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Jordan, October 4, 2010

Frankfurt Airport Layover Adventure: Run an 18-mile Marathon Training Route Through the German Countryside

Off into the woods I go
How the hell does this work?!
On my flight to Jordan, I purposely scheduled an 11-hour layover at the Frankfurt (FRA) Airport. Why? So I could do an 18-mile marathon training run through the German countryside. And like my LAX layover done right, it was one of my best airport layover adventures yet.

First, I spent time on Google Maps, planning my run by looking at the Frankfurt airport and surrounding area at maximum magnification. I saw that Germany has a long network of bicycle and walking trails I could follow from the airport to the Rhine River, and along the river to Frankfurt itself and to s-Bhan stations that could take me back to the airport.

Next, I was lucky enough to have a business class seat on my Dulles (IAD) to Frankfurt (FRA) leg, and a flatbed reclining seat no less. With an Ambien and eyeshades, I slept like a baby for the full 8 hours across the pond.

Once we started decent into Frankfurt, I started preparing with caffeine and hydration. A cup of coffee and all the water I could find, combined with a packet of Clif Shot Mocha, and I had a pep in my step as I changed into my running gear at the Steigenberger Airport Hotel.

Surrounding the airport is the Frankfurt City Forest, a perfect start to my run. Off into the woods I went, with my Garmin Forerunner 205 GPS to mark my distance. Now, my plan was to run to the Rhine via the town of Kelsterbach, Germany. While I did make it to Kelsterbach, I didn't get to the Rhine as far west as I wanted, but had fun getting lost and finding myself anyway.

I ran along random empty farm roads through the countryside, keeping my 9-minute mile pace as I looked for the river. It was already 10am by the time I saw the Rhine, but as it was a cool, misty morning, and I still had 14 miles to go, I wasn't stressed. I just ran to the water's edge to touch the Rhine - personal proof I made it this far today, and in my life. (I surfed the Rhine in downtown Munich back in 1992, but that's another story).

Once at the Rhine, I followed a great bike/walking path along it, passing lazy cows who wondered what fool would be jogging by on a wet Saturday morning. There were interesting sights along my way, my favorite was a beautiful little green space, that seemed great for a picnic or a verboten game of horseshoes.

As I came to the city of Niederrad, Germany, it was time for me to turn inland and look for a S-Bhan station. Now I realized latere that I could've run back to the Steigenberger Airport Hotel from Niederrad and made my 18 miles, but at the time, running without a paper or GPS map, i didn't want to get lost in a German forest.

Instead, I ran through the forest of office buildings that is Niederrad. Along the way, I learned a bit of office park German, like "Privat Park Platz" and "Feuerwehrzufahrt".

Finally, 18 miles after I started, I arrived at a S-Bhan station to train back, and promptly was dumbfounded by the crazy Frankfurt farecard machines. It took 3 Germans and I about 10 minutes to figure out how to get me a ticket, all the while I was cold, sweaty, and my run-raw nipples were bleeding through my shirt (pretty, eh?).

Back at the hotel spa, a long, hot shower and Swedish massage took away most of the pain. Yet every time I closed my eyes, I was back on that Rhine-side trail, running through a cool German morning, enjoying the sights and sounds of a Frankfurt airport layover done right.

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