Eight countries bordering Austria = eight half marathons.
I would never have made this equation, but Karin Robertson did. In fact, she went a step further and decided to complete said number of half marathons in a one-year period. Then she went another step further and extended one of them to 100 kilometres of walking in unforgiving winter conditions.
On 29 April 2017, exactly 360 days after completing the first half marathon in Meran, Italy, Karin ticked all the boxes when she ran the last 21,1 kilometres near Bratislava in Slovakia.
Originally from New Zealand, Karin (47) and husband Ian, an engineer, settled in Tyrol more than 10 years ago. The area around Lake Achen (Achensee) near their home in Maurach is the perfect training ground for her. This is also where she completed her first big challenge over 52 kilometres, the Karwendelmarch, in 2014.
The Extra Mile
Every half marathon has been memorable for different reasons. In Liechtenstein, Karin ran the entire length of the country, which meant she added a few kilometres to the usual distance. When it came to Hungary, she pushed herself to the limit by tackling the Burgenland Extreme Tour in January. She walked just over 100 kilometres around Lake Neusiedl, which spans Austria and Hungary, in about 18 hours.
Ian supported her all the way. He ran with her in Meran, Munich (Germany), Ljubljana (Slovenia) and Wintherthur (Switzerland). In the countries where no organised marathons were held, he worked out routes and provided roadside assistance. When a work trip to Finland coincided with the Helsinki half marathon, they decided to add that to their half marathon schedule just for fun.
“Why do you do it to yourself?” I once asked her when she was preparing for her next event.
The answer came short and sweet:
“Because it makes me feel alive.”
You see, 29 April also marked the three-year anniversary of Karin’s diagnosis with multiple sclerosis (MS). At the time, a wheelchair was the first thing that came to her mind.
It began with a tingling feeling in her fingers. Then one day it felt like someone was pouring lead into her left arm while running. An MRI showed a few MS lesions on her brain.
Overcoming Multiple Sclerosis
Fortunately, Karin almost immediately found out about Overcoming Multiple Sclerosis (OMS), an international non-profit that promotes a well-researched program of diet and lifestyle management to improve the health and lives of people with MS.
She used her eight-country half marathon challenge to raise more than €2,000 for OMS.
The OMS Recovery Program is based on diet, exercise, stress management and, when needed, medication. Karin is now following a whole food plant based diet while continuing to take her medication.
“I’m going uphill with this thing, not downhill. I don’t see a wheelchair in my future.”
She still feels a slight tingling in her fingers, but has experienced no other symptoms of MS since her diagnosis.
Looking for Another Challenge
What’s next for Karin?
“I don’t know. I was joking that I could maybe run around Austria. People have run seven marathons in seven days on different continents. I might do my own thing Forrest Gump style, following a river or a long cycle route.”
All I can say is “run, Karin, run!”
Karin’s 3 Top Achensee Hiking Tips
Go where only your legs or a boat can take you. Follow the well-marked trail from the Achensee ferry car park until you get to the Gaisalm in its idyllic location on the lake. There is plenty to do for children, including a playground and sprawling lawns to run around on. The alm offers good local cuisine. Once you are refreshed, you can continue your hike all the way to Achenkirch (total distance from Pertisau is 8,7 km) or take a boat back to your car. An Achensee ferry stops at the Gaisalm.
The route along the lake provides lovely views of the water, but you do climb a fair amount at times. The path is well maintained, even if it is narrow at places and with a steep drop to the lake.
2. Dalfazer Waterfall
Walk to the Dalfazer Waterfall, the Achensee’s biggest, from the parking area at the Buchau bathing area in Maurach. The hike is not long, although you do climb about 300 metres. For that you are rewarded with beautiful views of the Achensee, not forgetting about the impressive water from the falls crashing down about 60 metres. You can continue to the Dalfaz Alm from here. The total distance and walking time from Buchau to the alm is 3,8 kilometres and 1,5 to 2 hours.
The very lazy ones can take the Rofan cable car from Maurach and walk to the Dalfaz Alm from the top.
One of Karin’s favourites, the hike to the Weisenbachalm from the “Lärchenwiese” in Maurach is about 5,2 kilometres long and takes 2 hours at a steady pace. The route follows the Weisenbach valley before steadily climbing to the Weisenbachhut and from there to the alm. Once there, a cold beer or radler (like a shandy) is just the thing to refresh you while soaking up the sun and enjoying the views.
- Also read why the Achensee region is a summer holiday paradise.