The 24 Hours Burgenland Extreme has, from its inception, been a fun extreme.
Walking, running, crawling – whatever you have to do – around the Neusiedler See lake in the middle of winter is definitely quite crazy.
Why? To Live, Love, Move – or More?
The intent, though, is just to get people out and moving, however fast and however far they can and want to go.
Still, even if the experience is the focus, the time is not officially counted, such an event attracts many a competitive runner.
The “I could try this craziness and see how it goes”-crowd dominates, and it is all the more fun for that, but there is a competitive edge as well.
Runner/racer or not, this makes the psychology of this tour its greatest peculiarity.
For me, this time around, that was all the more the case:
One of the event’s draws for me is that it takes place in what is basically my backyard, running-wise.
And so, I decided to do things differently this time and just start out right on my front steps, run past the starting line and starting time, then continue with the others to finish my own circle.
A Solitary Start
Normally, an event like this will just carry you along. At least at the start, when you set out along with hundreds of other participants.
And I am among those who typically set out with just too much fun, and thus with too much speed.
Having decided to start at home and already run/walk to the start, things were rather different.
I tried to relax, get ready for the lack of sleep this activity would entail, finish some chores so my wife wouldn’t have to suffer my absence, organized all the gear… then decided it was time, kissed my wife good night, and went out into the dark.
First along one of my usual training routes, then onwards on a bike trail I had wanted to explore before, I ran in moonlight until clouds covered it.
There, the path I took was completely different, then just parallel to the event’s (final) trail.
On and on into the depth of the night, it is strange and strangely enticing to be running.
Not very recommendable in terms of its health effects (you should rather get your sleep), but always fascinating in its oddity. To move for miles when most people only move themselves into their beds…
Some time in, in the dead of the night, the path got to be quite strange.
Away from villages for the most part, but sometimes still skirting them, with clouds having hidden the moon, it all felt like there should be no light.
But there was quite enough light to see the path very well without the headlamp, and even a lot of the landscape around.
All in a diffuse glow that seemed to emanate from everywhere and nowhere, in a way that had me thinking that this would be the perfect atmosphere for a sci-fi flick in which alien spaceships suddenly dove down through the clouds.
The only thing that actually happened was that I got to the end of my alternative path and onto the ordinary route of the trail.
Some of the cyclists who were on their three laps around the lake whizzed past; I encountered a couple which also hiked to the start from where they lived (in Neusiedl).
The path continued.
Not tired, since this was only the beginning, this part of the event’s trail felt quite different from how it had felt on earlier outings here, when this section was the last bit still missing to get to the finish.
This time, I was here to get to the start, as I did with one-and-a-half hours still to spare.
Pick up starter bag and bib number, chat with friends and acquaintances, have a light breakfast and rest a bit – those were the concerns. Pause the activity recordings on the watches I was carrying for testing purposes.
And a Mass Re-Start, After the Mass
With that, I waited for the real start of the tour… and for once, I was not right there with the press of people out front. I watched them go, turned around to go to the toilet, then started – as just about the last person.
Seeing the long line of people in front of me was quite amazing; never before had I noticed quite like that just how many participants this event had gained.
For once, also, I actually was able to pass masses of people as I made my own path, at my own pace, along the trail.
The Strange Psychology of Being 30 km “In Front”
The tour went as it always does.
Some places, you just feel like running (if you aren’t strictly a walker), so you run.
Others you don’t, so you just walk.
Sometimes you find someone to talk with for a bit, or to join up and walk a bit of the path together.
Other times, you move in silence, in a crowd or by yourself. For yourself, anyways, always.
Sometimes someone tempts you to want to be faster, to keep ahead or get ahead.
Other times, you don’t worry about the pace, especially considering how much of a way is still left until the end, anyways.
All that is always in one’s mind. At least in my mind.
Having started from home rather than from the official start made it all quite peculiar, though.
Normally, I can only tell myself that I really should go slower, should not care about other’s speed – but it’s hard not to get caught up in a little bit of a competitive spirit, even in an event like this which is not about competing.
This time, however, I was also able to tell myself that actually, I was 30 kilometers ahead of the people around me, given how I’d started out 30 km from the starting line.
For that, I felt comparatively fresh…
Of course, that’s not to say that nothing ever started hurting; it sure did. And it hadn’t helped that I finally had gone to some martial arts practice again the weekend before. And carried my DJI Spark drone with me, just in case.
118 KM, In the Cold – To Happiness
My circle eventually ended in Neusiedl, north of the lake, again.
Then and there, I didn’t completely close the circle, but had covered more distance than necessary to get once around the lake.
There and that way, another bit of psychology comes into play, again: The question we also considered for winter running motivation, the why.
Why would you ever submit yourself to a punishing activity such as this, many people – who don’t participate themselves – typically ask.
There are so few chances to see what we’re capable of, physically, as bodies, nowadays. We stay indoors only too much, even when we journey, so much of it is not in the measure of our steps but in yet another box.
In all that, it is tremendously interesting to feel the cold, feel able to handle it – though I’ll admit, I never took out the drone because it was just too uncomfortable (non-freezing as it was this time) for that – cover an outrageous seeming distance on just one’s own two feet.
Yes, feet, legs, even the back – something or everything will start to hurt and be sore for a while longer yet. And pass.
The feeling of accomplishment, the knowledge that such a march is within one’s capabilities, remains.