Race Report: The Ulm 100K Night Run


As I left the stadium in Blaustein I chatted with Sascha und Brigitte from www.pheidippides.de, a German blog that I read. I have seen these two at a couple races over the years, but never spoke with them. Brigitte was also running her first 100 km race (they finished in 13 hours 15 min.). After a bit I wished them both luck and increased my pace to my desired race pace, around 6:15/km (10:05/mile).

After a few minutes we headed out of town and on a bike path in the direction of the town of Arnegg. I chose to shut my headlamp off, the bobbing lights from the other runners was more than adequate. At some point we ascended what was supposed to be one of the longer climbs, but it was so gradual that I barely noticed and ended up running the whole way up.

This race allowed the runners to use cyclist to accompany them after kilometer 10. The organizers even went a step further and organized a group of volunteers that you could "rent". A lot of runners ended up doing this and as I left the first aid station at kilometer 10 I suddenly found myself scrunched in between a mass of runners and cyclists. This sudden influx of cyclist made it difficult to keep my pace and for the next 30-40 minutes I found myself having to weave in and out between them. On more than one occasion a cyclist bumped into me, luckily without any injury. I was glad when the ranks finally thinned out and I could move more freely and settle back into an even pace.

Around kilometer 20 was the first relay exchange point, I believe in or around the Erbach Castle. I grabbed something to drink and walked long enough to empty my cups, then ran on. Shortly after this I arrived at the Donau River and followed it for awhile, eventually crossing over the river in Donaustetten, which I believe is in the State of Bavaria.

The course continued over a series of short rolling foothills, nothing major and all runnable. The course surface changed often between asphalt or concrete to forest or gravel paths. Somehow this diverse surface was friendly on the legs and broke up the monotony. The course was surprisingly well marked, arrows at every intersection, LED lights on occasion, lots of ribbons hanging everywhere - I don't believe I've ever seen such a well-marked race course!

I continued running through the night, pausing at every aid station to eat and drink, and just enjoying the solitude that night running brings. Somewhere after 30-35 km the course began to follow the Iller River, which feeds into the Donau River near Ulm. For the next hour or more the course remained relatively flat and easy to run. After following the river for awhile we veered off and entered Wiblingen Abbey, where an aid station was located. I grabbed a drink and walked, admiring the lighted structure as I went. But I still had miles to cover so I took off again and soon found myself running along the banks of the Iller River towards Ulm.

As I neared Ulm it was light enough to run without a light, which I had already been doing for the most part. The race route passed over the Iller River and followed the river on the other side to New Ulm, which is the Bavarian side of Ulm. In New Ulm we crossed over a bridge into Ulm and shortly after this reached the next relay exchange station at the 50 km, or half-way point. I looked at my Garmin, I had covered the first 50 km in 5:25, a new personal best!

I stopped long enough to eat something, but soon was on my way. The course followed a street for a minute or two, then veered off onto a bike path that followed along the Donau River.

I soon forgot my now tired legs as I witnessed the sun raising in front of me in all its glory. I was running along some kind of park or something and the first rays of the sun peeked from between the trees onto the Donau and my face. It was one of those magic moments that makes the whole race worth running!

The course continued to follow the Donau, crossing a bridge to the other side, where someone had set up their own water station for thirsty runners, then crossing back over for the last time somewhere around kilometer 60-62. From here we started heading away from the river into the town of Oberelchingen, where we had been warned there was a 20% grade climb up to the Oberelchingen Abbey awaiting us!

With the dreaded hill in front of us, I ran along a street for awhile, eventually crossing through an underpass and approaching the foot of the hill. There were several runners (and cyclist) walking up the hill, I joined them. The course weaved its way upwards, my walking pace declined, but I felt no discomfort. As I approached the top I noticed the abbey up ahead, majestically overlooking the surroundings below.

As I entered the gates of the Abbey I passed by the 65 km (40 mile) marker and stopped at the aid station shortly after this. At this point I was looking for some solid food, the fruit and cake that had been offered thus far wasn't working for me. I didn't find any potatoes that were supposed to be at the latter stations, so settled for some dry bread and salty soup broth. I ate as I walked, not wasting any time...I was still moving good but wasn't sure for how much longer. I ran on.

The terrain began to change, more rolling hills, a few steeper climbs - during the briefing they mentioned the majority of the climbs were during the second half of the race. I found myself taking more frequent walk breaks, but tried to time them with the uphill portions of the course. I must have put myself on automatic pilot by this time, I remember portions of the route, but they all jumbled together.

I know that the last relay exchange station was at kilometer 80 in the middle of the Wilhelmsburg Fortress, which was built following the Napolean Wars in the early 1800's. As I passed the 80 km, or 50 mile point, I noted my time, 9:09, another personal best! After fueling I headed out again and found myself running parallel with one of the massive fortress walls - cool!

The last 20 km (12 miles) included long stretches of fields and forest, pastures - soothing for the eyes and the soul at a time when my legs and feet were grieving...

I was running for shorter and shorter periods, sometimes only a mile at a time before taking a walk break, but I limited my walk breaks to just 1-2 minutes, then plodded on. I eventually passed the 90 km (56 miles) and soon after began running what I think was the most beautiful part of the course, the Kiesental area, with beautiful paths and forests...I tried to enjoy it as best I could, but I just wanted to get the race over with by this point.

Eventually I reached the edge of town and began to make my way towards the noise of the stadium and the finish. I was still well under 12 hours so just tried to keep running. Finally I came around a turn and saw the parking lot between the sports hall and stadium. I turned towards the stadium and made my way down the path, passing several that were walking to the showers, then turning into the stadium. Relieved I made my way around the track and over the finish line, after 11 hours 52 minutes and 2 seconds, my first 100 km event, done!

Friend Josef was waiting and shook my hand, it was so nice to see a familiar face. We walked over to get something to drink, there wasn't much left - only water or sports drink, I chose water, I couldn't stomach any more sports drink.

I chatted with Josef a bit, than headed over for a shower. After showering we decided to drive home, neither of us were hungry, despite the noontime hour. I let Josef drive home, I was tired and afraid I would dose off. Around two hours later we arrived at Josef's house, I thanked him for accompanying me and drove made the 10 minute drive home. My wife was still in school, so I crawled in bed and slept a couple hours before she came home...I was dead tired, but happy!


Massive congratulations, Jack! I get the impression it is a very beautiful course. I vaguely know the area, though I didn't recognise any of the names mentioned. I can't find any descriptions of a massive struggle - sounds like you were very well prepared.

I knew you could do it old yankee man.

Nicely done Jack! And how do you feel now? Okay I hope. That's a huge accomplishment and it sounds like you ran most of it. Recover well!

Egads, Jack. What a journey! And what an adventure!

Any plans to share your Garmin file or something in Google Earth?

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This page contains a single entry by Jack published on June 19, 2009 9:07 AM.

Race Report: The Ulm 100K Night Run - Prerace was the previous entry in this blog.

Race Report: The Philippsburger Festungslauf Half-Marathon is the next entry in this blog.

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