Full (Vienna) Circle Into the New Year

How do you make yourself at home where you are, as you are, but with growth and learning?

For me, in 2012, this was very much about physical activity around the places where I live.

Often enough, truly around, seeing how I usually run in circles – and tried to circle around Vienna.

The prior (second) attempt at that had failed, so I decided to give it a third try, and to make it all the more interesting – and perhaps harder – by doing so from New Year’s Eve into New Year’s Day, all through the night.

One City. One Night.


According to my trusty Suunto Ambit – see the “move” here -, in the end, it was 16 hours 25 minutes on the go, 100 km (as recorded with 10 sec GPS fix; the recording at 1 sec using the GPS Track POD – which I did not recharge – stopped after 15 hours 45 minutes when it was at 100.5 km – “move” here).
Ascent: 1488 m.
Funnily, the calculated training effect was only 3.6 (according to Ambit/Movescount; 4.3 according to the t6c)…

While others met to party, count in the new year, get inebriated and then play with fireworks out in the cold and crowded streets, I ran (some of the time) and walked (a whole lot more often).

Trying to write about all the reasons for doing so, all the experiences gained by doing it, presents a strange problem:

The only reason is that I’ve become fascinated by the idea of being able to cover great distances, on foot, preferably in one go. So, to see if I could do that – in this case, by getting around Vienna – I did it.

The hiking paths that lead around town are there, so I used those… and besides, I certainly wouldn’t want to forfeit a chance at seeing more of town so intimately, reduce the event to nothing but its physical side, and run 100 k in the Prater park/amusement area (in a circle that’s 2.5 km…), or a marathon indoors.

Why this date?

New Year’s Eve was a time when people would be out and about, so that it wouldn’t be so strange, lonesome, and devoid of sensory impression to pick that date, and it would be a good end and beginning to the years – or I’m just rationalizing that, because I really don’t care too much about extremes of stimuli such as fireworks.

Why do it alone?

Why not?

Why self-supported?

Again, why not? It’s possible, especially now that temperatures are lower (meaning that not as much water is needed), it actually helps reduce impact (You ever really noticed all the plastic trash left behind after big marathon events?), and it raised the stakes.

What equipment did you use?

As mentioned before, the Suunto Ambit for recording heart rate and track as well as for the navigation. (In fact, I completely went without a map this time, just the route saved to the Ambit. Not the most highly recommendable approach, but the only time I got lost was when I thought I didn’t need to follow the pre-set line…)
For clothes, the usual CW-X Insulator tights and top, a Windstopper top, and eventually also an insulated jacket… yeah, it got cold.
Shoes: Salomon S-Lab… which once again proved to be rather too small in the toebox.
For carrying water, food, etc.: Ultimate Direction’s Adventure Vest (the Peter Bakwin model in their new Signature Series), which I’ll probably want to review soon… it held up perfectly.

Wasn’t it particularly difficult at night, alone, in the cold?

It was easier, in a way.

Being alone also means that you have only your own pain and exhaustion to deal with, are free to decide how fast or slow you want to go, whether you want to rest or not, without having to care for someone else.
Going through the night means that there is at once less to be seen all around, including distractions from the path in the form of other trails that look nice, but also that the wide views one sometimes gets are all the nicer.

Coming out on top of Vienna’s ‘mountains’ and having a sweeping vista of the whole of town, lit up at night… pretty fantastic. Seeing fireworks all around at midnight, as much as it also appalls me how much money is being pulverized and how much pollution is caused by that, was a nice added bonus.

Also, soon enough, there was no turning back. I couldn’t really have stopped and gone home at 2 a.m. when none of the public transport I’d needed was running.

Did it hurt?

Yup, of course. Right knee after only two hours or so, legs more and more, feet in particular, and ever worse. Pain is not the point, perseverance is. The hurting was helpful, as it were, because it made me slow down, not worry about the time it would take me, but only trudge on and finish. Embrace the pain, and you will remain :-p

Any lessons learned?

The still of the night may not be the usual time for us humans to be around, but that makes it all the better a time to be moving, sometimes. The senses are rather more acute, it is all the easier to pick out the rustling in the underbrush, notice the birds spooked out of the trees by one’s passing – at the same time at which the deprivation of so much visual input throws one back into oneself all the more.

Light, of course, becomes an important concern – and it’s fascinating to see how disturbing the bright lights with which we try to advertise and make high speeds safe are, whereas the motion at a natural pace, on a moonlit night like this was, is very often easier when using only moonlight to navigate in.

Sunlight, as in the passing of the days, becomes more noticeable again as well.
Starting out in sun, seeing that light fade away rather quickly (but spectacularly), getting back in the early dawn… it’s all a natural rhythm that we have forgotten so much.
Nature doesn’t care much about the new year as we celebrate it; it’s all about the sun and its solstices. Winter solstice was a few days ago, and it is the resumed lengthening of daylight that is of the real importance. Nights are getting shorter, days longer, the coldest days of winter are yet to come – and we have made ourselves more widely independent of these cycles at our own risk, same as we have gained a lot of capabilities by mechanized transport, but also forgotten and lost a lot: even a large part of our sense of being bodies, needing to be in motion, requiring a sensible balance between activity and comfortable passivity if we are to be good and become better.

What’s next?

Having done one strange, grand, great… whatever… feat, the expectation is always that there will (or even must) be more. 5 marathons plus this in 2012 – how many races will you run this year?

Fact is, this was also meant as a kind of test to see if I could and would want to participate in the Lavaredo Ultra in the Dolomites, which would run overnight, through the next day, and potentially through a second night. The Traunsee Bergmarathon would take place only a week afterwards, making for a challenge to work up to.

Both of these would interest me, in particular, because they’d qualify as (somewhat) local events to me, and they are very supportive of their local character (in the case of the Traunsee mountain marathon) and of their environmental responsibility (Lavaredo).

I won’t be able to do too much because we’re planning to spend this summer in China (it’s necessary), and I’m not really tempted to do something like the Vienna City Marathon again. Or actually, I am somewhat tempted because it’s a race early in the year and would be fun to compare times from last year to this – but thinking of the masses of people and the waste caused with the only “green” aspect of note being the pride in how quickly the trash will be collected and disposed of, without even a thought as to how to avoid it (at the Lavaredo Ultra, in contrast, participants *have* to bring their own bottles and there will simply be no disposable cups)… Not with me

So, it’s undecided as yet, but I will certainly focus more on the intrinsic motivation of the exploratory, active lifestyle (and its presentation here), rather than the extrinsic motivation of races to put on the calendar.

And if you are close by and want to join me, get in touch.
If you are somewhere else, get in touch with the land right at your feet, go out and explore, smell and taste it – get at home in it.

← Previous post

Next post →


  1. Congrats, genial and healty the idea to spend in this way the New Year’s Eve/Day. Really. Morever, Vienna is so darn beautiful.

    happy ’13

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.