Race Report: The German Wine Route Marathon

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Bockenheim an der Weinstrasse is in the collective municipality of Bad Durkheim in the district of Rhineland-Palatinate in Germany. Bockenheim lies at the north end of the 85 km long German Wine Route, and has even adopted an epithet referring to its location there: an der Weinstrasse means "on the Wine Route" in German.

Bockenheim is made up of two smaller towns called Grossbockenheim and Kleinbockenheim (gross means "great" and klein means "little"), which were merged in 1956. The two places arose from small settlements that themselves had grown out of Frankisch estates after the Franks took over the land about 500. In 1525, in the Palatine Peasants War, the Bockenheimer Cohort was formed, a rabble of peasants who joined the uprising. Until 1969, Bockenheim belonged to the now abolished district of Frankenthal. Since then it has been in what was then the newly formed district of Bad Durkheim.

Bockenheim is an old winegrowing center in which the craft has been practiced for more than 1200 years. Even today, it is still the village's most important industry. Bockenheim's vineyards stretch for more than 1000 acres, along narrow and winding roads separating the surrounding villages.

Every two years the peaceful villages are interrupted from their sleep by the thunder of thousands of feet, the running of the German Wine Route Marathon with Half-Marathon. The event is slated as one of the most scenic road races in Germany. The race starts in Bockenheim, runs along the vineyards of the "Leiniger Land" district, into the district of Freinsheim, through beautiful and romantic wine villages leading to the halfway and turning point at the giant wine barrel in the spa town of Bad Durkheim.

I first considered running the event when I heard that a couple friends from my running club were running the half-marathon. I committed myself to the race when friends Birgit and Andreas, who are running the 100 km race with me in June, signed up for the marathon. The marathon course is similar to what we expect to encounter during the 100 km race, so we were excited to be able to take part.

On race morning I arrived at Andreas and Birgit's house (a husband and wife team :-), around 7:30 a.m. and they drove to Bockenheim. We found a parking space and walked to the start to collect our packets.


The weather was sunny and warming quickly, as we returned to the car we discussed our race "outfits". I guess it was still around 13-15°C outside, but the sun was beaming brightly, we all decided on shorts and short-sleeve running shirts.

As we lined up at the start we chatted with several people that we knew from other clubs and races. At some point Birgit and I lost site of Andreas, we would see him again first at the finish line. In any case Birgit and I had planned on running together, so we made sure WE didn't lose each other in the crowd of 3000 runners.


The starting pistol went off on time and we stood still until the mass began to move forward. Shortly before crossing the timing mat at the start we were able to start running slowly forward. The first Kilometer wound it's way through town, then climbed gradually up a small hill to about kilometer 3.


From here we dropped down into a valley and climbed up the other side into the town of Asselheim, where I believe the first aid station was, and on to Gruenstadt. As we passed through the valley, I made a comment that we would see this valley again, namely the last 4 kilometers of the race, nothing like a climb to the finish!


The course continued on more or less level, dropping into another valley around kilometer 8 and remaining more or less flat as we ran through the town of Sausenheim.


As we passed the second aid station around kilometer 10 we began a serious of climbs that would bring us to the highest point in the race at Weisenheim am Berg (am Berg is literally "on the mountain"), around kilometer 14. As this was a training run for Birgit and I, we chose to walk some of the more challenging climbs, just as we will when we run the 100K race in June.


As we left Weisenheim am Berg we descended down a beautiful panoramic road into Leistadt, but quickly climbed out the other side. We both remarked that our legs were already feeling the affect of the asphalt roads and hills, and they again were pounded beginning at kilometer 16 as we descended to the lowest elevation point of the race. At least this time we were able to continue to run on a relatively flat part of the couse around Bad Durkheim until we again climbed to the town of Ungstein at kilometer 26.


From Ungstein we again climbed, first to Kallstadt then to Hexheim am Berg at around kilometer 30.


This serious of climbs were the second most challenging of the day, not the highest or steepest, but surely the hottest. We were both caked with sweat and salt, the temperature was probably only 22-23°C, but the sun was hot and we were running on asphalt. I can usually handle the heat pretty well, but Birgit was not feeling her best. We kept the pace down and made sure we drank at each aid station.

After leaving Herzheim am Berg we descended slightly into Dackenheim, then ran over a series of rolling hills that traversed through vineyards to Kirchheim and eventually returned us to Grunestadt, with around 5 kilometers to go. By this time we were both hot, were complaining of a bit of stomach upset from the combination of fluids offered at the aid stations and the heat, and eager to call it a day. We attacked the pace as best we could, trying to increase the pace as we dropped into the final valley that would lead us to the finish line.


We managed to run most of the way out of the valley and as we wound our way towards the finish line were even able to pick up the pace.


As the finish line came into view we broke into a lame man's rendition of a sprint and crossed in 4:39:45 (chip time), mission accomplished!


1 Comment

That's a very scenic marathon you found there!

The training seems to be going well. I hope your back pain will improve. I've had pains in my lower back earlier this year and I was worried about my target race, but it did improve over the last few weeks.

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This page contains a single entry by Jack published on April 20, 2010 11:40 AM.

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