From mountain running to trail running
"Up the mountains I will climb," the German poet Heinrich Heine once said. He didn't say anything about running. No wonder. The fact that people conquer mountains in a hurry is a phenomenon of our time. And yet it has more tradition than most people think. At least in Kitzbühel. Toni Sailer, unforgotten star of the Streif, already mastered the race course in summer for training purposes running uphill. In the 1980s, Dr. Dr. Herbert Thurner, himself an enthusiastic mountain runner, organized the first altitude training camps on the Ehrenbachhöhe on the Hahnenkamm. In 1979, the first "Hornlauf" took place on the Kitzbüheler Horn, the first "real" mountain run in Austria. Franz Puckl particularly emphasizes the "real", he initiated the run at that time. Before that, there was only the Gislauf in Linz in Austria with a good 600 meters of altitude difference. The Horn holds more than twice as many meters of altitude and up to 23% slope. "DES is a mountain run!"
The Olympic Thought
Today Franz is in his 84th year, the problems with his knee make running impossible in the meantime. But that doesn't stop him from taking part in smaller races in the region this year. At least walking or even limping if he has to. What counts is the Olympic idea. He has already won enough in his life. Cups and medals fill entire shelves and display cases at his home in Going, even the trophies are lined up on the floor. I am impressed. Franz has also collected the record books of all the races he has competed in since 1971 and prepared them for me. There are 70 small, narrow booklets, in all of them the dates of the events are neatly recorded.
Franz becomes "forerunner"
Franz once came to Kitzbühel as a three-year-old, and his schoolmates included Toni Sailer. "Mia wår'n a gånze Clique." He became a carpenter and later worked for 30 years at the Schlechter company, now Intersport Kitzsport in Kitzbühel. He started running when his soccer career came to an end, in the 70s. At that time, the "jogging wave" swept over our country from America. It also caught Franz and his colleagues like Simon Brunner, the "Brunner-Simal". Walking a bit, running a bit, then walking again, ... that's how Franz and his friends mastered classic hiking events like the Karwendelmarsch. And at some point they switched completely to running. Thus they were quasi "forerunners" and were among the first mountain runners in Austria. And because Franz always knew how to organize, he founded the Hornlauf, the Berglaufcup, later with a partner the Seegrube-Lauf in Innsbruck and many other regional events, most of which are still held today.
The horn is relentless
At the first Horn Race, more than 300 runners were at the start. The landmark of the Kitzbühel region was and is feared by runners and cyclists alike: the 12.9 km course has nothing but inclines after km 3.6 - and up to 23 percent at that - and does not allow the athletes to take a breather. Franz's personal best time is 1:11 hours, which earned him a place among the top 20. The record holder on the Kitzbühel Horn has been Jonathan Wyatt for 18 years with 56 minutes, 58 seconds.
Franz was not only successful on the "Horn", he also has almost 20 hundred-kilometer runs in Vienna, Florence, Biel (Switzerland) and so on in his legs. For 20 years held in Tyrol his record of 7:57 hours for this distance.
From mountain running to trail running
When Franz was still running and organizing himself, there were still "mountain runs" and no "trail running events". "It's a business thing," he says. Everything has changed, in the organization, but also among the athletes themselves. Even though times have changed, the fascination has remained the same. Trail runs like the Gamstrail, which will take place in Kitzbühel for the second time this year on Sept. 21, 2019, are becoming increasingly popular. Not only among guests, but also among locals. Because many, who were previously only in the valley on the road, now also dare to mountain tracks. In Kitzbühel, the conditions are ideal for this.
The gentle grassy mountains are crisscrossed by a dense network of hiking trails, many of which are also suitable for running. Those who want to save themselves the meters of altitude up the Horn or the Hahnenkamm can float up in the gondolas and enjoy the magnificent view on the high-altitude trails. Runners simply halve the walking time indicated on the yellow hiking signs and thus have a guideline.
The most beautiful routes
Günter Waldinger knows the best running routes in the region. He is an enthusiastic amateur runner and has completed the "Trans Alpine Run" together with his brother - in six days from Germany to South Tyrol, each day between 30 and 50 km distance and between 2,000 and 4,000 meters of altitude. That's all he has to explain to me, I'm in the picture ...
The 53-year-old Jochberger came to sports through his circle of friends - hiking and running in summer, cross-country skiing and ski touring in winter. As sales manager of "Goreware", a subsidiary of Goretex, he is responsible for Austria and Eastern Europe and thus also professionally closely connected with sports. In recent months, on the initiative of Kitzbühel Tourismwith Georg Überall and the Bergbahn AG Kitzbühel, he has worked on the creation of a new trail running map for Kitzbühel. It includes running trails such as the Seidlalm-Runde, the Ganslern Trail or the Gebra Trail. "At this point I would like to thank the landowners for their cooperation," says Günter.
Whoever masters all 24 described trails has managed almost 18,000 meters of altitude. Among the routes that he personally likes best is the Sintersbacher Runde with the waterfall, a beautiful climb up to the Jochberger Wildalm and then back down to the village. The route from the Kitzbüheler Horn to the Bichlalm is also a scenic delight, it has only a few short climbs and usually even leads slightly downhill. If you like it a little more challenging, run the other way around, from the Bichlalm to the Horn. Or from the Bichlalm to the Auracher Wildalm. Or, or, or. "There's no end of possibilities here."
When Günter talks about the running routes, he really gets going. Very briefly, I'm worried that he might jump up under the conversation and run away. But no, he keeps his temper. Even if trail running is just a new name for a sport steeped in tradition, it helps breathe new life into long-established hiking events. Wherever a trail course is offered, demand increases. So Kitzbühel is right on trend with the Gamstrail.
Running makes happy
Whether running or hiking, cross-country skiing or ski touring the peaks "unsafe", for Günter counts the movement in the mountains. It keeps him healthy and fit, in nature he gets the strength for work and everyday life. Of course, he has also taken part in the Horn Run several times. But not everyone has to face this extreme challenge right away. Our Grasberge welcome every hiker and every runner. The hiking trails are well signposted, in principle you can orientate yourself on the existing network and start immediately. In the valley or on the mountain. What counts is the joy of movement, of our wonderful mountain world.
That is also what still prevails for Franz. That is the reason why he is still on the road today with his damaged knee. Even if the body doesn't want to do it anymore: The spirit is longing for the feeling of happiness that comes with running and mountain running, for this satisfaction that only physical activity can bring. With this in mind, put on your running shoes and get out there!