Alle zeigen - Bericht von Andre Hall zum sparkassen-alb-marathon:
Andre Hall , 23.10.2011

Alb Marathon 2011

22 October started COLD (-4C), but with the promise of an absolutely breathtaking day. The day did in fact unfold as the perfect day for the 21st edition of the Alb Marathon.

The Sparkassen Alb Marathon starts and finishes in Schwäbisch Gmünd which lies between the edge of the Welzheimer Wald in the north and the foothills of the Schwäbische Alb. The primary 50KM course proceeds over the three Kaiserberge, Hohenstaufen, Rechberg and Stuifen. Elevation change over the primary course is 1070 meters.

2011 found 407 runners signed up for the 50KM route, 209 for the 25KM, 138 for the 10KM and 35 for the walking course. At about 1000 616 runners started the 50 and 25KM races from the Market Place in downtown Schwäbisch Gmünd.

While waiting in the start area listening to all of the local prominent personalities speak about really important things (note heavy sarcasm) I thought about what had brought me back to the Alb Marathon for the third year in a row. It certainly was not the prominent personalities and the glamour and glitz the surrounds the start of just about any race. (I really don’t get the speeches, glamour and glitz thing at any race. The personalities try to motivate the runners by yelling, screaming and cheering while most have no real clue about what their talking, nor does anyone that’s actually running give a hoot. Sorry… I digress!) No, it was the race itself, the people running and the spectacular race course. 616 runners corralled together waiting on the start – there's energy in the air. There's the overwhelming feeling that this is going to be a great day. Finally… Start, like in 2010 at 1002 (The announcer got carried away again)! And, the mass of runners lurches forward and the motivated commentators fade away as a bad memory and we all run out of town…

The first ten kilometers pass over sidewalks, small streets, through the park and small rises and falls of terrain. I had forgotten how fast the rest/drink stops come here at the Alb Marathon. The first one was very near the 5KM mark and the remainder are well distributed over the entire course. Inclusive of the three Kaiserberge there are a couple of other significant climbs that you face as you run the 50KM course. One of my favorites is on the “Ho Chi Minh Trail” between kilometers 28 – 31. This portion of the course takes you around and over a terrain feature just north of Wissgoldingen and is a super mix of gravel roads and trail. You’ll need a sure foot and a steady gait to avoid the roots and stones that litter the trail. I remain convinced that the best part of the Alb Marathon is after Hohenrechberg and kilometer 25. This is where the field really thins and the terrain gets much closer to a cross-race. Ultrarunning is played out mostly in your head. Mentally, the toughest part of the Alb Marathon occurs for me between kilometers 35 and 38 as you do an out and back leg to re-join the main route. This portion of the route sees runners coming and going in both directions and depending on your state of mind it can play a motivational trick on you. After kilometer 38 most of the course is down hill or flat as it runs its course along a former rail line back into Schwäbisch Gmünd – smooth and easy. All told the race course is very well marked with signs and painted markings on the trail. Road crossings and any other hazards are well controlled by the local police and race volunteers.

Logistics for the Alb Marathon get a fair rating this year. Registration is possible in advance on-line with various price categories dependent upon when you sign up. The on-line registration service is easy works very well. Late registration is also possible the morning of the race for a little more money and your willingness to stand in line to get signed up. For those that had pre-registered check in and stater packet pick up was smooth and easy. The Prediger was extremely packed this year with runners, family and friends and sponsor booths. Get here early! Registration costs include registration, snacks at the rest stops and a finisher medal. In 2009 these costs also included a finisher tee-shirt, something I wish the organization team would bring back.

Like 2009 I was a bit disappointed in the refreshment stations over the course of the race. I have to be honest and tell you that I carried most of my food and water with me so I was not dependent upon the rest stops for support. All refreshments stations were well manned with motivated and friendly volunteers and there was more than enough to drink (water, tea, Iso drink and cola). This year food was in sparse supply with bananas, white toast bread and a few pretzels available. I ran the race at the middle of the pack and was generally disappointed in what was available as most of the food had already been picked through – hard to tell what the second half of the field had when they arrived at the stations.

Getting organized for the race remains a bit complicated unless you are familiar with Schwäbisch Gmünd and the race headquarters. Parking in 2011 was horrible. The parking garage I had parked in the last two years had just been torn down and was a field of rubble and heavy construction equipment. With about 50 minutes to go prior to the start I parked on the street, paid my parking fee which was only good until 1015 (the maximum parking period allowed) and hoped that the Meter Maids would let me get away with being gone until after 1500. Thankfully they did… From my “remote parking” I spent about ten minutes getting oriented and making my way to the race headquarters. If you are not familiar with Schwäbisch Gmünd and the Alb Marathon plan to arrive early to find parking and the Prediger Refektorium, the former is at a premium on a Saturday morning and the later is not well marked.

Prior to the start of the race runners spent a lot of time waiting in line to use the limited amount of port-a-potties that were available (The organizers hung signs in the Prediger which discouraged people from using the rest rooms in this lovely building). Forming up for the race was a bit disorganized as the race start area is not marked well, nor do the announcers offer much guidance (recall my heavy sarcasm above). The start takes place on Schwäbisch Gmünd’s central market square. If you’re running and new to the race simply line up in front of the stage to enjoy the commentary and get behind the starting gate.

All-in-all, the Alb Marathon of 2011 was a super event. The weather, field of runners and volunteers were perfect. My fingers are crossed that this race will continue and improve over the course of the next years. Like in 2009 and 2010 I highly recommend the Alb Marathon to new and experienced runners.

© Andre Hall, 23.10.2011

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