The ‘What the F* Am I Doing That For?’ Feeling“… That’s the thought I got in my head in the middle of the Hochkönigman (Marathon Trail) race, which has been advertising itself with “The ‘Winners Never Give Up’ Feeling“.

Maria Alm, where we started and finished, is pretty enough.

Maria Alm


The Über-Drüber-Marathon in Kirchdorf, Upper Austria, was not that far ago and hadn’t gone so badly, if with cramps; the Rome Marathon had delivered nice impressions even as it didn’t go well – and those two races had pretty much been most of my training of recent weeks.

As a result, the Hochkönigman was tough.

As usual, though, I can add “The ‘It’s So Good When It’s Over’ Feeling” to the mix, and the impressions from the Hochkönigman were memorable, the memories were worth it.


Not far from the Grossglockner, Austria’s highest mountain and source of some other memorable experiences of mine, lies the Hochkönig, the arena for the Hochkönigman set of races.

In a nice mix, the weekend of this event starts with a little obstacle course race for the adventurous and fun-loving folks, then sees the “Endurance Trail” ultramarathon runners set off on their 85 km course in the middle of the night.

(And I had been “hired” by the race organizer, once again Austria’s trail running rock Thomas Bosnjak, to do the English race briefing for the international participants.)

The next morning, we met for the “Marathon Trail” race briefing (again with my translating, already in full race gear) before setting off on our course with 47 km of distance and 2700 m of elevation difference.

Track of the Hochkönigman Marathon Trail

The track we took, as I recorded it with my Ambit3 Peak. (Map screenshot from Movescount.)

Later in the day, the “Speed Trail” runners also took off on their different course, but by then we marathon runners already went off the track shared with the Endurance Trail and back to where the two routes came together again.

Starting out going up immediately, this was one race where it really pays to pay close attention to the elevation profile.


That elevation profile (again, as recorded and visible on my Movescount page.)

Even so, it was tough: There is that immediate climb right from the start… and then you go down again. Up again as before, and down again. And only then the real climb begins, going from around 1000 m of elevation up to 2100 within some 7 km, starting only at km 20…


Of course, when you think you’re done with that climbing, the last few meters of ascent are yet to come, and not easy.


And then?

Well, if you go up, you must come down again, as you will over the course of the last few kilometers. All the way back down from 2000 m to 800.

My saving grace was that I had, in something of an impulsive decision, taken my new Icebug Mist as my running shoes of choice.

I had wanted to take the Acceleritas 4, with which I’d done quite a few of my recent training runs, but at the last moment, I thought that the trails might well not be technical enough and the Mist are definitely better cushioned – and with quite a bit of road running and hard trails, and even more mud and some slush from the recent rains, they proved the perfect choice. Even as I had hardly ever worn them before.

Icebug Mist post-Hochkönigman

Icebug Mist post-Hochkönigman. Now they are well worn-in.

Yes, my feet did get wetter than I might have liked, but just taking the straight line through the slosh, knowing that shoes and feet would be dry enough again, without bothering to try and avoid mud, knowing that the grip on wet grass would be great just as long as I let it rip and didn’t try to stop, the downhills were fun.

That was pretty much my race strategy, partly as strategy, partly just because I’m a weak runner, too: Walk and power hike the ascents, just be happy as long as it’s still possible to move and not get any cramps – and boy, did I find myself on the ground trying to stretch out before anything happened, a lot, with all those long climbs! – and then see if the descents don’t just draw you down.

Me, they did.

I started out in the very back of the pack on the first climb; fast runners were soon gone, but I overtook enough people – and had enough chances for just running with others, not talking but still happy to be in company. Or passing or letting others pass, however it went.

It went quite well.

We got lucky with the weather, not getting any thunderstorms, having quite a lot of sun, some fog and clouds and a little soothing rain. The views were all the nicer for the interest that the changing conditions created, and even through the exhaustion – thanks to the low speed? ;) – great views were to be had.


In the end, I also got myself a cheeky little souvenir from “Ein Schöner Fleck Erde” (website only in German) – A Beautiful Part of Earth, as the company is called.

They make organic cotton underwear and baby things, most with place names from Austria that do, strategically positioned as they are on their wares, get rather different connotations… the Hochkönig, for example, translates to the High King…

(And no, they do not – yet? – have anything using the most famous of such place names.)


I’m sure this is just the final image y’all expected to see! ;)

… and funnily, we also had a lesson in how relaxed Austrian society can deal with such things, as the showers (all cold) hadn’t been separated into men’s and women’s, and we ended up mixing in them. Talking in the nude without any issues while people in the US seem to have their panties in a bunch over transgender people and bathrooms… rather nice.

We’re all human, as runners especially. It just takes  a little respect.

Let’s not finish here, though, but with an offer to virtually accompany me along that run:

If you have to have a fast race with lots of quick changes in the track, I’m not sure this race would be for you. It’s more for those who are either great mountain runners or at least tough enough for looong climbs and downhills. With those, though, it was great fun.

Certainly it was great fun now that I can look back on it…