Ultra Steinhart 666 😈

19th of November

To be honest, I just signed up for this race because I thought the name of it is just great.

Also, getting through the cold winter months of northern Germany comes a lot easier to me when I have a bunch of long distance races to look forward to. 

After having reached basically all the goals I’ve set for 2019, this counts as bonus. Frankfurt marathon two weeks ago went well enough to make me feel successful, so I was looking forward to having a race after that training phase. Now I can just run as I feel like, with no imposed restrictions because of the training plan.

The town of Steinfurt isn’t far from Münster, which is a popular city amongst college students. A few friends and my sister have gotten their degrees in Münster, so earlier in my life I’ve made a number of trips down to this place. Steinfurt, on the other hand, I have never seen. The name of the town is cool, and that’s probably why the staff of the race event chose it as a base for their event name. 

Traditionally, it has been a standard marathon race with 500 meters of elevation gain over three identical 14 kilometer laps around the Steinfurt outskirt meadows and forests. This year, they decided to include an ultra event by just adding a fourth lap to it, increasing the 42.195 kilometers to about 56, and the 500 meters of elevation gain, to, you’ve guessed it, 666. The number of the beast.

Today’s “beast” would be the fall’s cold
Today’s “beast” would be the fall’s cold

I arrived at the race center near Steinfurt castle after a three hour drive down to Münster the afternoon before, and a subsequent night at a youth hostel, following Sophie’s advice. 

Youth Hostel?!

Youth hostels aren’t usually my thing, but they have a compelling advantage, which is they cost about a third of the price of a hotel room. The disadvantages, on the other hand, include a major chance to be put into a room together with snoring drunks who smell like thirty homeless people, right next to a room which has the youth (at least they’ve come to the right place!) drink and party to loud and really bad electronic partying music.

Both of which happened to me, exactly.

Still, I got a way better night’s sleep than at home where our little Ida still reliably keeps us awake during most nights. Part of the reason I feel I need these tiny solo marathon racing vacations every once in a while.

I woke up before my alarm went off, my sleep quality was that good in comparison. Fresh and healthy, I got the huge free breakfast at the youth hostel, which really was top quality and a lot better than the food I got at many hotels before. So maybe this has been a good idea after all. Sure seems like it. 

A twenty minute drive to Steinfurt later, it’s race day.

November 10, 2019

Although I have a tough time getting through the cold winter as I am a sweet summer child, days like these feel great.
Although I have a tough time getting through the cold winter as I am a sweet summer child, days like these feel great.

If it’s cold but sunny, that’s quite alright. 

A marathon race under any circumstances is quite alright, I think.

“Toilets are temporarily frozen, sorry!”
“Toilets are temporarily frozen, sorry!”

This event seemed to be a popular one. This might have been due to the several race options of 14 km, 28 km, 42.195 km, and 56 km. Something for everyone. A special bonus here is that you can sign up for any distance and pay accordingly, but if you for some reason feel like ending your race earlier, you’ll end up in a shorter race category winner’s list after all. It’s a nice inclusive touch, I think. 

Also, the planning of the route was done in true German style, which is incredibly detailed and possibly slightly over-engineered. This plan even has info on how many traffic cones exactly have to be put at certain turns.
Also, the planning of the route was done in true German style, which is incredibly detailed and possibly slightly over-engineered. This plan even has info on how many traffic cones exactly have to be put at certain turns.

Another fun German touch was the elevation gain situation. The race has been called Steinfurt 500 for a long time because of the meters of elevation gain. That’s not huge, but it’s noticeable. Runners, especially those of the new 666 version of the race, are interested if that’s true, since the arrival of GPS watches made this easy to check. GPS watches also are notoriously unreliable when it comes to measuring heights, though. A detail not many runners are familiar with. Which is why many runners have been continuously annoying the race staff over the years, saying their official measurements don’t appear to be correct. This again pushed the staff to release the information that they are completely sure of the exact elevation gain, because they did a professional survey with the cadastral office (= Katasteramt, a government entity responsible for correct land measuring). It doesn’t get much more German. 

Who cares, man, let’s run!

Pretty day in a pretty area
Pretty day in a pretty area
Steinfurt’s mayor shooting off the gun
Steinfurt’s mayor shooting off the gun
It’s rather full at the beginning, but most of the people would do the 14 or 28 kilometer option
It’s rather full at the beginning, but most of the people would do the 14 or 28 kilometer option

I felt very good for this race. It wasn’t a day to break records, but rather just a fun relaxed ultra run to me. A week ago, my buddy Michael Mankus guided me and a bunch of other crazy fools for 30 rather fast kilometers through Harburg’s southern hills during the night. Trail shoes were a must under those wet conditions. Reflecting animal eyes among the black trees, from time to time. Exhaustion. And therefore, great preparation. We did about 900 meters of elevation gain, so today would be easy in comparison. And it was.

I chose a 5:20-5:30 minutes per kilometer pace. This should work out, I hoped. It’s quite a bit slower than my new marathon best from Frankfurt (4:41 min/km), and would therefore be doable in the cold with the additional slight hills here.

The course was pretty and quiet. Empty most of the time. Perfectly set up. Aid stations wherever you felt the need for some food and drinks and very friendly volunteers.

One of a couple stretches with oncoming running traffic
One of a couple stretches with oncoming running traffic
Just beautiful, this area on a sunny fall’s day
Just beautiful, this area on a sunny fall’s day
What do you do if you’re a German farmer and have a big house? Put solar on top, if you’re smart!
What do you do if you’re a German farmer and have a big house? Put solar on top, if you’re smart!
This is the main hill of the loop – see the heated up runners struggle
This is the main hill of the loop – see the heated up runners struggle
Just a fraction was on asphalt, most of the route went on paths through the forest
Just a fraction was on asphalt, most of the route went on paths through the forest
The only proper cheering station was of the Steinfurt Marathon Club
The only proper cheering station was of the Steinfurt Marathon Club

The laps went well, I got through the marathon mark (that’s three laps) after 3:45 hours, which is rather good for my taste. There was no hesitation though, I would not stop and be put into the standard marathon category. I came here to do the ultra and collect 666 meters towards the sky. 

During that last lap I first started calculating the pace and remaining distance and found out I could make it in under five hours if I hurried up. A challenge I felt compelled to take up! The remaining energy led me to even easily surpass another runner on the finishing stretch. He tried to keep up but had no chance. Damn I’m fast at the moment! 

Final meters
Final meters

Placed 9th out of 53 male finishers of the ultra, after doing the 56 kilometers in 4:57:08 hours. Not too bad I think.

No medal, but a brick as a finisher’s gift. Cool! Literally.
No medal, but a brick as a finisher’s gift. Cool! Literally.

Great race, great day. 10 out of 10, would come again.

The remains
The remains

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