August 2, 2016

Denis Wischniewski runs 50 marathons in 50 days – looking back on his running adventure Munich to Istanbul

Trail runner Denis faced the ultimate GORE RUNNING WEAR® challenge! He planned to run 50 marathons in 50 days, from Munich to Istanbul. Here you find his review of the whole adventure and all his video updates.

Episode 7: A summer full of marathons comes to an end: Denis finally reached his new destination. Here he looks back on his big adventure.

“The Euros had just started and, before you know it, had already finished. The Tour de France celebrated its first stage, wound its way across France and that finished, too. Yet I was still running: I ran every day for a total of 41 stages. Well, what do you know! Looks like in the end I’ve became somewhat of a major event as well.”

The big adventure begins

I left my home town of Munich on 12 June. I ran with friends for 40 km right up to the gates of the city where they saw me off with a big cheer – and incredulity written across their faces – on my way to Istanbul.
This was going to be the longest run of my life. A good 2,400 kilometres, 7 countries, all the way to the end of Europe within a mere 50 days.
At first, I ran close to the edge of the Alps; then I actually ran across them. I faced bad weather, and looked the onset of winter right in the eye; finally, I crossed the High Tauern during a snowfall and with limited visibility.
Just a few days and stages later, I had to face other problems. It was hot. I had left the Alps and the legendary Karawanks and had been received by one of the hottest summers in history: the run in Slovenia not only allowed me to experience another culture, it also occurred under a sweltering 40 degrees. Most of the trails were flat, and without even one bend in Croatia. It became a psychological struggle, constantly trying to keep up my morale, from week two. Physically, I couldn’t complain, as my body carried on doing what it was doing – 50 km a day – without ever showing a sign of weakness.

From megalomania to pure routine

During that time, I gradually learnt more about myself. Indeed, I was surprised on a daily basis by what I learnt.
Before the run, I wasn’t prone to moments of megalomania and, actually, was quite unsure whether I’d reach the end. There wasn’t one single person around me who could have shared words of advice or told me about their experience. Sure, most of them had taken part in 7-day stage competitions: but what then?
Well, it really did get better. With each passing day I got used to these 6 to 8 hours‘ run. It soon become nothing more than routine and, after 20 stages – now in Belgrade and half-way through – I felt fit, motivated, and was finally sure I’d reach Istanbul.
I’d entered the ultimate flow. My father supported me every 5 to 10 km with cold beverages and researched my route as it sometimes deviated from what my route planner and map said.

Crossing the scorching Balkans

The Balkans are one big adventure! Our German standards are short lived here. At no point whatsoever did the distances hinder me, nor were they the biggest problem. The heat actually was what concerned me the most. At one point I could barely replace all the liquids I lost in sweat. Sometimes I ran right up to the point of being completely drained of water, the sun scorched my skin until it was tender. And yet, thing always improved after a bit.

A Runner without a destination

Upon reaching my sixth country, Bulgaria, all hell broke loose. The coup attempt in Turkey threw a spanner in the works of my run: Istanbul wasn’t the clear-cut destination it used to be. I lost sight of it and, all of a sudden, found myself forced to make a decision for me and my crew.
Could Istanbul still be my goal? After over 30 stages peppered by tough weeks, my motivation, and the drive that had pushed me to travel in the first place, was starting to falter. After all, a runner is only as good as his destination. Which I didn’t have anymore.

A Bulgarian friend and the importance of running

Georgi, a Bulgarian trail runner (who happens to live in Bielefeld), and I crossed the Balkans. He was of great help, he motivated me, he distracted when the going got tough. He appeared out of the blue and right on time. In my memory, those days helped me understand just how valuable running is to me, how much I experience when my feet hit the ground, how it allows me to meet people, and how it gives me the opportunity of creating unbiased impressions.

New goals, old roads

I’d made my decision: I wanted to keep on course. Many people suggested I choose a new destination, say Athens, or just head back home.
No. Istanbul still was my destination, but I’d never get there. In the end, I decided to conclude the biggest run of my life at the border with democracy. At the Turkish border, that is, the last frontier of the EU.

Finally in Svilengrad

I finally reached the bizarre Svilengrad on the border. My dad and I embraced: you could tell we were proud. We walked over to the border fence with Turkey and looked at the Turkish flag, flapping in the wind: the sight filled us happiness and, at the same time, with a sense of listlessness. After 47 days our new, small world had come to an end all of a sudden: 2,050 kilometres from Munich to here.
I hope the future holds better, friendlier, and safer times; and I really hope I’ll get to finish those last 4 stages which separate me from Istanbul.
Father and son Wischniewski at their new final destination: the bizarre Svilengrad on the border to Turkey

Follow Denis on our interaktive map:

2400 kilometers (1491 miles), seven countries and 50 times a marathon distance – check on our interactive map how far Denis already made it on his long way from Bavaria to Bosporus. Click on the black runners-icons to learn more about different stages and to watch the matching video update.

Denis’ Gear

Episode 6: Is Bulgaria Denis’ final Destination? – Denis runs Stages 33 to 38

Bulgaria is becoming an even more important location for Denis, as it will likely shape his future. He’s found a kindred spirit and good friend in trail runner Georgi, who hails from the Black Sea coast; armed with plenty of patience and buckets of humour, Georgi taught him about his country and the culture of the Balkans.
Yet the recent events in Turkey and in Munich gradually start hitting home as Denis runs across the wild Bulgarian landscape. His journey from Munich to Istanbul should have lasted 50 days. Reaching the Bosporus is what motived Denis to continue, running in the sweltering heat of the Balkans, across winding and dusty paths.
The time has come for Denis to ask himself if the city in Turkey’s unstable political climate is still the right destination after running what virtually were 50 marathons in just as many days? Is it still the right kind of message he wants to deliver, and will it be extremely likely that, as a journalist and team of camera operators in tow, Denis won’t be allowed to cross the border? What’s the goal of this journey, anyway?
Denis has to make a decision while still in Bulgaria. This week’s video sees Denis talking about why his journey will be coming to an end in a few days and what he’s decided to do. Click here to find out more in our video!

Episode 5: Exploring Bulgaria with a fellow trailrunner – Denis runs Stages 27 to 32

The last days in Serbia are tough and the scorching sun is giving Denis a hard time mentally. Luckily, he can look forward to picturesque mountain landscapes shortly before the Bulgarian border, putting an end to the monotonous running on dead straight roads. And the next stage is also diverse. When Denis crosses the border into Bulgaria, he receives company. A trail runner from the Bulgarian Black Sea coast now living in Germany, Georgi came all the way here just to accompany Denis part of the way. He proves to be a gift from the runner’s God and the time flies by. In passing, Denis can ask Georgi any number of silly questions on the country and its people, while together they sing a parody of Udo Jürgen’s hit song – “Bulgarischer Wein”. It even rains once in the promised land of Bulgaria. The only fly in the ointment: news about the political situation in Turkey and Istanbul reaches Denis via text message from home. For the time being he plans to continue and then make a cool decision. You can learn more in our video update.

Episode 4: Crossing Serbia by foot – Denis runs Stages 21 to 26

Denis had some intensive moments in Serbia. The German ultrarunner has now finished more than half the way to Istanbul. He himself can hardly believe he has already run from Munich to Belgrade, and every day now he has less and less left to go. But the unrelenting heat means Denis hasn’t been resting very well at night even and during endless kilometers of running each day, aside from exhaustion, his thoughts turn pensive. Denis started his run to Istanbul in reverse along the Balkan route, albeit in reverse, in part to bring some attention to the topic of refugees. Now, it’s the Balkan War that has its grip on the region. One can see traces of it everywhere. Then there are the people there who welcome Denis and his father with an extra portion of warmth. Papa Wischniewski always manages to get himself and his son invited into the home of some total stranger at the spur of the moment. So Denis on his last kilometers of the day was already being picked up by a young man and shown the way to his family’s home. There, a comfy bed awaited him, a homemade meal, and a big dose of good vibes. You can see how Denis and his father fared in Serbia in this week’s edition of his weekly video update. Click here!

Episode 3: Denis runs Stages 14 to 21

The scorching Balkans, and it gets hotter with each passing day. Denis can barely keep up with how much he’s supposed to drink; lucky for him, his father is on the supply vehicle and, in the meantime, has got his running son’s needs down to a T. During the past 7 days, Denis had almost crossed the entire country of Croatia running. He has spent his 43rd birthday running, kept on while he was interviewed by German newspaper FAZ and – still running – repeated the name of his last stop, Slavonski Brod, to infinity, just to keep his mind busy. The landscape passing by does not really alter a lot and Denis is happy for any distraction that waits along the way. A Croatian hound, for example, accompanied him for nearly one whole stage; the runner called him Goran and came close to adopting him as his official marathon dog. But this is just the first stage of finding company in wild animals: one other day, 6 majestic storks follow him around to overlook his running. All these guardians however can’t prevent him from checking into the worst hostel on the planet, where he doesn’t dare to complain in fear for his life. Check out this week’s videoupdate to learn more.

Episode 2: Denis runs Stages 9 to 13

So far on his long journey from Munich to Istanbul, he’s sprinted across Austria and Slovenia. In the previous stages of his journey, he had to deal with the unpredictable temperatures found at high altitude in the mountains, while now he’ll have to get used to sweating. The seemingly never-ending roads and dry asphalt give way to beautiful landscape, and its range of elevation gain metres – more than expected. In Slovenia, Denis also got his first whiff of genuine Balkan breeze. Every step he takes brings him closer to a new country and a foreign culture. It looks as if he’s finally found his pace… if it weren’t for that nagging voice at the back of his mind whispering, the road to Istanbul is still painfully long! Find out what keeps Denis going and why you should definitely visit his Facebook page by checking out his video:

Episode 1: Denis runs Stages 1 to 8

Denis has now completed eight of 50 legs on his way to Istanbul. In the first week of his running adventure, he ran from Munich through the Chiemgau region, on to Bad Gastein and finally through the High Tauern range of the Alps. Indeed, that doesn’t sound all too much like remote wilderness, but even in such picturesque countryside, one can lose their way. And since our summer this year hasn’t been the most agreeable, Denis has already initiated every piece of clothing he had stashed in his pack. In this first video update from the trail, he tells us all about why he now studies his maps really well prior to starting out each day, and what wild animals a trail runner can come across when descending from 2,500 meters (8,202 ft). Take a look!

Trailer: Denis runs

At some point to run a truly long distance – that was a long-held dream for ultrarunner Denis Wischniewski. On Sunday, June 12, he’ll take the steps needed to fulfill that dream when the gun goes off at the Thalkirchner Bridge in Munich for his very special running adventure. For 50 days, one after another, Denis will follow the Balkan Route in reverse, all 2,400 kilometers (1491 miles) of it to his destination in Turkey. Fifty stages, heading into the unknown each day, since on this route from Bavaria to Bosporus there is much that is left to chance. We met up with this passionate trail runner and publisher of Germany’s Trail Magazine in his Munich office a few days from the run’s kick-off. There, he explains to us how he came up with this crazy idea, what you put in your luggage for such a trip, and why this adventure is actually also a real family experience. Check out the video!
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