Step lively!: Marathon hikes provide endurance challenge to Franconia-area hikers
September 4, 2013
ANSBACH, Germany (Sept. 4, 2013) -- One step. Two steps. During the short but seemingly endless final stretch of trail, the legs feel like inanimate trunks of meat. Each footfall is an effort of foreplanning and deliberation, less a natural act than an execution of concentration, volition and mechanics.
At least this is one possibility dependent upon a hiker's level of physical fitness when that hiker undertakes a marathon-length hike.
Summer draws to a close, and the Wandertag/Volksmarch season winds down as well. Despite this, there are still weekend walking adventures yet to be had, including several marathon and "super-marathon" hikes in the Franconia region and beyond.
Marathon-length hikes, as organized by a hiking club under the auspice of the Deutscher Volkssportverband, or DVV, operate in much the same way as a typical Wandertag, or Volksmarch in English vernacular. The hiker purchases a card at the start point of the hike for a nominal fee and follows signs along trails that take them through field, farmland, forest and village. The hiker stops at control stops, or Kontrollstelle, along the way to collect stamps on their card. At the control stops, the hiker eats, drinks and rests. The hike concludes at the place it began. The hiker eats, drinks and recuperates in the cheerful company of fellow hikers they have brought with them or have met along the trail.
Typically, Wandertags have a 5-, 10- and 20-kilometer option, but every so often a club will host a 30-kilometer hike or even a marathon-length (42.195 kilometers) or a super-marathon-length (50 kilometers) hike. Start times for typical hikes last from morning until noon or afternoon except for these longer hikes. Hikers must begin their marathon by earlier in the morning so they can return to the start point before the hiking day concludes. Without stops and at a steady pace of 3 miles or 5 kilometers per hour, a marathon hike takes more than eight hours to complete and a super marathon takes 10 hours.
Considering the full-day commitment as well as the physical endurance necessary to hike, this is neither an all-ages family event nor the opportunity for a novice hiker to test their mettle.
Though Wandertags are usually designed to pass along well-maintained trails and roads through easy terrain, the length of a marathon requires practical hiking experience. Hikers should already have a grasp of what hiking longer distances feels like, preferably distances greater than half the distance of a marathon. The hiker should have used and be comfortable with their footwear, preferably sturdy shoes or boots designed for hiking. Wearing both a pair of hiking socks and liner socks is also a good idea to prevent blisters. Though there will be several control stations along the hike serving free refreshments and selling water and cold drinks, bringing water along is also a good idea, as is bringing high-energy food. The trails are usually marked well, but bringing a GPS and extra batteries can also benefit the hiker if they miss a turn. First aid kits can also prove useful in an emergency. Also, hikers should look up the forecast the day of the event to determine whether rain gear or sunscreen, sunglasses and a hat are worth the weight.
Many hikers, however, make the marathon unburdened by gear, depending only on the bright orange tape and the repast and refreshment provided by the event organizers. Preparation and gear is a matter of preference.
Below is a list of upcoming hiking marathons and super-marathons in Franconia or within a two-hour drive of U.S. Army garrisons Ansbach, Bamberg or Schweinfurt with date, location, trail lengths in kilometers, club name, club contact information, start time, start location and brochure links:
• Sept. 14 and 15 at Oberasbach (6/10/20/42/50k); Nürnberger Volkslaufclub, 0911-698065, www.volkslaufclub-nuernberg.de. Start: Sept. 14 from 6:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., Sept. 15 from 6:30 a.m. to noon at DJK Halle, Dr. Johannes Str. 6 -- www.dvv-wandern.de/files/file/nrnberger_volkslaufclub.pdf.
• Sept. 21 and 22 at Zeilhard (5/10/20/42k); TV 1913 Zeilhard e.V., 06162-1389. Start: 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. for 5- and 10k, from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. for 20k, from 7 to 9 a.m. for marathon at Walter-Kolb Strasse 8, 64354 Reinheim, OT Zeilhard -- www.dvv-wandern.de/files/file/2122092013_zeilhard-1.pdf.
• Oct. 4, 5 and 6 at Fulda (6/11/21/42k); Volkssportfreunde Fulda 1986 e.V.; 0661-9338878, www.fulda-marsch.de. Start: 2 to 5 p.m. Oct. 4, 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. Oct. 5 and 7:15 a.m. to 1 p.m. Oct. 6 at Washingtonallee, Dt.-Am. Sportzentrum.
• Oct. 5 and 6 at Röttenbach (5/10/20/42k); Wanderfreunde Röttenbach e.V., 09195-3157. Start: 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. for 5-, 10- and 20k and 7 to 9 a.m. for marathon at Lohmühlweg 11, 91341 Röttenbach, Mehrzweckhalle am Sportplatz (Norma parking lot) -- www.dvv-wandern.de/files/file/rttenbach.pdf.
• Oct. 19 at Enzweihingen (6/11/21/42k); Wanderfreunde Enzweihingen, 07042-940691, email@example.com, www.wf-enzweihingen.privat.t-online.de. Start: From 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. for 6-, 11- and 21k and from 7 to 9 a.m. for marathon at Kleinglattbach, Halle im See.
• Oct. 26 and 27 at Kleinwallstadt (5/10/20/42k); Maintalwanderer Kleinwallstadt u. Umg. 1980 e.V., 06022-2805/24187, www.maintalwanderer.de. Start: Oct. 26 from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Oct. 27 from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. for 5-, 10- and 20k and from 7 to 9 a.m. Oct. 26 and 27 for marathon.
There are other marathon-length and longer hikes in Germany, and many of them, as well as updates to the ones listed above, can be found at www.dvv-wandern.de.
[Editor's note: Neither the information on this page nor the accompanying external hyperlinks constitute an endorsement by the U.S. Army of the information, products or services contained therein.]