Welschlauf 2008 – Climbing the podium

DSCF1744.JPG What a climber! Christian Kleineberg, a fellow runner and friend, took on the challenge of the Welschlauf 2008, a mountain roller coaster that goes under the name of marathon, and climbed not only almost 1.400 meters in altitude but also the podium.
In tandem with Erich Grailer, I escorted Christian through the beautiful countryside of the South Styrian Weinstraße on his way to an astonishing 3rd place and a remarkable time of 3:05:22 hrs.

DSCF1629.JPG A few years back I bought a mountain bike in order to be able to go with Erwin and ride the Großglockner Hochalpenstraße. In order to prepare for the challenge, I went on sorties to the Weinstraße for a good exercise. The Weinstraße can get breath-takingly steep at times, and you have to work hard on your bike to reach the next ridge.
Back then, running on these streets seemed, at least for me, as outlandish as walking on the moon.

So, if your occasional marathon poses hardly an challenge any more, there is always the Welschlauf to indulge your penchant for the extraordinary and to instill some adrenaline into your running routine.
DSCF1547.JPG The Welschlauf is run between Wies and Ehrenhausen in the very south part of Styria, Austria. Besides offering breath-taking views of the rolling South Styrian wine hills, it literally takes the runners’ breath away any time it greets them with one of its relenting climbs. On and on it goes, up and down, like an endless roller-coaster ride – only a lot slower and a whole lot harder. At rare times it is fun, most of the times, however, pure torture – a look into the eyes of those brave enough to take on the challenge grants direct views into human joy and suffering .
Christian is one of them and his response to a daunting 1.400 meters climb and 42.195 meters was a daring and tenacious one. If you watch him run, his step is easy and ergonomic – reminiscent of those of a cheetah and mountain goat when it comes to the Welschlauf. He appears slow but, man, try to keep up with him. His step never seems to falter, even on the steepest parts. Still, there were times where he had to fight – the steep track, the chillingly strong head winds, the scorching sun.
Between kilometer 14 and 18 the track poses a sharp 4 km climb from St. Johann to Karnerberg. This is were it is at its most inexorable. You have to be a keen runner with a lot of guts to launch an attack there. At that distance, it’s still early into a marathon and a badly measured challenge can easily backfire on the last 12 kilometers. Still, Christian took the risk and distanced his fellow runners by 1.40 minutes on only 4 kilometers. Running more than 20 kilometers on your own is a hard undertaking, all the more when you are greeted with strong winds on the plateau. DSCF1701.JPG
But Christian remained strong, confident and kept his wits together. He sagely paced his race, keeping opponents and cramps in check and deployed his energy thriftly.
DSCF1740.JPG Thus, after an epic day crossing the Weinstraße from West to East, he arrived in Ehrenhausen, welcomed by a cheering crowd and the sparkling eyes and big smile of his son, Timon; just in time for a rewarding denouement, finishing in 3:05:22 hrs on 3rd place. Congratulations Christian, you have conquered one of the hardest runs in Austria.
Shots from the marathon on Flickr.
Results from Pentek Timing