The Big Run into Oktoberfest

The first day of Oktoberfest was Saturday 9/17 and it came with low temperatures and lots of cold rain. Patrick and I were on the edge about whether we should try to go to the kickoff festivities. We had heard to get seats in the tents you would need to arrive before 8AM to get in line. The tents would open at 9AM, but the first beer isn’t served until the Oktoberfest Parade makes it’s way to the festival grounds around noon. At that time, the Mayor of Munich taps the first keg of Oktoberfest beer to begin the festival. As much as standing in the cold rain without beer sounded enticing, we took the day to recover from all of our traveling/visitors and planned the big 22 mile run for the next day. We broke it up into two loops bringing us back to the apartment. There are not public water fountains outside of a few statue like spouts in the city center, so we would need to come back to our base to refill our water bottles. The first loop was 13 miles, through the Englischer Garten and down the river, and the second loop was 9 miles, tracing some of the actual marathon course. Sunday comes and it is pouring rain outside. It’s also 43 degrees. Nothing says lets go for a nice voluntary 4ish hour run like torrential downpour and temperatures colder than some of Houston’s winters.

The rain subsided around 9AM and became a light mist, so we decided this was as good as it was going to get and geared up. The first 13 miles were pretty good! Once we warmed up the temperature wasn’t an issue and the dreary weather just made me more determined to get the run done. On our way back to the apartment we have to cross a main street, Maximilianstraße. When we got to the street the parade was in full flight and spectators were crowding around the edge of the curbs. The participants in the parade were in full attire, lederhosen for the men and dirndl’s for the women. They had nice looking bavarian jackets over their outfits as well, which I found to be a key indicator for deciphering Germans and tourists from a crowd. The lack of proper cold weather attire really shows your true colors, surprisingly jean jackets are not apart of Bavarian tradition. Some of the parade participants were carrying flags or flowers. Others were marching in unison to the beat of instruments. We really looked out of place as we continued to jog along the street and a few tourists gave us a double take, probably wondering what mad people would be running in this weather and in this location. We got back to the apartment, shed some extra layers and took off for the last 9 miles!

Oktoberfest Parade along Maximilianstaße

We ran through some scenic areas, but the rain picked up and so it felt colder outside. We did a stretch of the marathon course that Patrick said is the most uphill, it was a general incline over about a half mile. When my Garmin hit mile 18, I was definitely tired, but I was in good spirits because I could already tell there were no mental walls ahead – ‘psshhh, what’s five more miles.’ Patrick had planned the route, so he probably realized before he said anything, but he made a mumbling saying “we’re going to be long.” I didn’t know what he meant, that could mean a number of things! Only to realize he meant that if we continue on this course, we will be over the 22 mile mark. I didn’t ask how long or really say anything other than, “ok, that’s ok.” I was worried he would say exactly how long and I didn’t want to include that in my internal mile countdown. Anything over 22 would just be bonus and would not even be mentally considered until we got there I decided. The rain kept coming. I was obviously tired, but didn’t feel like I had to stop. What more can you ask for on your longest training run and distance to date?

Germans abide by traffic laws very obediently, so when you get to a crosswalk, no one crosses unless you have the green little man. We generally try to follow the German way, after all we don’t want to come across like lawless, obnoxious Americans! But near the end of our run, we kept running into some red lights. Like every 3-4 blocks. The constant stopping and starting was mind numbing and driving me crazy! We were so close, but once we got warmed up we had to stop, stand in the rain, wait for the little green man and repeat. On top of that, we had to look up where to go a few times. More standing. Amidst this struggle we realized we could take a shorter route back home. When my Garmin hit 22, I let out a little “yippee!” and sang a short verse of “I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling 22-oh-ohhhh.”

Happiness at the 22 mile mark

Not only was I feeling 22, but also 23. The run ended up being closer to 23 miles and would’ve been closer to 24 if we didn’t re-route at the end. It took us just over 4 hours with all the breaks. When we got home we had some chocolate milk and made a full breakfast to replenish some of the thousands of calories we had just burned off. I often get asked what I think about while running, since I don’t listen to headphones. The most consistent topic of conversation I’ve found to be food related. Case and point, Patrick and I talked about that chocolate milk at least 4 times. By the time we got back we had already established who was to start cooking and who was to go get Starbucks, but not before our glass of Fischer Kakao.

It’s not too often that you get the chance to do something entirely new. For me, this 22 (cough 23 cough) mile run is a whole new story from any of my past long runs. Not just because it’s the farthest distance, but because every run is different. The next time I run 22 miles I will likely be in Houston, on a different route, in a different climate, and with different people. But even if I were to re-trace this same route again, the outcome is never guaranteed to be the same. Lately, I’ve started to look at every run as a chance to find something new.

A yoga teacher once told me (and the other 50 people in class) to go into a pose “as if there is something there for you, something other than what you expect.” I took that advice and started applying it to my practice. Instead of going through the motions of the class, I would make changes and try pushing myself to a new level in a pose. I also started applying that advice to my every day life. I’ve been trying to stop going into each day of the week, already knowing what I expect out of the day. Stop letting my worries or scheduled activities decide the course of my day. I’ve been leaving the expectations unwritten. And when faced with the challenges of the daily grind, I’ve been trying to remember that even when things are stressful or not going as planned, that there is still something new there for me. There is always a chance to gain something new.

10 days to go until the München Marathon.

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