How does ultra-running change you as a person?
When you train for very long distances, your mental strength becomes enormous. Then a 10km run becomes very short. But short distances are hard too, because you run much faster. The ultra-distances are easy in the beginning. But in the end, you need a lot of endurance and mental strength to finish fast.
What’s your advice for handling the mental side of ultra-running?
When it gets tough, I always look back to how I trained. Most of the time I’ve had a good preparation, so I can tell myself in competition that I’ve done everything I can and that I’m well prepared. I can do this!
Alternatively, I think of my family. I concentrate on my wife and my daughter to motivate me and push myself. When I’m far away, perhaps in the USA, I tell myself I didn’t go that far just to quit. So I keep on running. I won’t give up. And sometimes I think of my followers. That also pushes me to not stop.
And what advice would you give to someone considering the step up to ultra-running?
First of all, start with 5km and 10km runs. Then work up to half-marathons and marathons. Once you have enough experience on these distances, then you can think about going longer.
Don’t go for ultras straightaway. You need a good base of endurance, and a few years of marathon preparation and experience, before you go for ultras. Your body needs to be fit.
I did my first ultra after 13 years of running all distances up to marathons. It was a 50km trail run – and it was hard. Then I increased the distances slowly. So my biggest piece of advice is not to rush. Build up slowly. That way you’ve got the best chance of avoiding injury and staying healthy and fit.
What’s your favorite moment from the Wings for Life World Run?
In Munich 2016, when I met over 500 runners from my RUN WITH THE FLOW team. I didn’t know it was going to happen. It was a big surprise. But it was emotional and very special.
What’s the secret to winning this event?
I’ve won the German race three times. Worldwide I’ve finished third, fourth, fifth and sixth. But there’s no big secret.
You need good preparation, a perfect day, perfect conditions and a perfect course.
People run all over the world, which means the weather is different for all of us. So you need a good portion of luck, because it’s only with good weather conditions that you’ll be able to run far and win the worldwide title.
Does your preparation involve anything unique to this event?
No. I just run and prepare like I always do. I do a normal marathon preparation, but make the long runs much longer. Instead of a 30-35km run, I do up to 60km in a single session.
Do you have any ambitions still to achieve in the Wings for Life World Run?
Yes, for sure. I’m missing the worldwide title. If I could win that, it would be awesome.
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