Sunday, March 19, 2000

TR Germany

Steinfurt Marathon
3/17 –3/19/00

This was another of those trips where the problems of setting up the trip were the most difficult aspect of the journey. However this time the problem was not travel agents.
Some of you should recall that I solicited the help of my running friends and family (especially those that had lived in Germany) a few months back when I hit a brick wall on the first step. Somehow I had discovered a marathon in the Steinfurt region of Germany but only had information in German. When I asked for assistance in translating the information so that I could figure out where and when I should go, all I got back was –NOTHING! To be fair, my brother-in-law, Tim did pass the email along to a colleague in Germany but by the time he got off his butt and asked what help I needed I had solved the problem. How did I solve it?

I persisted on the net until I finally located the race director (Ralf Kleeman) whom fortunately understood English. Ralf went over and beyond the course of duty in responding to my emails and assisting me. Once I decided on the closest airport (Dusseldorf), he got me train schedules, booked a hotel for me in Burgsteinfurt and even insisted on meeting me at the train on arrival. He took me to the hotel, helped me check in (nobody at the hotel spoke English) and then drove me on a tour of the course. That evening he and his wife picked me up at the hotel and took me to dinner. I have never been treated so royally at a marathon! As it turns out I was a bit of a novelty since I was the first and only American whom has ever entered and run the Steinfurt Marathon in its 17 years of history.
It is a small town marathon that caters to local runners and runners across Germany and neighboring countries. It is well organized and liked and thus they don’t advertise. I still can’t recall how I heard about it –must have been from another marathoner in my travels.
Because it is considered a runner’s marathon the turnout is good –1100 runners and the top two male runners had sub-2:20 credentials!
The race starts and ends at the fachhochschule (university) in Burgsteinfurt. Burgsteinfurt is a small university town located about 30km northwest of Munster and close to the border of Netherlands. It is only slightly bigger than Stortford and reminded me a lot of our new adopted hometown. The town is about 700 years old with a lovely castle –Furstl Schlob (Front Castle) on an island in the center of the town. The main street still retains its’ original appearance with cobbled streets and buildings that are several hundred years old. It was very pleasant walking around the town and sightseeing. The only drawback was that since it is a rural environment nobody spoke English. I went to the local tourist office to get information on the town and region but it was only available in German. I could not even buy a book or information in English –it just didn’t exist!
Other than Ralf and his wife the only other person I met in three days whom spoke English was a reporter from Munster. She grabbed me at the end of the race for an interview for the Munster paper.

So I had another one of those three-day language immersion lessons, only this time in German. I got to where I could understand the basic words and very simple sentences but I cannot speak it at all! And I still have difficulty with the menus.

Back to the race. The marathon started at 1pm on Saturday. I don’t normally like afternoon starts but since the weather was so cold it gave us a few more hours to warm up. The weather turned out to be miserable –cold, rainy and very windy. As I mentioned the race started and ended at the fachhochschule. The course was a 14km loop on the rural roads around the town that we had to repeat three times. Fortunately it was flat and fast but not very scenic as we ran past farms and through a few forests. But I did see several deer along the route. And of course we had to run through the university three times as we passed over the finish line on each loop. (Boy do I hate that-especially at the end of the 2nd loop). As usual they had water stations every 5 km that were well stocked with wasser (water), tee (tea?), electrolute (electrolytic drink like Gatorade), and bananas. One water station was serving local water but the other two were serving carbonated bottled water. I hate drinking that stuff at any time and especially during a race- but you have to do what you have to do! It sure makes my carbohydrate gel taste funny.
I was surprised and pleased to finish in 3:41:02 in spite of the weather and also the fact that I had been in bed for the three days proceeding the race with a flu. And it is one of the few marathons where I didn’t hurt (much) during the race. But 30 minutes after the race I couldn’t (and still can’t) lift my right leg. I must have pulled or overused some muscle. (I still think it all goes back to that damn hamstring injury!)
Hopefully some rest and massages will mend this injury quickly since I have another marathon next weekend.

After the race Ralf introduced me to a German running legend –Franz ?. He had just completed his 940th marathon so I looked like a wimp next to him. But he has completed most of his marathons in Germany and neighboring countries so I have him beat in continents and countries completed. He is in his late 70s and still runs 30+ marathons each year. He needn’t fear me catching him in number of completions.

The next morning turned out to be the nicest weather of the trip, cool but sunny. Since my train routed through Munster on the way back to Dusseldorf, I decided to stop off in Munster to visit the old historic part of the city. Having lived in Munster Hamlet, Ontario I was curious what Munster, Germany looked like. It is a very pretty city and the old historic section is very interesting. The buildings and churches have been restored to their original appearances circa 1600/1700s. Unfortunately it was Sunday and everything was closed so I could only walk around and enjoy the exterior views.

Now I am back in England hobbling around and frustrated that I can’t continue my training for next weekend’s marathon. And I can’t even get any sympathy from Nicole because she left on Saturday for a business trip to NYC. (Do I really believe I would get any sympathy if she were here? But I can dream can’t I?).
Life is such a bitch! Take care and stay tuned for the next episode- from ?????

No comments: