March 2011 Archives

Perfect running weather, sunshine, not too warm and no wind, I slept good, and was highly motivated - the only thing missing was a good training base - my "official" marathon training having begun around the first of March. I suppose many runners would be intimidated on attempting a 6-hour race with just two long runs for training (16 and 18 miles), but I figured whenever I got tired of running I would just walk the rest of the time, that should be good enough for a marathon at least.

I like to run benefit runs, I mean when I'm going to run a race why shouldn't it be for a good cause, it shouldn't always be about ME. To be honest I didn't look specifically for a benefit run to run, it was more opportunity, my wife and her aunt wanted to visit the grave of the aunt that passed away last year, and I wanted to test my condition - a quick search and I had a race in the same town, Fürth in northern Bavaria (Bayern), Germany.

Now normally I prefer trail runs, marathons in the forest and try to avoid asphalt races whenever possible. However, after a look at the website from the World Down Syndrome Day Run and a quick Google search, I was convinced that this was a benefit run worthy of a bit of asphalt discomfort.

Down syndrome, trisomy 21, is a chromosomal condition caused by the presence of all or part of an extra 21st chromosome. The effects and extent of the extra copy vary greatly among people, depending on genetic history, and pure chance. Often Down syndrome is associated with some impairment of cognitive ability and physical growth, and a particular set of facial characteristics. Individuals with Down syndrome tend to have a lower-than-average cognitive ability, often ranging from mild to moderate disabilities. Based on a study in 2002 the average lifespan for those with Down syndrome is 49 years. The first World Down Syndrome Day was held on 21 March 2006. The day and month were chosen to correspond with 21 and trisomy respectively. In the United States, the National Down Syndrome Society observes Down Syndrome Month every October as "a forum for dispelling stereotypes, providing accurate information, and raising awareness of the potential of individuals with Down syndrome."

I personally don't know any families that have an individual with Down syndrome, but have seen individuals in the region and at local running events. I noticed on the website of the organizers, the Down Syndrome Association Running Club Marathon Relay, that the group participated in the local Karlsruhe marathon, so probably saw several of the members there.

We arrived on Saturday and I accompanied the ladies to the cemetery to visit the gravesite, afterward we headed to the Green Hall at the Fürth South City Park, so I could collect my start packet. We took a quick look at the park that I would be running around, a flat 1.3152 kilometer course on asphalt, with a few brief passages on cobblestone - oh my aching knees. With each round we would go through the "legendary Green Hall" on the red carpet. After depositing my wife's aunt at the train station for her trip home, we checked into the hotel and relaxed a bit before heading to dinner.

On Sunday morning my wife dropped me off at the Green Hall and I checked in my drop bag. I found a place to sit and listened to the festivities as I waited for the 9:00 a.m. start. About 15 minutes before the race was to begin they called the runners to line up, the 6 hour and 6 hour relay inside the Green Hall, the half-marathon and marathon outside at designated points. I waited until just before the countdown, then lined up in the back, the doorway from the hall was small, no sense hurrying. Promptly at 9:00 a.m. we counted up to 21, the trisomy 21 countdown I was told, and we headed out.

After a few meters the course took an immediate left, you ran about 70 meters and took a right, ran about 140 meters took a right, ran about 500 meters took a right, ran about 400 meters took a left, a right and another right and ran into the Green Hall over the timing mat for completion of a round. Then you ran past a cheering crowd, out of the hall and off for another round! The aid station was located at approx. the 1 km point from the 1.3152 course. Throughout the event there was a group of young cheerleaders doing their best to motivate participants, as well as a band of drummers and other music.

I was amazed at the diversity of runners on the track, ranging from barely out of diapers to grizzled old saints, totally out-of-shape runner-walkers to relay racers, first-time event runners to Ultra veterans, I think every area was covered. There were of course a great many runners with Down syndrome, many sporting the Club 21 shirt from the organizers, some running along, but most accompanied by another runner or group. A trait that seemed to be with all of them though was their enthusiasm, these dudes were motivated! The motto for the club was "ich kann laufen so wie Du und ich laufe auf Dich zu", which translates to "I can run like you and I am running towards you" (thanks Thomas).

I started out fairly conservatively, my goal being to try to complete around a marathon, a very conservative goal. I ran the first half-marathon in around 2:20:00, and was already complaining to myself about my tired legs and the asphalt. After 20 miles I was looking for a good reason to continue, although I could have easily walked at this point and finished a marathon, I was having a problem with motivation, somehow the 1.3 km course was not providing the necessary distraction that I was seeking. I stopped at the aid station and sat down and munched on some food and drank a coke. I watched the runners as I ate, the most were either working on getting around the course as fast as possible or were in small groups chatting away. I decided to make the best of the moment and got up and headed out.

On the next loop I caught up with a teenager that I had noticed before, he looked like he was from India or this region, so tried some English on him, which turned out to be his native language. We ran together for awhile, he was several loops behind me and was hoping to finish his first marathon. He was a bit skeptical at this point whether he would do this, I encouraged him and told him not to give up before moving on (he made it!).

As I continued to loop around the course I listened to some of the Down syndrome runners as I ran, I head a lot of diverse conversation, but what I never heard was anything negative...despite obvious signs of weariness from many, they were still filled with enthusiasm. I realized my own discomfort and complaints were so petty in comparison to what one with Down syndrome must face in their daily lives, I continued on with a new respect for my running companions!

After roughly 4 hours and 39 minutes I passed the marathon point (32 loops) and stopped at the aid station to eat something. An hour before I had considered stopping after completing a marathon and going home, but now as I fueled I contemplated whether I could make 50 km before the end of the 6 hours. I decided there was only one way to find out...

I was settled into an energy saving routine as I continued, taking a 30 second walk break about 1/3 of the way around, stopping and walking through the aid station, then moving on. The loops slowly clicked by, I knew I couldn't let up if I was going to reach 50 km. The course was thinning out as I completed the last few rounds, the marathon runners were finished, it was only the 6 hour runners left, and many were walking. I passed the 50 km mark with time to spare, I quickly assessed whether I could complete another round and headed out the door of the Green Hall a last time. I spotted my wife on the side lines and tried to indicate with hand signals that it was my last loop, she should meet me in the hall. As I continued on I didn't stop to walk, I was determined to finish the last loop.

I spotted my wife on the other side of the hall, close to the entrance, but rushed by, I knew the clock was running out - I took the last left, then a right, then another right and passed over the timing mat with 1 second to spare, 39 rounds, 51.293 km!

I walked it out a bit and found my wife, then a chair. As my wife took pictures of the award ceremony I watched the happy finishers, particular members of the Club 21, the joy and feeling of accomplishment on their faces and the pride from their family and friends was moving! So often we take our hobby for granted, many cannot do what we do. Many can only do what we do with tremendous effort.

"ich kann laufen so wie Du und ich laufe auf Dich zu"

Event Webpage: Club 21

Picture links:

Web album with pictures from Gerhard Hierl

Web albumn from Joanna Birkel.

World Down Syndrome Day Marathon

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Yesterday I completed my first race of the year, the 6-Hour World Down Syndrome Day Marathon in Fürth, Germany. The helpers, visitors, spectators, other runners, supporters were fantastic and highly motivating. In particular the courage and determination shown by the many runners with Down Syndrome spurred me on to complete an unexpected 51.293 km (31.87 mi.)! I will try to get a race report together this week.

Gestern war mein erste Wettkampf dieses Jahr, der Welt Down Syndrom Tag Marathon - 6 Stundenlauf in Fürth. Die Helfer, Besucher, Zuschauer, andere Läufer, Unterstützer und besonderes die viel Läufer mit Down Syndrom hat mich hoch motiviert, ich habe ein unerwartete 51, 293 km gelaufen! Ich wurde diese Woche versuchen ein Beriech zu schreiben.

My first race this weekend...


My first race event is coming up this weekend, I am woefully prepared, and I find myself wondering what I was thinking of when I signed up. In any case the 6-hour Worlds Down Syndrome Benefit race is for a good cause, so I will see it through. The race will be held in Fuerth, Germany on Sunday, March 20, not far from where my wife's aunt used to live. My wife will have a chance to visit friends in the city while I making my rounds.

The organizers posted a Google image of the course, a 1.3152 km loop. To complete a marathon I have to run 32 loops plus 106.36 meters. Events include the 6-hour main event, a marathon, a half-marathon and a 1-hour volks-run.


My biggest fear is going stir-crazy running so many loops on an asphalt and concrete sidewalk, where the only scenery is 500 other crazy runners with the same problem. In any case it is something totally new in my running world, variety is the spice of life.

I will let you know how it goes.

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from March 2011 listed from newest to oldest.

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