The fortress of Hohensalzburg towers above Salzburg; the museums on and around the adjacent Mönchsberg give it even more cultural cachet and obvious Alpine character…

And yet, when you measure it in your own steps, you really get to know a place, and it turns out differently from how you may have thought it was.

The (In)Decision

This year, I did not make any plans to participate in races, but I ended up with some, anyways. Shorter ones than my more-usual ultramarathons.

In preparation, I thought it would be nice to run a marathon or half marathon. The Salzburg Marathon proved to be at just the right time. The course looked to be beautiful, and as the full marathon would be run in two circles, it gave me a good reason to try out just the half marathon.

(I’m actually a proponent of running in circles, and repeating it again and again – just not in single runs. I had that at the Bratislava Marathon last year, and it’s not that much fun.)

The Salzburg Marathon Course

In its (one-round, half marathon-distance) course, the Salzburg Marathon is very nice:

It starts out in front of Schloss Mirabell, goes past Salzburg’s baroque old town, down the Hellbrunn Alley to Schloss Hellbrunn and through its courtyard, through the Keltenallee (“Celts’ Alley”) and back up north around the pond Leopoldskroner Weihler, then up through a less-visited and less-interesting part of Salzburg (though that includes the Stiegl Brauwelt of the beer brewery). There, it meanders a bit until turning back to the Salza river, over one of its bridges, and back to the start.

Salzburg Marathon Course 2018

Salzburg Marathon Course 2018 [Source: Official Website]

The combination of straight, long alleys and meandering city roads, simple residential parts and impressive old architecture is very nice; the surface is mainly road but also some hard-packed dirt, the landscape is both urban and green… It is nicely diverse. And though Salzburg makes it sound like this would be an alpine run, it is actually very flat!

When you get to Salzburg, you just see the fortress, see the mountains in the city, have to walk up and down quite a bit… and don’t notice how flat its landscape actually is, except for those hills.

My Salzburg Marathon Experience

Normally, a 20 km run is an extended training/fun run for me. A run on which I’ll get places and often get a little lost.

The upside of that is that the distance was sure to be doable – but on the downside, I had practically no idea how to pace myself and what time to count with.

I’m not enough into racing (let alone fast enough) to care about times and personal bests a lot, but I am a little competitive. At least, I’d like to see what I can do.

In this half marathon, then, I went rather fast… and it went pretty well until km 10. I reached that point in some 45 minutes…

… and then stomach issues started.

In an ultra, I’d know to just go slow and continue slow, and count on these issues passing. In a run like this, it regularly slowed me down, was uncomfortable even when it didn’t, most of the time – but there was nothing much to do about it (other than use opportunities for stops when they presented themselves and became necessary).

As usual, that meant that my pace became more and more erratic; and I still had a sprint into the finish in me once that had come into sight.

Issues of my own while running through the less-interesting side of town were a good combination for just moving, not seeing so much anymore, of course.

All in all, though, the (half) marathon is still a nice one, giving all the better an impression of Salzburg in the contrast it presents between the “tourist” and the lived-in parts of town – and in the end, I managed to just barely finish under 1:45, which I’m quite happy with.

Next up, I’m afraid, is the Hochkönig Sky Race. With some 30 km… and 2500-or-so meters of altitude.

That promises to be rather different!