Red Bull X-Alps 2009: interview with the winner Christian Maurer
Interview with 26 year old Swiss athlete Christian Maurer, the first to cross the Red Bull X-Alps 2009 finishing line in Monaco yesterday. Maurer spent 11 magnificent and spectacular days in the incredible paragliding and running race, one of the toughest and most extreme outdoor races in the world which crosses the Alps from Salzburg to Austria.
Christian Maurer, from Salzburg to Monaco via the Alps. 1376 km on foot, 999 km with your paraglider covering 34.890m vertical meters. All of this in 11 days... What adjective, or what adjectives, would you use to describe your experience?
Good question! It was unbelievable. To see all the mountains, the valleys, meet the people, the different languages, and to see the big boats by the sea.
The Red Bull X-Alps is said to be the toughest competition of all. From your point of view, and apart from the numbers, can you explain why this is the case?
You have to walk and to fly and you have to do all of this by yourself for 24 hours a day, and this makes it really extreme.
What was your worst moment, if you had one? And the best?
Worst moment? One night in the forest, I was near Lago di Como and spent more than 2 hours in the forest trying to find the way at about 2 in the morning. I was quite lost. Best moment? Taking the Matterhorn turnpoint. It was really nice day in the mountains. Another moment was to fly from the Alps into the sea in Monaco.
During your 11 competition days you ran for 42.17 hours, flew for 87.32 hours and rested only 100. How does one train for such a gruelling race?
I started training about a year ago by jogging, doing weights and hiking with the bag. There was a lot of preparing the material, the Advance glider, the clothing with Hagloffs and Lowa. I needed to know which equipment I needed. Also we spent a lot of time looking at the route.
We won't ask you why you do it. But we would like to know what you think about during the competition... what do you dream about, if you dream?
I dream about hiking up, and flying the whole day and then the next day is the same. My days are similar to my dreams!
What is your definition of physical effort? And the limit?
Difficult to say. You have to go slow, but for ten days. Difficult part is to know how far your body can go on the first or second day. After the fifth day you know, because you are tired. But during the first days, especially if you are fit, you go too fast and you can see that in Berchtesgaden on day one or two, there were a lot of athletes who ran and i just walked. It was my biggest goal to find a good speed in the beginning and not to lose control on the first days.
The most beautiful place you saw during the race, in flight or on foot...
The glacier at Zermatt. The weather was brilliant, the thermals were perfect, I won't forget it.
What would recommend to someone who aspires to taking part in the Red Bull X-Alps? What attributes count most?
You have to know exactly what you are doing, you have to learn a lot and you need a lot of experience. It is not only flying, but flying in really hard conditions. When it was windy, you have to make your own decisions and decide what you can do as an athlete, and what your paraglider can do. In the last days, when I was really tired, it was difficult to decide if it was flyable or not.