Luck at the run

Hermann Schwaiger, state champion in trail running, talks about his passion

"I have always loved being in the mountains," says Hermann Schwaiger and smiles. We meet the passionate trail runner and owner of a painting business in his home town Maria Alm. He would never have dreamed that he would one day be state champion in trail running. Today, at over 40 years of age, Hermann is more successful than ever and is on the move in the mountains in every spare minute. We were allowed to talk to him about the fascination of trail running, about his love for his home region and why he prefers the Stone Sea to Mount Everest.

Up the mountain and down a hill, over sunlit slopes and rugged rocks, along streams and through forests - at any time wonderful panoramas in front of our eyes. Trail running is running away from asphalt and road noise, on unpaved paths, in the middle of nature. The love for nature and the mountains was also the reason why Hermann Schwaiger started with trail running. Since December 2015 the master painter has been running his own painting business in Maria Alm. When he is not working with paint, Hermann can be found in the mountains. Two years ago, the Maria Almer was even able to take home a state champion title in trail running - on the Endurance Distance, where he covers between 80 and 90 sweaty kilometers. If this had been predicted to him a few years ago, he would have just laughed about it, says Hermann. "Running up the mountain, I couldn't have imagined that before. I was more attached to climbing, from sport climbing to bouldering. At that time I thought to myself: I'm certainly not running up the mountains!" Hermann stirs his coffee and smiles. "Well, and now I'm doing just that."

"Actually I wanted to stop in 2012 again"
Before he started trail running as a competitive sport, Hermann was a triathlete and has been to various countries. But soon the training on the road did not appeal to him anymore. "Even as a child, I much preferred to be in the mountains," says Hermann. "My father often took me along. I simply always wanted to be in nature. So I thought to myself: running and the mountains, that can be combined quite well. In 2010 he tried his hand at a trail running competition for the first time, the Transalpin Run. "I saw the Transalpin-Run on television. You run from Germany to South Tyrol, in teams of two, within a week. I thought to myself, I have to try that. So I ran with them eight years ago. That was my entry into the trail competition scene. It took another two years until Hermann finally said goodbye to triathlon and devoted himself entirely to trail running. "In retrospect, the decisive factor for me was the Zugspitze Ultratrail in 2012, which was the last time I actually wanted to run a trail running competition. Hermann pauses for a moment, looks up at the ceiling. "In the end, however, I ran right into the top ten and thought to myself: Well, that's actually quite casual." Hermann laughs and his blue eyes flash. "The next stop was then Klagenfurt, there's a trail around the Wörthersee. It is beautiful. I came third in this competition. Yes, and so everything took its course."

"For me, it's the outdoors that makes the fascination."
What really makes trail running fascinating for him - what drives Hermann? "When I run to train, the fascination is clearly the free, wild nature," says Hermann. "I usually train every day, so I'm in the mountains almost every day. When he takes part in a competition, the whole thing looks a bit different, explains Hermann. "In competition, the fascination is more the physical component, pushing the limits. After a certain distance, the head is added, when the muscles burn and no longer want to. That sounds like a great physical and mental effort, we think. "Yes, of course you need discipline," says Hermann and leans back in his chair. "It's about setting a goal and then pursuing it consistently. I basically enjoy movement and see trail running as a balance to my job. When I run, I fall into a flow.

"The Hochkönigman is the only exception
Per year Hermann drives to three to four competitions, from Austria or Germany to Croatia, from Italy to Switzerland. "The route profiles in the different countries differ greatly from one another," explains Hermann. "Sometimes it is rather hilly and flat, sometimes high alpine. For me personally, the high alpine is my favorite". The compulsory trail running equipment, which includes a backpack, is always included. "This is one of the essential items of equipment, because among other things it contains the drinks and first aid kit." Once he has chosen a venue, he only goes there once, emphasizes Hermann. "I only do each competition once. The only exception is the Hochkönigman, where I am also the course director, so I do all the course markings. The route there is beautiful! Compared to other races, the amount of terrain is very high, I like that. And also the whole organization is great. When I compare it with other races I have to say: there is not much to criticize.

"The most beautiful is right outside the front door"
In order for Hermann to be able to live out his sport, the entire family is fully behind him. His wife and their two sons Luca and Jakob are present at competitions as often as possible. "My family supports me a lot," says Hermann. "My wife and the boys, but also my brother Bernhard. He is a very good climber, he does it competitively. In winter we like to go on a ski tour together." Ski touring is his second passion after trail running, Hermann tells us. "I like best to go off-piste in our area. There are so many possibilities here, I don't have to get into my car and drive for hours somewhere. The best place is actually right outside the front door."

"Mount Everest does not tempt me"
Is there actually a mountain or a region that Hermann absolutely wants to "run" through? "Well, the high alpine area is very appealing to me. An 8,000-meter peak, that's it," says Hermann and smiles. "But if then only in the alpine style. And up a casual mountain where you're alone. Crowds of people on the mountain, I don't like that at all. I want to be alone up there, enjoy the pure nature and the peace. That's why I've never been to Mount Everest or the Großglockner." But Hermann loves the Steinerne Meer. "The Steinerne Meer is my favorite area. But for me, it's the mixture that makes it special - we have the stone mountains on one side and the grass mountains on the other. You can combine them perfectly, you never get bored.

Love for the region knows no age
Hermann and his wife have passed on this enthusiasm for home, for the paradise on their own doorstep, to their sons. "Luca is eight years old and Jakob is just under a year old," says Hermann and beams, quite the proud dad. "Luca loves hiking, he has often been with us in the mountains. And just recently he did his first short trail running lap with me". Hermann takes a short break, shakes his head and laughs. "So he simply said to me: "Daddy, now I need the backpack. Let's go running!" Passion is contagious. And the love for the region, it knows no age.