Ein Bericht von Jürgen
Den folgenden Bericht von Jürgen Ankenbrand habe ich im Gästebuch des Transeuropalaufes gefunden.
Und alldieweil Gästebucheinträge mit jedem Neueintrag etwas tiefer rutschen - bis sie schließlich keiner mehr findet - habe ich mir erlaubt, den Eintrag hier zu übernehmen:
Jürgen Ankenbrand, Los Angeles, 01. September 2003
Anbei ein Artikel der (in etwa) in einem amerikanischem Laufmagazin erscheinen wird. Er gibt in unter 5,000 Worten den Lauf wieder -
gesehen aus meiner Perspektive und den Tatsachen entsprechend.
Bitte lasst mich wissen was ihr darueber denkt?
Der Artikel ist im Moment nur in Englisch, werde ihn aber eventuell auch in's Deutsche uebersetzen.
Word count 4,615
5,035 km from Lisbon-Portugal to Moscow-Russia
6,000,000 steps to Moscow in 63 days
By Jürgen Ankenbrand, the official photojournalist during the race.
After several Trans America races and one Trans Australia event, it
was just a matter of time till someone would think of a Trans Europe
race. Following is the story of how it came about, what it took to
organize it and how it ended.
1. Who, What, Why?
During the first Trans America
Crossing in 1959, Manfred Leisman, a German Ultra Runner had the idea
of a Trans Europe Crossing with a theme of uniting the people through
sports. Due to personal matters, the idea did not surface again until
the year 2001 when the Trans Australia race took place. Being a long
distance runner himself, Manfred wanted to run the event and needed at
least one man who could put the entire package together as the
organizer and planner. He knew this wasn’t going to be easy. He
eventually engaged Ingo Schulze, an experienced German Ultra Runner
himself and the race director of the “Spreelauf”, a seventeen-day ultra
event in Germany. Ingo, I am sure, never realized the gravity of what
he had committed himself to when he discussed the matter with Manfred.
Ingo must have had a temporary lapse of sanity when he signed the
contract to be the race director/organizer of this momentous event, a
decision I am sure, he has regretted many a time since.
2. Route outline
Manfred looked at the map of Europe, and
penciled out a course, trying to circumnavigate mayor cities whenever
possible to avoid huge traffic yams and also considering the safety of
all. He eventually set the anticipated course and thus the work could
In the Spring of 2002 Manfred and his wife Brigitte took their
first three weeks of their six week vacation and drove the entire first
halve of the route from Lisbon, Portugal to a small town in Poland
called Zalesie, 20 kilometers before the border of Belarus. In mid
September of 2002 they took their second three-week vacation and
scouted out the second half from Poland to Moscow.
All the while Manfred spoke into a tape recorder, recording the
entire route with names of towns and landmarks to follow with kilometer
markings. This info eventually became the daily traffic directions for
all to follow, for runners and drivers alike. A few small problems
emerged from all this. Manfred spoke the town names as he interpreted
them, which often presented a problem for drivers (especially in Poland
and Russia), not finding anything similar on the map. The other thing
was that on a few occasions detours screwed us up and a few mistakes in
mileage counting didn’t help either.
2. Nightly lodging
Also on their two scouting trips Manfred and
Brigitte tried to make as many contacts as possible regarding nightly
quarters such as dormitories, schools or similar housing. Some places
made commitments while others took some continuous follow-up by letter
over a year’s period to get something of a commitment. As it turned
out, not all took their commitment too seriously with the following
When Ingo and a few fast runners would arrive early afternoon Ingo was told:
1. We expected you tomorrow
2. You can’t get into the gym until later this evening because we have a game
3. This gym isn’t available but we have arranged for another location (several kilometers away)
I am sure you can guess that the runners were pissed when confronted
with such matters, after running for 60 to 90 kilometers and wanted
nothing but to take a shower and sleep.
They were mad at Ingo, not wanting to hear any “excuses” but he in fact could not do anything about it either at that point.
Originally we were scheduled to camp several times, but we were
spared and rather stayed in gyms 95% of the time, a couple of 3rd rated
hotels, an Army barrack in Portugal and a couple of girls dormitories,
which was great.
3. Setting up an organization
For tax and business purposes an
entity had to be created and thus the Trans-Europe-Organization was
born, keeping track of all business and financial dealings. This
included potential financial contributions, as well as keeping track of
expenses, plus any traffic or road permits required, especially through
Basically the management team consisted of Ingo Schulze, Manfred
Leisman, Heiko the financial man and a few volunteers that did whatever
needed to be done. Initially few people thought it possible to pull off
such an event, where almost seventy people would cross Europe on foot
with an entourage of cars, meeting the challenge of seven borders
crossings, languages and whatever red tape officials may decide to
throw our way.
4. Rules, regulations, do’s and don’ts
Like any race or organization, there had to be rules, regulations and
stipulations of what is acceptable and what is not. A multi-page
document was created, trying to cover as many points as possible, but
it’s impossible to cover all possibilities.
Items such as cost for participation, equipment needs, document
requirements, conduct during the race and many more items of similar
nature, giving all guidelines of what to expect.
5. Will enough runners come?
Any undertaking needs a financial
feasibility study to see if the incoming money will cover anticipated
expenses. Potential sponsors were contacted but when money is tight
it’s difficult to get anything from any large company unless they have
a product that happens to fit into the theme of the event. Bayer (the
Aspirin maker) had such a product. They had developed a new fiber for
clothing, thus shirts and wind jackets were made and worn by runners
that were sponsored by Bayer.
6. Setting the price.
Setting the entry fee would be a very
crucial procedure since this would be the financial basis for the well
being of the event and its main source of capital, other than donations
by sponsors. The Euro 45.00 per day figured per stage and full-time
runners, multiplied by 63 came close to Euro 3,000,00 for the entire
event, a sum, I thought was too low.
7. Establishing a criteria for participants running qualifications
The idea of having qualified runners is that as many runners as possible
will finish the over 5,100 kilometer race to Moscow. Ideally runners
with multi-day running experience would be good candidates. As it
turned out, several of the known established very good runners did not
finish and several “unknowns” with little multi-day experience made it
all the way to Moscow. Naturally, injuries will always play a factor in
a 63-day race, and this race was no different, as we would find out
8. The Logistics:
a. Getting volunteers
b. Arranging/finding enough transportation
Conventional Car Rental was not available into Eastern Europe
Rental companies would not let their cars there for safety reasons
c. Finding lodging in places like gyms, school dorms or even once a military barrack had to be found at “reasonable” cost
d. Food and beverages for 70 people twice a day plus aid stations
e. Writing daily Routing directional Sheets for runners and drivers
f. Getting traffic permits for eight countries, especially Germany, with its very regulated way of life
g. Visa info for all runners and staff especially for none European runners
h. Liability Insurance for all staff and runners
i. Possible medical emergencies, where to take runners should they arise
in any of the eight countries through which we would pass through
These were some of the logistics in preparing for and planning of this mammoth event.
A country-by-country recap of events in a nutshell.
Before I begin my story, I want to introduce a few of the better
know runners (at least in Europe anyway) to give you an idea of the
quality of the field.
* Denotes runners that had the experience to be a potential winner of this event.
1. Manfred Leisman, Germany: Originator of this event and Ultra Runner for over 25 years
Profile: Finished the 1st Trans Am event, several Spartalons in Greece plus several multi-day events in Germany
2. Jurgen Hitzler, Germany: Ultra Runner for 23 years, Triple Iron Man,
Desert Cup in Jordan, European Triathlon Championship participant.
3. Franz Haesler: Participated at many European Ultra and multi-day events over 15 years.
4. * Dusan Mravje, Slowenia: 3rd at the Trans Australia race in 2001,
Westfield race in Australia, finisher of the Trans America race in 1995.
5. * Karl Graf, Germany: Holds several German records, 4x German
champion in 100k distance, Guiness Book of Record holder, vive European
Champion in 24hr team event.
6. Brigitta Biermanski, Germany: marathon des sables, 4x Western States
participant, Ascent of Mt./ Blanc and Aconcagua in Argentina,
7. Stefan Schlett, Germany: A professional extreme sports participant on
seven continents for 17 years. Owner of several German, European &
Finished the Trans America & Trans Australia races and many others.
8. * Robert Wimmer, Germany: Trained 7,000 k per year for this event and
announced “I will win this race” and he did.
9. Helmut Schieke, Germany: Former finisher of the Trans America and Trans
10. * Martin Wagen, Switzerland: Winner of the 2002 Trans America race.
11. * Wolfgang Schwerk, Germany: Runs from 170 – 240 k per month. Holds
vice world record in the 24 distance, German master in 100 k track,
Trans Australia race finisher with a new world record over 3,100 miles.
As one can see, the field had some quality runner, but also a few
totally inexperienced and unknowns in the Ultra distance field. Yet
it’s several of the latter that finished and did well, while several of
the potential favorites did not make it, mostly due to injuries.
A COUNTRY BY COUNTRY ACCOUNT IN A NUTSHELL
Lisbon is a very nice and colorful city, which I
discovered during my three-day stay prior to meeting the runners and
Ingo. During a press conference most runners, the Bayer rep
Ralph Esper, the local press and myself met to learn more about the
event and how things would evolve. On race day the sun shone brightly
making for a great start and all were happy. Initially the entire
contingent of 44 runners started as a group and ran at a slow pace on
the edge of town till they crossed the river TEJO on a ferry (I think
traffic considerations made this the
My first problem was being unable to find the actual start, thus
missing a few shots, but luckily I took lots of them at the “real”
start where it counted in Lisbon.
Portugal is a relatively small country and after two days of
running across the mountainous landscape, we could not believe that we
were ready to cross into Spain.
It turned out that I was the only one with any kind of
Spanish language skills and all of a sudden I became the official
spokesperson for the group. Living in Southern California for many
years, I had acquired some basic Spanish language skills, but it often
proved insufficient to get across to our hosts what we needed. The
major questions we usually had upon arrival were:
1. Where are the toilets?
2. Where were the showers? More often then not, they were cold.
3. When can we get into the gym?
Unfortunately, sometimes we arrived at a new location and we were told
that either we could not get into the Gym itself till much later
because of local activities, pissing off the runners when they arrived.
4. Is there a phone line we can use to get onto the Internet (no charge to YOU)?
I had to post 25 digital images to two websites daily with one new
article in German and English, which our webmaster Sebastian Seyrich
and where ever possible. Initially we were on the web as late as 11pm or
12 am at night, getting less sleep then the runners. Eventually we
worked out a system that worked for all.
4. Food to feed close to 70 very hungry runners twice per day, meaning
we were always on the lookout for “inexpensive” restaurants very close
to our GYM, that would either deliver or be able to seat about 75
people at once so we could walk to.
5. Grappling with all the above proved often frustrating but also produced many humorous situations
Having a few experienced volunteers along helped alot indeed, at least they acted
Independently and did not have to be told everything.
6. In most countries we passed through smaller towns avoiding
having to navigate through traffic congestions. Our brightly colored
orange stickers with black arrows would be THE direction to follow
throughout Europe. As far as I know, no other group of any kind has
ever left such a trail over 5,100 kilometers across an entire
continent, plastered with over 20,000 stickers, but it did the job and
usually got us safe to the next place at night. That does not mean that
runners or drivers didn’t get lost at times (believe me I did several
times, royally) but with a little help from locals, volunteers, or the
police, nobody was ever lost for too long.
One day we passed by a cemetery and I took pictures
of a few runners with the cemetery as a backdrop. That night I put a
couple of these images on the website with the comment,
“Should one or more runner not make it, “he/she would not have far to go
to rest”. The following day the race director got a call from his wife
in Germany, saying the local paper had written that at the Trans
America race there were injured and DEAD runners. He was not too happy
about that I can tell you, BUT from that day on the numbers of visitors
to our site increased considerably and any attempt thereafter to
“censor” my daily reports were a fruitless attempt on his part.
Spain left us with these memories:
1. Much colder than anticipated and windy as hell
2. A broken luggage trailer, causing an extreme challenge for the race director
3. The great hospitality and help everywhere we were afforded by the locals
4. Great scenery and lovely small towns and villages
Several of our runners and or volunteers spoke French, so communication
was less of a problem here. Many runners had an anticipation of great
food. Although we did eat “in” a few times, the food was pretty good,
but apparently it was not always what the runners thought they ought to
get, but such is life in the big city and a reality, something many had
trouble getting used to. France overall had been very good to us with
warm welcomes, good food and a nice country-side, especially the many
nice smaller towns and villages many had heard about. Also the weather
cooperated with us, leaving us dry most of the time.
The runners by now had gotten into a running routine and about 15
of the eventual 22 that left the race had already left, mostly due to
injuries or the inability to keep up (if you can’t stand the heat, stay
out of the kitchen). Most thought that those still in the race would be
going all the way to Moscow and they were right (except me who lost a
bet, saying only 10 to 12 would make it all the way).
After France, a two-day tour through this very scenic
and hospitable country proved a good time for all. We had warm
welcomes, good food and despite the rain on one day, all enjoyed this
short interlude through the smallest country through which we would
pass through. We had no problem with the language as we had several
members of our running family that spoke French.
Most runners that still were in the race by now, were
pretty confident that they would reach Moscow. In addition several
German runners joined our team throughout Germany, running with us from
one day to several days. This was a welcome change for many of our
runners providing a change of pace of the daily grind.
Bayer is headquartered in Leverkusen, where they really laid out the
welcome mat for us. They had erected a huge stage, providing an
assortment of food and beverages with the attendence of “local” runners
and the press, providing a deserved welcome for the Trans Europe
runners, who all appreciated this special occasipon. A similar
treatment was afforded us in several other small German towns, a few
being the “home-towns” of a few German runners. We enjoyed home-cooked
food and warm hospitality and life was good, at least from my
viewpoint, since I did not have to run. However, we knew that things
would change once we reached Eastern Europe, and boy, did they ever.
Due to the effort of one Ludger Triebus, a former Bayer
employee with 5 years service in Moscow, we crossed the border in
record time. The runners were just “waived” through and cars spent less
than 15 minutes each to cross. Thus we landed in the border town of
Slubice. Next morning one of the crew vehicles had a busted window and
a missing car stereo. This unfortunate incident was not the start we
hoped for, but anything is possible in any border town. After that we
were always welcomed and enjoyed warm hospitality from all we came in
contact with. Food choices became fewer and several “Krauts” started to
complaint. I told them they had it too good at home and were spoiled
and that this was an adventure event and not the Ritz Carton. It didn’t
make me too popular, but it was true.
BELARUS (WHITE Russia).
The border crossing was a nightmare,
taking almost five hours for no apparent reason, other than that the
communist apparatus showed itself from its best (or worst) side,
working like it was designed to do, slow and infuriating to most that
came into contact with it.
The loss of a runner dims mood.
The darling of many, Japanese
female runner Hiroko Okiyama, a world-class runner, had to quit in
severe pain after just a couple of hours one morning. She left the next
day in tears and the overall mood became a little more somber for a
couple of days. Her forced departure was a shame because she had the
ability to go all the way, but like many Japanese runners in our group,
she went all out every day not listening when many told her to “slow
down”. She now paid the price.
In Belarus the proverbial shit started to hit the fan, as
sanitation really became the pits with toilets and showers being
nothing any of us had ever seen. I personally can put up with lots of
crap for a while, having traveled to several third-world countries, but
many Germans and a few other runners had a huge problem with this. This
started to contaminate the overall mood and cohesiveness of the entire
group with their daily bitching and complaining as if that would change
Naturally, the food many had expected was none-existing and not
available in stores, so all had to go with what was there, all along
moaning and groaning about it.
One morning Else and Martin Bayer, the couple that had bought all food
supplies up to this point, had enough of this constant complaining and
just announced they would leave NOW, leaving us unexpectedly in
somewhat of a lurch.
Everyone figured that all that were still in the race at
this point would finish, and that they did in great fashion and courage.
The race had come down to only two runners having a realistic chance of
winning. Robert Wimmer from Nuernberg Germany (my home-town) who had
said from the beginning that he ran to WIN the race and Martin Wagen
from Switzerland, who last year had won the Trans America event.
Get this. With about ten days to go, Robert had a four and a halv
hour lead when he got a stomach problem, causing him to lose all his
lead to Martin and then some.
No sooner was Robert well again, Martin became ill, all due to the “bad
water” as all runners claimed, resulting in many stomach ailments. The
water in Russia apparently contained some salt or similar ingredients
and who knows what else, causing some severely upset runners, to say
the least. Martin’s problem was that his illness lasted almost a week
and thus he lost any chance of winning. This showed once again that in
a long race like this, one never knows what will happen, and that it’s
not over till the fat lady sings, to coin a well-worn phrase. Thus it
seems useless to make any prediction, which did not keep me from making
one, promptly losing the bet. After the initial 18 or so runners quit
early on, I said no more than 10 – 12 would finish, well did I have egg
on my face in Moscow.
On Friday, August 21st.2003. our stage ended just on the outskirts
of Moscow. Next day we would have a leisurely 10 k group run to near
the city, escorted by the police. As the official, photographer and
fellow ultra runner I “had” to run this stretch, if for no other reason
to get the best pictures of “my runners” and I did. When we arrived
near the finish I was soaked, after running 10 k with a heavy camera
taking several hundred pictures, but it was worth it.
Now imagine this:
A police car gave me a short ride near the
finish so I could take finishing shots of all runners as they arrived.
Well, nobody knew exactly where the finish line was. So I took matters
into my own hands, just like I was taught as a good manager. Seeing
this humongous monument, I figured this had to be it and I led all
runners towards this spot.
The hugging and handshaking started with me going crazy capturing all that on my camera.
Fifteen minutes or so later while all the celebrating went on, some
one said, “this is not the finish line”, pointing the way to where it
actually was. There a huge crowd plus the press were waiting for us.
This could only happen in Russia I tell you, but what the hell. Not to
be outdone that late in the game I pushed my way to the very front line
to capture the runners as they came across the finish line. During the
ensuing melee, I knocked a couple of home-town photographer down, but
this was my finish, my runners to capture and nobody would spoil my
day, and they didn’t.
On Saturday evening Bayer hosted a very nice party at their Moscow
headquarter, much to the enjoyment of all runners, volunteers, Bayer
employees and me. The mood was celebratory, now that the pressure was
off and the race was over.
On Sunday there was to be an official celebration and ceremony on a
stage in Moscow, especially for the 22 runners that finished the race,
followed by a ten k race where anyone could participate, including our
runners. The president of the Olympic Committee was the official host,
all only possible through the connection of our Russian contact
Now get this:
Half of the runners, together with the Race
Director Ingo Schulze, had left Moscow already that morning. We drummed
up 22 people, consisting of a few actual runners who were part of the
official 22 finishers plus a few volunteers and yours truly. I don’t
know how, but the committee assumed (we did not try to dispel this
assumption) that we were the official 22 finishers, and accorded us the
honor and celebration we so richly deserved.
This is good because in Russia it’s a very bad thing to lose face,
especially since our Russian contact – a former high Soviet official –
had arranged for all that and we did not want him to look bad. A
couple of days later I put together a photo CD with some runners and
images I took of the celebration, thus helping in saving the day.
All I can say is this:
The entire event from Lisbon to Moscow
was one great adventure and I am very glad that I had the opportunity
to take part in it. I met lots of great people, made several new
friends and will always treasure these nine weeks as an important party
of my life, not to mention the fun I had taking close to ten thousand
Was this race tougher than the Trans America or the Trans Australia race?
The daily stages were longer, the conditions often more primitive and
the overall feel of being a harmonious group was missing, several runners had told me.
>From my perspective as a non-runner I want to say this:
event definitely had to be much tougher to organize and keep control
over in every aspect and much credit must go to Ingo Schulze, the race
director. Granted, Ingo is a capable race director, but a lousy PR
person, which caused a few problems along the way.
However, overall I want to say that the Trans Europe Foot Race was a
success since 22 of 44 runners had reached Moscow without serious
incidents, not counting the one time when Bernard, the French
Wheel-chair participant got hit by a car, throwing him from his chair.
The single biggest problem?
Ingo was spread too thin and took
on too many chores, which sometimes showed when he lost his composure.
This was understandable but could have been avoided had he one more
“right-hand” person to rely on and do PR work.
That person would have driven ahead every morning to that night’s
destination, making sure the quarters and food for all were arranged
and if not, do so on the spot. With this, most unplanned and or
unpleasant surprises could have been avoided, I am sure.
Did he not think about this or were financial considerations preventing
him from doing so? By charging Euros 4,000.00 rather than the Euros
3,000.00 that was charged there might have been enough money for that..
Was the race a success?
My honest answer is YES. Ingo brought 22 runners all the way to Moscow disregarding
the often unacceptable conditions, that he had little control over.
Under the circumstances the food was very good and the quarters were more or less what we could expect.
Was there maximum safety for runners? No, on the road there often were
risks from traffic, bad roads and hard to follow directions. But it’s
difficult to control traffic conditions in a foreign country although
in Belarus and Russia we almost always had a police escort for the
Will there be a second Trans Europe race?
At this point I
would have to say NO. For one, the novelty is gone, and it’s the
longest race in the world to date, which would be hard to top. Also I
doubt that many of the volunteers and people that helped would do it
again? Would I? I might, but then I may never have to make this
Thus another milestone in Ultra Running has been set, with the one question remaining:
WHAT WILL BE NEXT???
Perhaps a race across AFRICA? Why not, I am sure a few crazies will
always come, including me, if only to take pictures of them and the
scenery of course.
Article and photos by: Jürgen Ankenbrand
© Jürgen Ankenbrand, September 2003