Red Bull X-Alps

So how do you run for 100km?

No matter how good you are and how much you have trained, if you hike long distances in mountains for hours on end – you’re going to suffer. This is how the Red Bull X-Alps athletes get through it.

© zooom / Kelvin Trautman
 © zooom / Harald Tauderer
 © zooom / Kelvin Trautman
 © zooom / Kelvin Trautman

During the Red Bull X-Alps, it’s not impossible for athletes to clock distances on foot of 100km in a day. Sometimes day after day. During the 2011 Red Bull X-Alps, German athlete Michael Gebert famously hiked a total of 991km during the race.

There’s a reason why athletes say their goal is to spend as much time as possible in the air! But how is that even possible to hike 100km? For most people, covering a marathon of 42km in the mountains would be a challenge. When you factor in mountainous terrain, elevation and the weight of a paraglider on your back, the physical effort and fitness required is really mind-boggling.

“Before my record attempt (to hike 9,000 vertical meters in 24 hours) my trainer said: “Pascal, you are going to suffer, big time! But there are plenty of people in this world who suffer much more with real problems, like war or a disease. So whenever you think you are poor, or feel weak or whatever excuse comes to your mind, keep on walking! Left-right-left-right-left-right don't think, just do it! Borders only exist in your mind. Toma Coconea showed us many times how true this is.”

“The simple answer,” says rookie Red Bull X-Alps athlete David Liano Gonzalez, who’s summited Everest six times, “is breaking down the challenge into small goals that can be more easily grasped by our mind. To prepare for the Red Bull X-Alps I will be doing three ultra races - two of them will be 250km multi-day races in the desert. That’s a lot of mileage but you get through it by thinking of one day at a time. 

“And then you get through the day by thinking of just getting to the next checkpoint or maybe even just to the top of that hill.”

"Mind games are key and staying positive is paramount," he says. “Whether climbing the highest peaks on the planet or running an endurance race, when there’s a moment I feel overwhelmed by the challenge I often have to remind myself, ‘I've trained for this, I've done tougher things than this, and I will finish this’.”

The Mexican athlete is visualising himself having a successful race and landing on the float in Monaco. “I know that mental image will get me through tough times during the race.

”He adds: “The human body is an amazing machine, designed for much more than what we use it for most of the time. It repairs itself and gets stronger when we put it under stress. With the proper training and mental attitude we can push our body so much farther than we would have believed possible.”

For the rest of us, we can simply follow the athletes’ extraordinary performances on Live Tracking and be amazed.