In early March, Katherine Welch, an American ultrarunner living in Germany, ran 184K along the Berlin Wall Trail, following the route once patrolled by German Democratic Republic border troops. There is a race on this same trail (the Berlin Wall Race), but Welch is the first runner to complete the course while running solo, and she set the first FKT (fastest known time) for the route, finishing in 23 hours, 30 minutes.
As Welch wrote in her post-run report on fastestknowntime.com, she often celebrates her birthday with a big run. Her definition of a “big run” varies from year to year, and she noted that “Depending on injury status, it could be 45 minutes, or 42K, or whatever happens to correspond to my age in years.” This year, she decided to tackle a 100-miler, and since the Berlin Wall Trail is around that distance, she said it was the perfect route for her birthday project.
She spent a couple of months leading up to her Berlin Wall Trail run taking public transit along the route so she would know what to expect on the big day. Welch added that this project was “a wonderful way to learn more” about Berlin‘s history, and she often stopped on the route during these recon runs to admire memorials along the trail.
“As soon as I decided on this project, I knew I wanted to make this a fastest known time attempt,” she said, noting that she saw there were no entries on the route. She also decided to run self-supported, which meant that she couldn’t have a crew meet her at any points throughout the run to help her out. However, Welch explained that a self-supported record does allow for runners to access help along the route, meaning that since she was in a city, she was able to purchase water or food.
She started at 8 p.m. on March 5, and while she said there was not much to report about the run or trail itself, she did have a few “novel experiences.” At one point, a stranger approached her and offered her drugs (which, unsurprisingly, had never happened to Welch on a run before). Later on, she made a wrong turn and went 4K out of her way. It was also a cold night (about -5 C), and Welch said her energy bars and water froze during the run.
“I was miserably cold, exhausted and a bit disappointed that I wasn’t going as fast as I had hoped, but I had no real reasons to stop and I didn’t want to stop,” Welch wrote. “I just wanted to be done.”
As she approached the city centre, Welch said she “started coming back” to her original motivated headspace, and she knew she was close to the finish. A little later, she made it to the finish line, crossing in 23:30 and setting the first-ever Berlin Wall Trail FKT.
To view her full route record, click here.