I’m currently at the
Nürburgring. I managed to squeeze in a lap of the Nordschleife this evening (I was shit and very nervous. It definitely showed the limits of my driving talent and the fact that I haven’t got to grips with my M3 at all). On the positive side I didn’t crash it.
Getting here meant driving about 470 miles today. With only one stop and that was for fuel only.
But the main reason for driving that distance was not to do a single lap of the circuit. It is to run in the Nurburgring-Lauf. 15 miles and a 1000ft incline. It’s going to be the single most challenging race I’ve ever entered. My only ambition is to finish - I am not a good hill runner.
And then of course I’ve got a 470 mile drive home to look forward to the day after the race…
Perhaps I should start off by pointing out that this race has been on my bucket list for as long as I’ve had a bucket list. It’s been over 10 years since I first visited the Nurburgring and about 7 years since I last made the journey. Much has changed both for me and for the circuit during the intervening years.
As I’ve developed into a runner over the past 5 years I’ve kept my eyes open for opportunities to run different types of races, that’s most obviously meant taking on obstacle course style races but more recently has involved having a go at the Red Bull Wings For Life World Run.
But for a couple of years my heart had been set on running the annual Nurburgring-Lauf. However wanting to do it and actually doing it are two different things. I always find reasons not to do things, and for the last couple of years my PhD has provided all the excuses anybody could need to delay taking on significant challenges.
Those excuses ran out this year. Not because the PhD is finished (I wish that were the case), but because of all the shit that I have been subject to over the last 8 months (for those not keeping track I was subject to some fairly shabby behaviour by a partner) - I needed to do something on my own that was just for me. This race was it.
Even then, it wasn’t just a case of me being able to just say ‘fuck it’ and go. If I was going to be at the Nurburgring for a run then I’d also want to drive the circuit. That meant that I’d need to drive to the circuit, which involves a not insignificant 1000 mile (1600km) round trip and about 18 hours in my car in total. Doing things the easy way isn’t normally the route that I take!
And finally we had the issue of cost. Strangely my M3 isn’t the most economic of vehicles so by the time I’d factored in petrol costs, a hotel for a couple of nights and a ticket on the Eurotunnel I was staring at a race that was going to cost me around $1000 to enter. Not a cost that I could easily absorb.
But like I said, it’s been a shit year.
That’s why I found myself in my car starting the journey last Friday morning.
We’ll gloss over the journey, saying only that it’s just my luck that my travel attempts coincided with immigration troubles (and associated traffic jams) near the Eurotunnel entrance. Leaving a couple of hours early turned out to be a very wise decision.
Arriving at Nurburg on the Friday afternoon gave me the opportunity to get in a lap of the Nordschleife in my car. Numerous lessons were learned including the fact that I really don’t feel confident in the M3 and how it is going to behave on the limit (not helped by the limit being at much higher speeds than I’m used to), but perhaps more importantly how my outlook has changed. It’s not that I’m more cautious, in many ways I actually take more risks now than when I was younger, instead I’m just far more aware of the potential consequences of my choices. So I settled for doing a very sedate lap of the circuit, with an eye on making sure that I had a car to drive home at the end of it!
That meant that I had plenty of time to pick up my race pack on Friday evening and get myself ready for an early start on Saturday.
Now I knew from the outset that this would be a hard race. The Nurburgring is situated in the Eifel region of Germany and is famous for its changes in elevation and being 1000ft above sea level at it’s.lowest point. I live in Norfolk, England a region famous for having no changes in elevation and being 20ft above see level.
Can anyone see a potential problem?
I thought I knew in advance how hilly it was. I thought that having driven it I knew how hilly it was.
It turns out that I didn’t. I really didn’t.
Nothing prepared me for what a 1000ft constant incline feels like after you’ve already run 7.5 miles. It begins at the Breidscheid bends and seems to go on forever. Then just when you think you’ve survived it you realise that at least half of the Döttinger Höhe straight is bloody uphill too!
The hills broke my legs and my broke my spirits. I slowed down to a crawl but I managed to pretty much keep moving all the time.
The toughest run I have ever done. By a long way.
The end result was a time of 2hrs 4m 43s to complete the 15 mile course. That got me a final placing of 170 out of 858 male entries and 32nd in my age group. In all honesty that’s slower than I would have liked but indicative of not being entirely prepared for the challenge that this race represented.
So it’s ticked off the bucket list, but maybe the Nurburgring-Lauf and I have some unfinished business that should be resolved next year. After all it would be nice to finish in under 2 hours wouldn’t it?