Monday, 25 June 2012

Anyone For A Stadtlauf?

I'm over here in Nuremberg with no bicycle and haven't got myself to the local pool yet. How to satisfy that triathlete competitive urge? A road race, of course. And let's make it a destination race. And if I'm going to go somewhere, may as well make it worth my while, you know, go long or stay at home. So on Sunday I found myself in Munich for the 34th annual Stadtlauf ("City Run") Half Marathon. This is part of a series put on by a local major sporting goods chain and bills itself as the largest running series in Germany. They have divisions for Half, 10k, 5k Run, 5k Walk/Nordic Walk and 2k kids run. A check of the results shows 13,345 adults for all of the events. Half Marathon was the largest division with 5886 finishers (4310 Men/1576 Women).

I think the most interesting aspect for me was contrasting this event to events back home. So I'll try to summarize:
Pros  Large entry, Starting and finishing in the Marienplatz, probably the most iconic location in Munich, Beautiful course taking part mostly in the Englischer Garten a huge green space reminiscent of Central Park in NY, Route totally closed to vehicular traffic, Super reasonable entry fee including tech shirt and custom engraved finishers' medals, Plenty of post-race food and drink, Punctual as the German train system
Marienplatz Munich
Marienplatz Start/Finish
Englischer Garten
An Urban Oasis and Runners' Paradise

Cons Not enough porta-potties at the start, not enough waterstations on the course, waterstations not well set up or staffed, Everybody dressed the same!? Surprisingly little fan support on course, Post race beverage selection?!

My day started on the wrong foot with a terrible sleep the night before. I have no idea what my problem was, I loved the hotel room and it wasn't noisy. I had been able to assemble the makings of a pre-race breakfast the day prior and got that in me 2 hours before the race start. Having completed all my morning ablutions I set off on the short walk to the start with about 45 minutes to go. Walking to the start in just my race clothing I was pretty comfortable which told me I'd be warm during the race. I got in the porta-potty line for one last chance with what I thought was plenty of time before the start.

There are at least two problems with starting a race in the dead centre of an urban area. First, the orgianizers are very limited as to how many potties they can put out and where they can go. The second is that you can't just discreetly sneak into a convenient wooded area and do what you need to do. In this respect, at this event the ladies and the gentlemen are on equal footing.

When I exited there was less than a minute until the official start of the first group (sub 1:30). The approximately 6000 starters were divided into four groups and to my horror I discovered I had walked straight into the back of group #4 - first timers and those with a predicted time greater than 2 hours. With my target of sub 1:45 and a race plan not to do any of my patented zigzagging in the early stages I sought to improve my positioning. I started by worming my way forward. At this point the first group had already left and I wasn't getting anywhere so I took drastic action. I used a break in the barriers to get to the outside in order to at least move forward into Group 3 (1:45-2:00). I could see the sign for Group 3 but could not see a break in the barriers that would get me back in. I had visions of having to jump the fence but just in the nick of time I spotted a break near the rear of Group 3. Rather than push my luck I entered the chute there and went to my race Plan B: Zigzagging through the crowd. We were off roughly 10 minutes after the "gun" (there was no gun).

I had had visions of taking in the experience and admiring the scenery but with the cobblestone streets, narrow first stages and me on a mission to work my way through the large crowd of slower runners I was focussed only on the space in front of me. Truth be told that is my natural racing attitude so it all felt quite familiar.

In North America we love our schwag tech t-shirts as a race souvenir. In Germany they have a different purpose. Say a parent and the kids want to come out and cheer on mum or dad for their race. It has all been made very simple. They just have to look out for the athlete in the orange shirt. The same one 13,344 other athletes are wearing! And it's not just a fashion statement. If you're not wearing the shirt you don't get in the start chute or the post race area. Different strokes for different volks. So much for representing Triple Threat with my tri-top.

I passed a shedload of people for the first 12k. Wasn't making a lot of friends with some of my passes but those few folks ought to try an open water swim. And what is is it about people with headphones! Wear them in training at your risk. Where them in a race, ignore people coming up faster from behind you and expect to be "moved". At least I stayed anonymous in my orange shirt. Interesting that the 1:55 and slower people all had them on. Up near 1:45 and faster pace, almost no one. Please consider that a speed tip. After 12k I was still passing a lot of people but by then I would occasionally get passed. And I would still find myself boxed in until 18k or so.

OK, water stations. I\ve been doing this long enough that I know I want water in a race every 15 minutes. More is better, especially on a hot day. When I looked at the course map I saw 3 water stations for the Half. Call it one every 40 minutes or so. I think that's bordering dangerous territory. And they are not well set up. Just paper cups being filled by two guys and placed on quite a short table. Some empty, some still full. Imagine playing the shell game while trying to run past at a 5min/k pace and dodging other people. I guess we're spoiled in North America as I didn't hear any complaints.

Final result was an official chip time of 1:41:51 and a gun time of 1:52. 929th overall and 25/214 in my age category. Plenty of very fit Germans. Interestingly I wasn't even first Canadian, only second out of 6. I'm normally quite tough on myself with race results but I reminded myself that 8 months ago I was riding in the back of an ambulance with 8 broken ribs,and a fractured scapula and clavicle. So I'm pretty happy with the result and extremely positive about the experience.

Post Race Area -
Dress Code Strictly Enforced
Except one thing. At 10:30 in the morning in downtown Munich on a hot sunny day, thirsty and wanting to celebrate our accomplishments we were presented with a cold alcohol-free beer. OK, I understand. We are athletes, they\re trying to make it a "family friendly" event and I'm sure the sponsor provides great support. But in Bavaria some things should be sacrosanct. The Hefeweizens following my post-race shower and nap were quite heavenly.

Thanks for reading,


  1. 1:41 is not too shabby! But you and Kate both have too stop dodging and jumping fences to get to the start line of races. :)

  2. You weren't kidding about the orange & white shirts. Goodness! If it weren't for the different colored socks & shoes, it could be called a drone running race. All kidding aside, great time & great experience to share with all of us.