Race Report: The Westerwald 50K Run 2010

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According to Wikipedia, Rengsdorf is a "collective municipality" in the district of Neuwied, in Rhineland-Palatinate (Pfalz), Germany. It is situated in the Westerwald Forest, about 10 km north of Neuwied, not far from Koblenz. The annual 50K Westerwald Run takes place on Ascension Day and is combined with a folks-wandertag (walking-tour day).

For the fifth year in a row my wife and I made our pilgrimage to Rengsdorf the night before the race, staying at our favorite Bed and Breakfast near the center of town. Once we checked in, we met our friends Brigit and Andreas, who were spending a week vacating in the area, for dinner at the local Italian restaurant. The couple are the same two that I have been training with to run the 100K race in Biel, Switzerland on June 11th.

The next morning we awoke to the sound of falling rain, nothing new for this race. We got around and headed down to the swimming pool where the race would start. Birgit and Andreas were already there and checked in. I left my wife to chat with them and picked up my race packet, which consisted of a general map of the route and a card that needed to be stamped at several checkpoints along the way. I greeted a few familiar faces, than rejoined our small group.

The race was scheduled to start at 8:00 a.m., so shortly before the 70-80 odd runners assembled in the parking lot on the edge of the starting line and received our briefing. It had stopped raining about an hour before, but the trails were still quite wet and slippery, we should take it easy out there. The race is not competitive; the runners keep track of their own time and submit it at the finish line. There are no prizes awarded, everyone who runs the course is rewarded with beautiful trails, friendly organizers and just a good time doing what runners love to do.

After the briefing the race director sent us off and we bid my wife farewell for the next 7-8 hours. Birgit, Andreas and I planned on running together, so started off at a comfortable pace. We hit the first uphill after a couple minutes, and as Birgit had warned me beforehand, we slowed to a walk, as we would with almost every hill on the course. This was fine with me, my pulled muscle from a marathon three weeks ago was mostly healed, but I didn't want to aggravate it.

We made pretty good time the first 8-9 km, encountering several small hills that we power walked, than bounding down the other side at a good pace. After an hour or so, we arrived at the first aid station at roughly kilometer 8.6 (5.5 miles),

Soon after the aid station we started down a long downhill section, where it soon became apparent to me that downhill running was Birgit and Andrea's strength, they almost succeeded in leaving me behind, I had all I could do to stay with them. The pounding downhill section continued for almost 2 miles, and then quickly turned into the longest climb of the day. We switched to power walking and ascended to the top of the next valley. This practice continued throughout the run, as we descended and ascended one valley after another.

By the halfway point my legs were feeling like they were filled with lead. My strength is uphill running, and today we were walking uphill, and running the downhills much faster than I was accustomed. Between the two, I was toast, my two companions were still top fit and ready to go. I voiced my problems and, as we were using the run as a training run for our 100K in Biel, they decided to let me set the pace - a little more time on the feet would actually be an advantage.

We continued over a good mixture of forest paths, field ways and asphalt covered bike ways and roads. I tried to ignore my heavy legs and took in the scenery that makes this run so special. The fields were in full bloom with yellow mustard plants and grass, the contrast picturesque. We passed by cows grazing in the meadows, looking totally content despite a herd of crazy runners tramping by.

By the time we reached the fourth aid station at around kilometer 37, I was wondering how I would ever be able to keep up with my two companions. I knew I was slowing them down and felt bad about this. As we tanked up at the aid station, I sat for a moment to try to pull myself together. I knew I would finish the 50K, but I knew I had to do something or I would continue to slow down. As my companions got another cup of tea I decided to run on ahead of them, I knew they would catch me in a short time.


I headed out at the fastest pace that my legs could muster, the trail headed downwards over an asphalt road that bordered by scenic pastures and fields on either side. I was surprised when it took almost 3 km (2 miles) for my friends to catch me, Birgit said later they were chatting with another runner and stayed another 5 minutes as the aid station. In any case this proved to be an advantage for all of us, I was able to run my own pace and they could stretch their legs out catching up. Shortly after this we began the next hill climb, the last major climb for the day.

We power walked the relatively steep climb that brought us to the second highest elevation point for the race, and the last aid station. The hot lentil soup that was being offered looked and smelled really good, but I decided to repeat my strategy from the last time and headed out ahead of Birgit and Andreas. The path was level this time and the two caught up fairly fast.

We continued on downhill, Andreas running on ahead, Birgit staying near me. We encountered more and more walkers, a sign that we nearing the finish. I recognized several points along the way that confirmed this. We passed by a park on the edge of town, quite beautiful, but I had no time to linger, I had all I could do to keep from falling behind Birgit.

Finally we headed over the bridge near the finish line, Birgit was several paces ahead of me, but as the trail headed upwards I managed to close the gap. My wife was there to greet us as we passed unceremoniously over the finish line. I noted our time, 7:01:30, not too bad for a course with 1400 meters (4600 feet) of elevation gain/loss.

We submitted our race card with the control stamps and decided to got back to our Bed and Breakfast's to shower, it was still quite cold and damp out (6°C at the start, roughly 14°C at the finish). As my wife reported that the hot soup was already gone, we agreed to meet later for dinner at the local Italian restaurant.

The 12th Annual International Westerwald Run continues to be one of the most beautiful runs that I have experienced in Germany. The run is well organized, the trail well-marked and the people working the aid stations helpful and friendly. The course has the added attraction of changing each year, offering new sights and sounds, as well as varying terrain and levels of difficulty. I look forward to next years' run, and have a feeling that Birgit and Andreas have been infected by the Westerwald bug as well. But maybe next year we could run some of the uphills...

Here are a few pictures of the event: Pictures 2010

Here are a few more: More pictures

...and here.

1 Comment

nice reading this report, I only did the 31k this year which still gives me a bit of frustration but without more than just one 31k-race in 2010 before rengsdorf it was a wise decision and I could enjoy the beer (! free, included in the fee of 10€ for the whole thing !) at the last aid-station having a long chat and due to the shorter track no problems to get warm again afterwards by running a bit faster.

I hope to see you next year, when we will run on the track of my first 50k (5 years ago) but in the other direction (as gitta the racedirector told me) so this will be new sights for me as well
good luck in biel!

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This page contains a single entry by Jack published on May 17, 2010 12:31 PM.

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