Last year Maren and I wanted to try to walk 100 km (62 miles) in a day (i.e., without sleeping, not necessarily in under 24h) but we both got sick and had to postpone. Now, a year later, we had another opportunity.
The Heidschnuckenweg presented itself as a good target for our adventure since we spent the holidays close by. We started hiking at the northern terminus in Fischbek at 5 am. Since it was winter and new moon we spent the first 3 hours hiking with headlamps before we had enough natural light. The temperature was comfortable (~ 5 C / 41 F) with high humidity, but no rain. It stayed that way for the duration of the hike.
The trail goes through forests, fields, and of course the famous “Heide-Landschaft”. It is very well marked, but the marks were place with day-hikers in mind. The “H” on black background was often hard to find in the dark with head lamps. We missed turns frequently and made use of GPS whenever we felt we might be off-track.
After about 45 km (28 miles) some family members joined us for a 15 km (9 miles) section. This was a very welcome diversion since by this time (9h into the hike) some tiredness was setting in. Halfway into this section we had to bring out the head lamps again with the sun setting just after 4pm. Unfortunately Maren’s knee started acting up in this section and she had to make the tough decision to leave the trail with well over 50 km (31 miles) hiked. She still set a new personal record for longest distance hiked in a day. I felt good and not knowing when (if) I would have an opportunity like this again decided to continue by myself. This was possible since Maren could ride home with the family.
So from 7 pm I hiked alone in the dark passing through some small villages but for the most part away from any settlements and streets. Some time after midnight I hit a low and did not feel well. I had been fueling all day, so that wasn’t the problem. Since it was cold, close to freezing, and with humidity around 100% taking a nice rest was not really an option. We hadn’t taken any real breaks all day because of this. I set down for a few minutes, but quickly got cold, even started to shiver. Not good. So I pushed on. At times at a crawling speed. I still had about 25 km (15 miles) to go. I tried not to think about it. A step at a time. I also didn’t want to call for a pickup since everyone was sleeping and an hours drive away.
By about 4 am I was starting to feel better and eating became easy again. I regained some strength, sped up and with the goal now in reach moved along nicely. Around 5am I got messages from my sister whom I was to call when I needed to be picked up. She asked when I expected to finish and I told her that I expected to need 1 to 1.5 h more. She decided to head out to the proposed meeting spot after gathering Srisuda. I met them around 6 am in Bispingen. They had brought hot tea and broth with helped warm me up a little. But mostly I wanted a shower and a bed.
I ended up hiking the 4 first sections of the trail with some detours and then the optional, longer section 5 variant. Total distance per signs on the trail was a little over 100 km (62 miles), due to some accidental detours and missed turns it may have been even more. Total elevation gain was ~760 m (2500 ft). Time on the trail was 26h. By the time I finally went to bed I’d been up for 29 h straight. The alarm woke me up just 3.5 h later to join the big family holiday lunch feast. Perfect recovery meal!
I had done some 24 h type hikes before, but never with such a long period by myself. It was quite interesting and a great experience. My previous longest distance hiked was 80 km (50 miles), but this included substantial elevation gain. Now I want to go back and see some of that beautiful scenery during the day and during a warmer time of year.
A few days after the hike I got word from Maren that she was taking a “walk”. Well, she was on a 16 km (10 mile) hike with a friend. The knee had recovered. After some initial sourness in my legs I felt good a couple of days after the event. I did anger a tendon in my foot a little and that I could still feel a week later. Overall not bad for the distances we hiked.