1. Rheinsteig Erlebnislauf, 7-14 april 2006
Report By Bram van der Bijl
Translated by Mark Hoogakker
Â Â Running for charity is hot at the moment. From 5 till 9 December 2005 Hermy Heymann ran to raise money for the people in Pakistan. (http://www.ultraned.org/n_item/f3181.php) He ran about 340 kilometers in 5 days. Friday the 14th of April Els Annegarn announced that she will try to raise money for the Dutch Leukaemia Foundation. http://www.lopenvoorleukemie.nl). Although I usually wonâ€™t turn a deaf ear to somebody trying to raise money, I am not really the good Samaritan nor the Florence Nightingale of Halfweg. Others, in general, are much more active than I am. For example the German couple Mahlburg from Baden-Baden. Their organisation â€˜Laufenhelfen.deâ€™ (http://www.laufendhelfen.de) tries to raise money for charity through organising running events. ‘Aktion Benni & Co. e.V.’ (http://www.abc-online.org) is one of the foundations they try to support. It does research to try to find a cure for the, until now, incurable muscle-disease of Duchenne. This is a rather rare disease and therefore, hard as it may sound, not really interesting for the pharmaceutical industry. In the beginning of this year the idea of the Rheinsteig Erlebnislauf came up. The Rheinsteig (http://www.rheinsteig.de) is a 320 kilometer long hiking trail between Bonn and Wiesbaden, which was completed in the Fall of 2005. The idea was to run this trail as a group in 8 days and between the 7th and 14th of April 2006 the first edition of this run took place. Since I like these kind of events I also joined and thus contributed to the good cause as well.
The Rheinsteig has been called the most difficult and most beautiful hiking trail of Germany, and I can do nothing but agree with this conclusion. Although small villages and cities are never very far away, you are more often than not hardly aware of them. The trail leads mostly over soft pathways through forests and fields, beautiful nature, (with wonderful views over the Rhine-valley) and cultural sites (churches, castles, monasteries museums etc.) Furthermore it seems like each peak between Bonn and Wiesbaden is being climbed, and though the highest altitude along the route is 350 meters above sea level it has a lot of ascends ands descends.
The core of the running team was formed by 12 participants. (2 women, 10 men, 11 Germans and 1 Dutchman). Their experienced ranged from having completed one marathon to having run the â€˜Trans-Europa Laufâ€™. For me this would be the 15th stage-run and the third day would be the hundredth stage that I would run (so much for the personal statistics). This group of runners would be accompanied on their daily stage by people who would run only one or less than one stage. In short we had a colourful and mixed group of people running. In total about 50 runners participated in this run.
To run in a group doesnâ€™t mean that we were running constantly together, but it did mean that we kept an eye on each other and took regular breaks so that everyone could get together again. Time is not important, the goal was to be physically active and to enjoy nature, culture and being together before, during and after the run. Even so three of the runners that ran the whole route didnâ€™t manage to complete all the separate stages. Before the start Rudolf Mahlburg had estimated from maps the length of the various stages and the height differences. It turned out however that the distances were often longer in reality and the height differences (much) smaller.
We mainly slept in hotels and were fortunate with the weather. The first three days were sunny, afterwards the weather was a little grey but it rained shortly only once. There were no organised aid stations during the run, but a few times local participants had organised something. Also local and regional governments came to watch and help the runners every now and again. This brightened up the whole event.
This is a chronological report of the various stages with some comments:
7th April, Bonn-Unkel, 48 km, +1574m,
After having met each other for the first time the previous night the race started at 10.00 AM from the â€˜Marktplatzâ€™ in Bonn. ‘Aktion Benni & Co. e.V.â€™ also had a few stands on this market. After a speech and a short run with a group of kids we left in the direction of the river Rhine to cross it for the first and only time from south to north. Local runners provided us with two aid stations and we reached our hotel in Unkel around 18.00 PM.
8 april, Unkel-Neuwied, 51 km, +1743 m.
To reach Unkel we had made a small detour yesterday. After a short break at the local supermarket we got back on the trail and resumed our journey. In a supermarket a bit further down we drove the girl behind the counter crazy when all the runners showed up with loose bottles that you were supposed to buy only by six. Again a bit further down the trail one of the guest runners of today had arranged for a wine tasting! A very special aid station indeed!
This second stage would be a â€˜historicalâ€™ one because the finish of the race didnâ€™t come into view for a long time and even turned out to be a tough one. We reached the hotel around 18.00 PM where a welcoming party was already eagerly awaiting our arrival. Among them were Benni, after whom â€˜Aktion Benni & Co. e.V.â€™ is named and his father. Rudolf Mahlburg bought drinks this evening for all the runners because he had terribly miscalculated the length of todayâ€™s stage. Benniâ€™s father had arranged for a group of people to give massages. The participants could have a massage for free but were supposed to donate a little extra money to the foundation. One runner had to give up because of knee-problems. After resting for a day he would later continue the route walking (usually via an adjusted route)
9 april Neuwied-Koblenz: 52 km, +1780 m.
The Westerwald formed the scenery of the first part of todayâ€™s stage. We filled our water bottles and camel bags at a local zoo and some time later enjoyed a cup of coffee and some refreshments at a small restaurant. We arrived in Koblenz at about 17.30 PM. The youth hostel in Koblenz is situated in a fortress at the top of a hill and we enjoyed great views over the city. In the evening one of the runners read out his experiences of the Deutschlandlauf 2005 (Germany Run 2005)Â
10 april Koblenz-Filsen: 37km, +1360 m.
This day we followed a small stream through a fairytale-like valley. We saw wild animals and a few times had to cling to cables to ensure a safe passage. A local runner had arranged for an aid station with refreshments. We arrived at our hotel in Filsen at about 16.00 PM. The hotel was officially closed on Mondays but the owners made an exception for us. A second runner â€˜ran into troubleâ€™ with his knees. After five days he would eventually give up.
11 april Filsen-Loreley: 33km, +1460 m.
Todayâ€™s stage ended at a big tourist attraction at 15.30 PM. We spent the night at a holiday sports-accommodation for youth. In the evening we enjoyed a small program:
The Mittelrhein-area is a world heritage area and in a visitors centre nearby that had been opened specially for u,s we heard all the legends about Loreley. After being prompted by a tour guide one of the runners sang a long song from Heinrich Heyne about Loreley. I felt slightly awkward, with my singing repertoire reaching not much further than a few lines of the Dutch national anthem. During the third stage another participant had already recited, in the middle of the forest, a seemingly endless poem on the Roman invasion into the German empire, at a (rebuilt) Roman tower. My fellow runners obviously were of a different generation than the modern German youngsters! At the end of her tour the tour guide treated us with German wisdom that might come in handy one day: Mit Riesling in der Blutbahn lauft man wie ein Truthahn. Which means as much as: With Riesling (a kind of wine) in your bloodstream you run like a rooster!
12 april Loreley-Assmannshausen: 46 km, +1454 m.
The guest-runners of todayâ€™s stage had arranged for an aid station in Lorch. By coincidence it started raining ( the only rain we would have these 8 days) just as we reached it. So we quickly grabbed some Pretzels from the trunk of the car and ate them sheltering from the rain in a small tunnel. At 17.00 PM we arrived at our hotel in Assmannshausen that had a direct view over the river Rhine. The river was flowing rapidly today and many boats could hardly manage to travel upstream. By the way, the transport-trains that race past continuously are an ongoing source of disturbance and noise. About 200 transport-trains come through the Rhine-valley every day. This evening we were addressed by the mayor. At the end of his speech he also had a German wisdom to share with us: Â Mit Assmannshauser Rote in der Blutbahn lauft
man wie ein Truthahn. Very original indeed! So now we (with the exception of a few people) seriously started drinking Riesling and Assmannshauser Rote!
13 april Assmannshausen-Kiedrich: 37 km, +1030 m.
Today it was a bit chilly. We had two aid stations and we finished about 15.00 PM, but our sleeping place was still a long way outside of the village. In the evening we walked back to the village where we would have a â€˜high classâ€™ meal. This usually means that the price of the meals and the size of the portions correlate negatively! This restaurant was no exception. But although I am a culinary barbarian even I could definitely taste the difference between tonightâ€™s meal and our meal at the youth hostel in Koblenz. Because some people missed out on the dinner I got a few very welcome extra bits of food here and there. We were served among others Sint Jacobsschelp (a kind of shell-fish), which wasnâ€™t a very healthy choice considering the risk of food-poisoning. This evening would be our last evening together and so the opportunity was taken to hand out the medals (shaped in the form of the signs that mark the Rheinsteig-trail). The meal took its toll on my roommate and he had to throw up every bit of it. Weakened he started the last stage of the run and he was forced to take a shortcut to the finish.
14 april Kiedrich-Wiesbaden: 35 km, +660 m.
The last stage was not among the nicest. This was mainly due to the fact that we had to run through the city of Wiesbaden for a long time. We had one aid station and finished in Wiesbaden at the Thermalbad Aukammtal (thermal pools). A symbolic cheque was handed over and we made a nice group-picture. Rudolf Mahlburg announced that this run will be organised again next year. We paid a (sponsored) visit to the thermal pools and after eating and drinking something together in the restaurant everybody went his or her own way.
I had a very nice time those 8 days. It was a nice group, good running-weather, beautiful scenery and a good organisation. Furthermore the running went very smoothly. Experience and training produce their fruits every now and then you could say. Within the group I stood out not only because of my (huge) appetite, but (also to my own wide surprise)Â because of my smooth downhill running. Not a small feat for a Dutchman! The others ran cautiously with small steps (hitting the brakes) down the hill, but I would run downhill at great speed without coming near the brakes at all. According to me that is the best way, but opinions obviously differ on that point. To finish where I have started this story: We eventually raised â‚¬ 4910.00 for’Aktion Benni & Co. e.V.’
Bram van der Bijl