Red Bull X-Alps

“The intensity of the training is huge.”

We speak to former Red Bull X-Alps athletes to get an insider’s view on athlete preparation and their states of mind as they step up a gear.

© zooom / Vitek Ludvik
 © zooom / Sebastian Marko

Michael Gebert knows a thing or two about the Red Bull X-Alps. The German athlete competed five times between 2005 and 2015, with his best result being a 6th place in 2009. He says that at this time of year athletes will be working hard to build up their base fitness and stamina. 

“Now should be the time to be strict with the training. I did a lot of long days; it’s all about the endurance and I also did a lot of intervals.”

Jon Chambers, a British athlete who competed in 2011 (5th place finish) and 2013 (4th place finish), agrees. “The critical thing at the moment is to build up endurance. Athletes have been training since last summer building a base but what’s important is to build stamina. And the way to do that is to cover a lot of kilometers on foot. It’s not about running sub 3 hour marathons but about walking 200km a week.”

“It’s difficult to find the time,” adds Chambers, whose book Hanging in There chronicles his Red Bull X-Alps experience. “I was doing three hours a day around a nine-to-five job and at the weekend I’d do five to ten hours of walking and two to three hours of interval training. Then if the weather was good I’d be trying to fly around that as well! March is phenomenally intensive. The training athletes should be doing is huge basically.”

As soon as the route is revealed (on March 29th), athletes will switch their focus to reconnoitring it as much of it as possible. “The first thing I did was to go to Monaco and understand that difficult section,” adds Chambers. 

“The more you know, the better it is for you,” says Gebert. “As soon as the snow is gone, athletes should check out the route.”

There are just four months left until the start but athletes can expect a rollercoaster of emotions until then. 

Says Gebert: “You have good parts and are feeling strong and then you might get a bit sick or you have an injury – time is running, maybe things with equipment are not good… it’s always up and down. You can’t plan for everything, you just have to do the best.”

Nothing can prepare the rookies for the realisation of the race’s enormity, adds Chambers – even though they are all extremely experienced athletes with many knowing the race intimately. 

“They have no idea what they’ve let themselves in for,” he says. “You become so focused during preparation that the reality only hits you when you get to Fuschl – that’s when you go ‘Holy Cr*p!’”

And by then, it’s too late…