Now, 1st of April, I want to have a small look back into one of the hardest months related to endurance sports, maybe the hardest, in my life.
In February, I registered for a very strange and crazy Challenge which was created by Michael Frenz, the Meldeläufer. The target was to run 661km within March. The only rule and goal was to manage this distance by yourself on your own feet. No awards, no medals, no certificates, UTMB points or any other useless bullshit was waiting for successful finishers. No competition, who would be the fastest, climb the most altitude or run the most km. Nothing, Nada, Niente. It was just a Challenge against my laziness, my doubts, my fears; finally, a fight against my weaker self.
Running 661km/month means running 22km a day in average! So, it was very clear that my daily routine would be work, run and sleep and I would not have much time for family and friends. Beside this, I must travel frequently in my new job as a machine fitter around Europe which made it even harder to find enough time to run.
I started the Challenge 1st of March in Austria along Danube river. 4th of March I joined a 50k race in Marburg/Germany. The rare days when I was in Germany I ran the 10km to my workplace in every weather at 5AM most times in my Luna Sandals. Middle of March I had a job to do for a week at the Lake Como in Italy. So I ran there even that were more vertical runs than horizontal. Quite nice mountains there. I really enjoyed it. A week later I was running again at my home and daily to work. Finally, last week I had to work in South England so I made my last Kilometers for this Challenge along the Channel at the beach.
Beginning of March I was extremely enthusiastic and enjoyed every run, but the further the month progressed it was harder and harder to motivate myself. Abroad at work I have an extremely physically demanding job to do, most times 11-12 hours daily. Going back to the hotel after work, change into sports clothes and go out for a 2-3 hour run was definitely not my Intention.
So, at least for me, the real Challenge was not the athletic part to run the 661km. It was the permanent struggle to find enough time windows and to continue even under adverse conditions. It has been so easy to say “I’m out. Over and out!”, but I like testing, challenging and increasing my willpower. Therefore, I continued to the end.
Was there any training effect?: My pace got slower week by week. I was, and still I am, not able to do any more tempo runs. I got all typical syndromes of overtraining. But this I can handle and I am quite confident that I can running in the woods for some hours within a week. As a mental training and an increasing trust in my willpower this Challenge was a full success. In 4 weeks I will run the ‘Hexenstieg Ultra’ with 217km and in 10 weeks I have to run the ‘Wibolt Ext.’ with 555km!, and I’m very sure that the 661km Challenge last month will help me to handle this extreme Ultra runs.
Will I repeat the Challenge?: No way! 🙂 Well, it’s difficult to say. Now I know that I’m able to finish this Challenge, that I’m able to run at 5AM in 3°C heavy rain 10km during the forest, that I’m able to run up 800m high mountains after a hard 12 hour working day and that I’m able to run 25km even with blisters, painful ankles and sore muscles all over the body. But I had to pay for this Challenge with something more valuable than money. My rare free time!!! Therefore I’m not sure right now If I will repeat it. For sure the rest of this year I will enjoy the freedom to run where and when I want.
At the end, I like to mention the great camaraderie within the 661km Challenger group. Most runners were members of a closed group in Facebook. The posts and likes from each runner helped everybody to continue. When I lost motivation, I got it back there and when I reached a milestone, I got my cheers there. Big thanks for this! You are all great Ultra-runners.