic to see hundreds of children taking part in single year groups from 5-12. I didn’t see any scarily competitive parents. Many of the children were wearing incredibly odd outfits for running (such as dresses and tights or jeans and hoodies). There were a few tears, but everyone finished their races to cheers from the crowd.
At 3:30pm, it was time to pin on my number, and head to the start. It was 25C and even in the shade, I had been feeling the heat. I decided to buy a glass of water in the registration hall, but only sparkling water was available, which wasn’t really what I wanted.
The event is a well-supported community race, with a competitive element between the local schools. There was also an option to be weighed at registration as part of a special competition, where people’s time could be divided by their weight with the best score winning. Although I’m carrying a few more kilos than I should, the immense height of many of the other competitors meant that I was fairly confident that they weighed a lot more than me (as well as looking faster).
Interestingly, the only rule for entry into the ‘Volkslauf’ is that the participants are fit and healthy. Scanning the entry list, I saw that there were children as young as 8 who had entered, as well as being a lady in her 80s and a gent in his late 70s. During the race, I saw many young children running with their parents.
The race started promptly at 4pm, however, it wasn’t chip-timed and there was a huge crowd at the start, so I didn’t start my Garmin until I crossed the line. The first section was in the old town, which features uneven cobbles as well as lattices of tram rails going in all directions. It then headed along the river, which almost had a breeze. As the entire race was in full sunlight, it didn’t help much. I think my clothing made me stick out. Aside from very young teenagers, I seemed to be the only female in shorts with most of the others wearing full tights. Lycra shorts and compression t-shirts (or thick hoodies and tracksuit trousers) were the preferred options for male runners.
Fortunately, the only incline was a lengthy spiral taking us up onto a bridge that crossed the motorway.
There were huge crowds out on much of the course which was nice, but I could feel the heat emanating from them. I hoped that there would be a water station at 5km, but there wasn’t one. At about 6.5km, there was a family with some cups of water on a table in front of their house. I was so grateful!
The final 400m
By 8km, my total lack of training was starting to show as my quads started to seize up. From 400m, I could see the finish arch, so I foolishly decided to go for a heroic sprint. Unfortunately, a group of teenage lads also decided to try to sprint, which brought out my most competitive side. I managed to beat the lads to the line and stopped my watch: 56:08. Horribly slow and I dare say my official time will be even worse as we had to queue in a finish funnel (similar to parkrun) and have the barcode on our race number scanned. Apparently, our time will be whatever time we got to the scanner.
There were 9 women in my age category:
How did I do?
My official time was 56:20, which is the slowest 10k that I’ve run for many years! (Overall, I was 361/580. 180 of the entrants were female).
As a cheap race, there wasn’t a medal (which is fine by me). We were each given a commemorative glass and as many free refills of (still) water as we wanted – fantastic! I went back to the registration hall and treated myself to some Black Forest gateau. It was a nice end to a fun race.