Ice Queen: the Leimentaler Langstrechenauf 15K

When it comes down to it I think I’d rather run in the cold. Instinctively I’m more afraid of heat-related problems (dehydration, sunburn) than those induced by the cold. I guess it’s because I cut my teeth on the Scottish Winter Cross-Country circuit: running around muddy fields between November and February in the most unpleasant conditions Scotland could throw at us. Once enveloped in Fife AC, I stuck with the group through the cold winter nights. Do one complete winter season of running, racing & training and you’ve broken cleanly through the apathy.

At the start...right at the very back of the field. Because of fashionable lateness or something...

Scotland is still warmer than Switzerland though. This year has apparently been especially biting on the Continent with a cold snap all the way down to -10 degrees Celcius and beyond. Snow and ice stuck around in town. I put on a couple more layers and pushed on with the Basel Dragons, even when it was cold enough to burst water pipes.

Then along came the Leimentaler Langstrechenauf. A 15 K run around countryside and suburb-villages of Basel. The calendar timing, distance, location & price made it an ideal training race for my half-marathon (13 miles or 21 K) in Freiburg this April. My last race was the Basel Stadtlauf back in December – I was keen to get back into the swing of things.

The mentality of racing is very different from that of training. When you’re going out with a group you feel like everybody is in it together: if people are struggling with the pace then the group usually accommodates this.  You’re running along familiar routes, which ease the psychological challenge of the run. I know what a 10 K loop of the Rhein feels like…it’s thus easy to put in strong times. Racing in a unfamiliar area alongisde people who are doing their damndest to overtake you…well, that makes things harder.


Photographed about 10 K or so through the race. Brrr....

Racing In The Cold Advice #1. Print out a map to the Start, think ahead about what time you want to get there.   Unfortunately I misread the public transport proposal put forward by my co-runner – confusing expected arrival time with planned departure time. So…I got to Therwil with barely 30 min to go before the race started. Luckily I was able to follow the steady trail of runners to get to the start/registration. Still, I arrived late, somewhat stressed and completely un-warmed up.

Racing In The Cold Advice #2. Stay well wrapped-up and warm up fully. It was -7 degrees Celsius in Basel-Landschaft on race day. Heading out into the exposed contryside made it seem even colder. I’d got all my thermals, mittens & layers on, but that didn’t stop me from developing cold legs at around 7 K. I say “cold”…it felt like they were freezing. Semi-frozen legs don’t move all that fast. A more extensive warm-up may have delayed or mitigated the observed effect: as it was, my “warm-up” was the first 2 K of the race.

Racing In The Cold Advice #3. Once It’s Over It Gets Better.

Despite the associated boredom that comes from staring at white stuff for over an hour, I did really enjoy the race. The arable Basel countryside looks postcard-perfect in winter. There was a hot drink pitstop at around 9 K, which was precisely the point where I was starting to think ‘Blast, this is really cold’. It was quite a scenically undulating race through forest and around farm fields; passing through allotments and village fringes. The marshalls en route were an encouraging sight to see, too. I overtook more people than overtook me, which I think means that I’ve got a good handle on sustaining & improving my pace during the race. I also started slowly, that stopped me from burning out.

My total time for the 15 kilometre race was 1 h 16 min 11 seconds. That translates to a pace of 5.04 min/km. In training I can sustain a 4.50 min/km pace over 13 K quite well: so the time isn’t too bad. All things considered.


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