You run for yourself, for a cause you defend, to win a challenge or break records. Finally, most often. Regarding Kerstin Kupka and Gunnar Schwan, who finished THE TRACK 2019, there is something else. This is a crew and a couple whose motivations and commitment impress.
THE TRACK is an outstanding race, unique in its length and nature and sometimes by the profile of its participants. And it is not common to see a couple facing this challenge together “as one man”.
While Gunnar is a confirmed ultra-runner, Kerstin was not supposed to cross the Outback this way. After more than 40 years in a village between garden and forest, a move to Dresden with her children and a painful personal story made her regret this choice. She discovered running quite late in 2013. It helped her overcome these challenges:
“Running made me stronger and more confident, cleared my head and pushed me towards new impulses.”
She ended up running her first marathon in 2015 and was immediately impressed by the mutual support between runners. Happiness apparently never happens alone and 2016 is the year of THE meeting with Gunnar. Although they now live in Radebeul, between the Elbe, the vineyards and the Czech border, they quickly made the road together despite their level gap in terms of race.
Better yet, Gunnar quickly convinced Kerstin to make joint competitions. While preparing, Gunnar works hard on all points and runs instinctively, as he pleases. Kerstin prefers sticking to a strict training schedule.
“In most races, we go separately at our own pace… and Gunnar comes back to me on the last meters. So we cross the finish line together! Sharing the joy of finishing the race makes us twice as happy. On the tracks that are difficult for me, we run together. When things go wrong, he brings me peace, strength and must bear my moans…“
Kerstin confirmed that it was the case on THE TRACK, especially in the last and longest step. They had planned to spend it together and even though Gunnar was running out of strength, he supported her.
“Without him, I would have screamed and screamed my emotions in the Outback and I would have ended up but with much more effort.“ Finally, before they even crossed the finish line, they both had tears in their eyes. “We were so happy and I am terribly grateful to Gunnar for choosing to live THE TRACK with me.”
It is to say that Kerstin had long dreamed of Australia, Outback and Aborigines. She was seriously considering coming when retired. After reading Rafael Fuschgruber’s book, she intended to run THE TRACK.
“I had never run more than 135 km in two days. And running in self-sufficiency was totally new to me. But against all odds, Gunnar understood my excitement and within a few hours, we registered.”
She adds that the presence of many other German runners was a great help to both of them. When she describes this experience, Kerstin does not beat around the bush (no pun intended):
“The vastness, the red earth, the camp life with the others, I wanted to experience this. I don’t care about timing and ranking. I just wanted to arrive in Uluru in good health, with a smile.”
She reminds us how awesome is the Outback how proud she is to have lived these 520 km backpack without internet or smartphone. And Kirsten also insists to convey a personal message:
“Big thanks to Jérôme and his team, always in good mood and listening even when having long and hard days. Special thanks to Anna, Sébastien, Ian and Romain… Thanks to Jérôme who always believed in me and to Bruno for always being there.”
Gunnar and Kerstin have successfully mapped their way together and will continue with us since they are already registered for the Ultra NORWAY Race 2020.