If you stop, you lose

Walking for one day and one night without sleeping. 24-hour hikes are in and take the participants to their limits – in every way. 

Two hikers in the nature at twilight
The toughest time is between two and four o’clock in the morning.

Pulling an all-nighter. Everyone knows what that means. Party until five o’clock in the morning, turn the night into day, or sit in front of your computer until the wee hours of the morning. Eight hours of work, eight hours of free time, eight hours of sleep. That is the norm.

But hiking for three times eight hours? Voluntarily forgoing sleep, a whole day and a whole night on your feet, walk, walk, walk and walk some more. You need to be fit and have plenty of energy in you to fight against fatigue.

Round-the-clock hikes

The toughest time is between two and four o’clock in the morning. You could lie down right now, close your eyes and fall asleep on the spot, you are so tired. But the ravine on your right is too deep and dangerous and you could slip and fall. Which has the potential to be fatal. You continue to set one tired foot in front of the other, slowly making your way towards the new day.

In spite of these aspects round-the-clock hikes are highly popular. These days plenty of people are enticed by the idea to stay up all night and test their limits.

Ultra-Marathon in Greece

These extreme day-and-night-blending activities are nothing new; they have been around for a long time. A world famous event, for example, is the Spartathlon, an ultra-marathon held for the last twenty years, during which competitors run the 246-kilometer-long distance between Athens and Sparta within 36 hours.

According to legend, in 490 BC the Athenians sent the messenger Pheidippides to Sparta to ask the city’s inhabitants to send support for the Battle of Marathon. Pheidippides is said to have left in the morning and arrived on the evening of the following day. 

2000 members from Europe

A less ancient tradition is the “24 Hours of Bavaria” competition, held for the fifth time last June. It is always considered a highlight for the most energetic among hikers. The 444 entry spots are so sought-after that lots have to be drawn for them; no less than 2,000 hopefuls from all over Europe tried their luck last time.

The winners endured four circular hiking routes featuring a variety of difficulties leading around Füssen in the Allgäu region: a 25-kilometer day tour and a 29-kilometer night loop. And if that wasn’t enough for you yet, you could continue on the 15-kilometer-log “Fitness Loop” or the abbreviated, close to 10-kilometer-long “Vital Loop”. 

Cult event in Bavaria

This hike held by the Bavarian Tourism Office is not just some trek held each year in a different region, but a genuine event (some even call it a cult event) – like a marathon or an open-air festival.

Every single of the four sign-posted trails features “adventure stations typical for the region”, meaning program elements, rest spots and highlights; the trail leads back to the starting point after the whole loop has been completed. At the “Hiking Marketplace” massages, Bavarian brass-band music and a beer tent welcome the weary competitors.

Why go through all this?

It is probably wiser not to ask this question while you are on the hike. Go ahead, discuss the last tax reform, the upcoming elections, talk about your husband, the best recipe for lasagna or the cool song you just heard, dream of a cold beer and a soak in the bathtub, or just don’t say anything. 

Hoping that at some point you’ll no longer feel what you are doing to yourself and your body; the autopilot kicks in and you enter a meditative state while walking onwards. When you arrive at the finish line 24 hours later on the last of your reserves, and finally fall into your welcoming bed, you’ll probably be deliriously happy that the longest hike of your life is behind you.

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