This podcast episode required 8,000 miles of air travel, 42 kilometers of running, and God only knows how many hours of editing!
I bring you along to the 2017 Munich Marathon in wonderful Munich Germany (Wunderbar München Deutschland). In the quick tip segment, Angie explains how running surfaces affect your body. Enjoy!
Ever since we got into the Berlin Marathon I’ve plunged myself into learning about the language, history and culture of Germany. I like having context about the places I visit . . . so I started trying to pick up some German words and phrases and read up on the history.
I also visited my first Oktoberfest here in the U.S., which led to another great love . . . the love of good German beer.
So my love of running, culture, and beer led me to the inevitable result . . . I knew I wanted to run the Munich Marathon and see the beer tents of Oktoberfest!
The Munich Marathon
The 32nd Munich Marathon and Half Marathon, 10k and Marathon Relay took place on Sunday October 8th.
- Around 16,000-17,000 runners
- 118 different countries represented
- 1,200 volunteers
What’s cool about this event is that it starts and finishes at the Olympic Park -constructed in 1972 for the Olympic games. Frank Shorter was the last American to win gold in the marathon distance. Be sure to check out our interview with Frank Shorter and get the whole backstory to his dramatic run to Olympic gold.
The race also hosts a costumed run called “Trachtenlauf” where 800 folks run in tradition Dirndl und Lederhosen.
I found a round trip ticket from Baltimore to Munich for under $600 so I jumped on it. I flew into Munich on the last day of Oktoberfest (6 days before the marathon) and stayed with two gracious German fans of the MTA podcast -Andy and Franziska. Andy wrote us last year after he finished his first marathon (2016 Munich Marathon) and we gave him a shoutout on the podcast.
After getting caught up on sleep (Germany is 7 hours ahead) we went to the world famous Munich Oktoberfest -which they call Wiesn.
The most impressive thing about Oktoberfest is the massive beer tents which hold thousands of people. They assemble and tear these down every year. As it got later the tents began to fill up with revelers and soon you could not find a seat anywhere. People were standing on benches holding their beer glasses and swaying back and forth . . . we had a killer time!
Seven million liters of beer were consumed at this year’s Wiesn. I might have contributed to this number a little.
The next day I drove to Stuttgart to meet an old friend who’ve I haven’t seen in 23 years. We went to the Stuttgart Oktoberfest (Cannstatter Volkfest) which is the second largest beer festival in Germany and which many say they prefer because it’s not as crowded.
As you can see . . . my pre-race nutrition plan is not something you should copy!
Munich Marathon Race Expo
Parking was easy but finding out where to go once we got inside was a challenge. We ended walking around a bit and going up and down different levels and my tons of vendors until we finally figured out where to pick up our race packets. It was helpful having Andy there, who is a very good English speaker, to translate for me.
What I’ve learned from my 2 marathons in Germany
- You rent your timing chip or bring your own.
- Race shirts are extra
- Just like in the States they have booths set up by people selling gear, stickers, shoes, clothes, supplements, metal display racks, other marathons and some things that seem out of place like Lasik care.
After the expo we met up with a fellow runner and MTA podcast fan from Austria named Lena at the world famous Hofbrauhaus in downtown Munich.
The race started in the Olympic Park, I took the U-bahn (subway) which was a short easy ride. In fact, it was free for all people with a race bib.
The first marathon wave didn’t start until 10:00, which make my day because I got to sleep in. I knew I’d be running slow so I put myself in starting block E which didn’t start until 10:20.
I took me awhile to find the bag drop, and required a lot of walking. By the time I got into my starting corral I have only seconds to spare. What would Angie say? Haha
The starting line had a large banner which read “Auf Gehts” which is a Bavarian way of saying “Come on!” or “Let’s go!”. I heard it from supportive spectators and runners all along the course.
I still have angst at the start of a marathon, though I’ve done it 14 times now, because I know how hard it gets in the later kilometers, and I know how easy things can go wrong.
We started at the famous Olympiapark beside the stadium. You can see the Olympic Tower (space needle) piercing up into the sky above.
After we left the Olympiapark we ran through what felt like more business complexes and commercial districts. I tried to pay attention to my surroundings and read as many signs as I could.
It was around kilometer 4 that I was reminded of a German saying “Ende Gut, Alles Gut” (when the end is good it’s all good) -which became my personal mantra for this race.
Around kilometer 5 we did a short out and back on Leopoldstrasse where if you look down the street you can see the Victory Gate called the Siegestor (another famous landmark in Munich) that we would be running through around kilometer 36.
In the quick moment where I saw the gate I thought about the long journey I had ahead of me before I would have the chance to run through it.
The weather was perfect for a marathon. It was a cold 11 degrees celsius about 52 Fahrenheit, and the rain held off. A little more sunlight would have been nice though. I didn’t see the sun the whole time I was in Germany. [Pro tip: dress in layers and always figure that once you start running it will feel 20 degrees Fahrenheit than it is.]
Around kilometer 8 we ran into the famous Englisher Garten -and ran along the foot path surrounded by trees in full autumn color. It was very quiet through there without much crowd support which allowed me plenty of time to sort through the thoughts in my head.
I don’t know why, but I had more moments of joy and gratitude at this marathon than I can remember at any other race. I got emotional at a few different points (especially the end).
They had aid stations about every 3-4 kilometers and served water and iso (and sometimes bananas). I fueled with one Ucan bar before the start and then ate one at mile 10 and started another around mile 20. Big thanks to Generation Ucan to sponsoring this episode! Use the promo code MTAMUNICH to save 15%
After we left the Englisher Garten we crossed the Isar River and turned down Oberföhringerstrasse which has some nice houses and foreign consulates. The weather might have kept some people inside who otherwise would have been on the street to see the runners. People were standing on balcony and in windows waving down to us.
At kilometer 22 I passed the half way point in the race and the start of the half marathon. The half marathon didn’t start until 1:30 so it was yet to get going. I saw Franziska standing on the side of the street. I’m amazed she found me. She later ran the half and finished in 2:14:39 -her first half marathon!
Between kilometer 23-30 I remember running through some sections that were a little boring with not many spectators or race volunteers. This is where I just need to grind it out slow and steady and resist the temptation to take long walk breaks. The Berlin Marathon is a much bigger event and if you want massive crowd support along almost every section of the course that is the race for you.
Around kilometer 32 it got more interesting as we approached the heart of down town. It’s still weird to have throngs of people out to see other stuff more interesting than some sweaty runners. We ran by the famous Marienplatz which is the central square in Munich named after the Marian Column (virgin Mary on top of a column) elected in 1638 to celebrate the end of Swedish occupation.
The unmistakeable building is the Rathaus (town hall) with it’s Rathaus-Glockenspiel a massive tourist attraction. We ran right through the middle of the plaza through a section cordoned off by barriers.
Between kilometers 31-32 we were running (interspersed with walking) down Lugwigstrasse by Odenplatz and other historic sites.
Around kilometer 32 When I saw the Sigestor (victory gate) I felt a sense of relief, the first time I saw it was at kilometer 5. What I didn’t realize is that it is just there to tease you. We turned left before running through the gate for a 4 kilometer out and back haha.
“Cool, there’s the gate . . . oh wait were are we going . . . oh man I finally made it back to the gate.”
Between kilometer 37-38 we turned onto Franz-Joseph-Strasse and ran back toward to Olympia Park. It was hard to keep myself running without taking walk breaks. I was definitely counting down the kilometers at this point. There are these mental battles that you fight with yourself near the end of a marathon.
One cool thing that happen was the elite half marathons started passing me. Their race had started at 1:30. Then anyone running a 1:30 marathon or faster passed me. These people looked fresh and I appreciated being surrounded by faster looking people.
As we approached the Olympic Stadium the crowds were bigger and the energy level began to climb. “Aug Gehts Trevor, Super!”
The Finish Line
The Munich Marathon has one of the best finishes of any race I’ve been to. We ran through a tunnel into the Olympic Stadium and it was hard to hold it together. I was honestly overcome with emotion. I could hear the music and cheers from the crowds inside the stadium welcoming the runners to the finish line.
- I thought about Frank Shorter running into the Olympic Stadium 4 days after the the Munich massacre at that year’s games and what that moment represented.
- I thought about how lucky I was travel 4,000 miles to Germany and and the new friends I had made and the old friends I reconnected with.
- I thought about how lucky I was to be able to run 42 kilometers on my own two feet.
- I thought about how the marathon causes one to leave the comfort zones, struggle. . . and overcome.
You finish by taking a lap round the track in the stadium. Then, like most marathons you get your medal, heat sheet, and stagger off to find some food and your locate your gear (which requires climbing stairs!).
They were serving alcohol free beer, bread, bananas, and cake. The medal is cool because it’s in the shape of an Oktoberfest heart.
My official time was 4:58:01. Andy finished in 03:22:51 (the top 500).
Later that night I had a nice diner at Andy and Franziska’s place and the next day I caught a Flugzeug back to American.
I would live to end this episode by saying some special “thank-yous”.
- Thanks to my lovely wife Angie for letting me go to Germany
- Thanks to my gracious German hosts Andy and Franzi
- Thanks to the race organizers and volunteers for putting on such a great event.
- Thank you German people for inventing Okotoberfest!
- Thank you Bavarian breweries, I’m thinking of you Hofbrau and Augustiner for all that you do.
- And finally, thanks MTA listeners for letting me take you on my journey to the Munich Marathon. Prost!