On Saturday, July 3rd I ran the half marathon at Volksläufe (German for “the people’s race”) in Frankenmuth, MI. Frankenmuth is a fun little town an hour north of me known as Michigan’s “Little Bavaria.” Volksläufe has taken place on or around the 4th of July for over 40 years. Somehow I had never run this legendary race even though it has been on my to-do list for years. Too many times I was on the verge of signing up but decided against it when I saw the steamy forecast. After a week of hot, stormy days, we caught a break just in time for this race. I couldn’t resist signing up when I saw that it would be around 60° in the morning!
In the past the race has started at 8am but hot temperatures in 2019 pushed the start an hour earlier. Luckily they kept the 7am start this year. The earlier and the cooler the better! I’ve been training through plenty of hot, humid days recently so it was amazing to feel cold while walking around before the race began.
The race usually offers a 5K, 10K, and 20K. This year there was a half marathon instead of the 20K. It’s been three weeks since I ran 33 miles and although my recovery has gone smoothly, I hoped I wasn’t being too ambitious by signing up for a half marathon.
The 10K started at 7:00 followed by the half marathon at 7:10. I didn’t want to start at the front so I lingered a little bit behind the starting line but not many people came to fill that gap. Sure enough, a whole bunch of people passed me once we started. Oh well! We ran on the grass for a minute or two then a rocky path took us to the road. From there we headed out to some peaceful country roads. I was almost tempted to stop for a photo because it looked so pretty with sun rays shining through the clouds over the corn fields. It was pretty cloudy for most of the race which was a good thing since the race route doesn’t have much shade. I’ve heard that it can be a really tough race on a hot, sunny day.
I was a bit thrown off because I ended up running by myself pretty early in the race. A big pack of people took off and there was a huge gap. I felt like I was out there on my own watching everyone so far in front of me and I’m not used to that. Usually I can get into a groove with a pack of others who are running a similar pace. That’s one of the fun parts of racing – running with a big group of people. It felt like I was out there doing my own solo long run because there weren’t any spectators either. Even though I knew there had to be people behind me it felt like I was at the back. It was a little bit of a mental game and I had to reassure myself that there may just be a bunch of fast people. Maybe some took off too fast and I’d catch them later? I had to keep doing my own thing and not worry about it. Four miles into the race I finally had a few scattered people around.
I was surprised by surface of the roads for most of the race. They were really crappy! They were a bit cambered so I had to make sure I didn’t run on too much of an angle. I’m really cautious about that after cambered dirt roads created a lengthy tendon injury last year. The camber wasn’t too big of an issue but I constantly had to watch where I was going because of patches and uneven spots all over the roads. I took a screen capture from Google Maps to give an example.
I felt kind of slow during my first mile of the race. Sometimes I get swept up in the momentum and start too fast but I guess my body wasn’t up for that. I ran 8:22 for the first mile which actually isn’t that “slow” for me these days. I kind of hoped I could aim for goal marathon pace though, which is around 8:00 pace. Once I got past that warm up mile I managed to hit 8:00 a couple times but was actually faster than that otherwise. I’ve barely run that fast for a single mile in recent weeks, let alone for 13 miles. I’ve been more focused on endurance than pace lately and hoped I wouldn’t crash at some point because I was getting too ambitious. Somehow I kept it up though!
Seven miles into the race we hit a stretch of freshly-paved road. After watching every step for the prior hour it felt amazing to finally be able to run so smoothly! We crossed a cool old bridge around nine miles into the race. Ten miles into the race we hit some rolling hills. The race had been pretty flat up until that point. I kept grinding and they didn’t beat me up too much. Eventually we got to some more suburban areas and had a few spectators cheering for us. I still had enough energy left that I started to speed up a little bit when I had a couple miles left. It was fun when we got back toward the main part of town and saw stuff like this rocky part of the Cass River.
During the last couple miles we also started to mix with people from the 5K and 10K. It required a little bit of dodging to get around walkers at times. It was fun getting to run through the covered bridge with less than a mile to go.
I’d managed to keep my pace in the 7:50s pretty consistently for most of the race. When I started to push at the end I got down to 7:46 for the twelfth mile, then somehow I managed 7:19 for the last full mile! Maybe I had more in me than I realized and could have pushed a little more earlier. Still, it’s fun to finish with such a strong kick.
1:44:03 was my official time and I was pretty excited about it. My PR is just under 1:40 so I wasn’t close to that, but I felt really proud about running a pace that I haven’t been training for at all and somehow maintaining it for the whole race.
I was satisfied enough with my solid time, but it was a bonus to see that I had won my age group and was the ninth woman overall!
It took a few minutes to recover then I headed to the food table where I got some chocolate milk, water, and a granola bar. I knew that probably wasn’t enough food so I went back to my car to get a jacket and a Honey Stinger protein waffle.
I had to wait an hour for the awards ceremony to start and it took a while to get through all of the 10K people before getting to the half marathon. It was fun to see the winners though because this race drew a lot of local runners who I knew and a bunch of them collected awards.
Although I hadn’t run the race before I was very aware of the awesome steins that are given out as awards. The overall winners get really huge ones. My first place age group award was super cool. It’s something fun and unique to add to my collection of running prizes.
Once I got my award I figured I should take advantage of my time in Frankenmuth and explore a little bit while I was there. It turned into a beautiful morning!
I knew that I wanted to hit the bakery under the Bavarian Inn Restaurant because I’ve been there several times and they have some great treats. Time to refuel and reward myself for a good race with some goodies!
I stopped by a couple other shops including the SugarHigh Bakery. I may have overdone it with the sugary stuff but I couldn’t resist.
It was a successful race and I’m so glad I finally got around to doing this one. I had a lot of fun and I understand why it’s such a long-running, legendary race around this area. I’m excited that I came away with a stein of my own and it was fun to spend a little bit of time in Frankenmuth. It also gave my confidence a boost because I’ve just started training for an October marathon and feel like I’m well ahead of my training plan now that I’ve already covered half the distance at my goal pace. Hopefully I can keep it up and strive for another Boston-qualifying time this fall.