Hannes Namberger of Germany looks to add a nice bonus race to his successful 2021 season with a go at the Madeira Island Ultra-Trail. In our first interview with Hannes, he talks about his history in sports, his path to trail running, his 2021 season, and his mental approach to ultrarunning.
Hannes Namberger Pre-2021 Madeira Island Ultra-Trail Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar with Hannes Namberger before the 2021 Madeira Island Ultra-Trail. How are you?
Hannes Namberger: Yeah, I’m fine. Thanks.
Namberger: I arrived today and now I’m very excited to visit the island. Yeah.
iRunFar: Have you been to Madeira before?
Namberger: Yes, two years ago for USM [Ultra SkyMarathon Madeira] for the SkyMarathon.
iRunFar: And what distance was that?
iRunFar: I assume a lot of climbing and descending.
Namberger: Yeah. [laughs]
iRunFar: So you’ve seen what this island has to offer. It’s a big challenge.
Namberger: Oh yes. It is a really big challenge where we, or a lot of vertical meters. So yeah.
iRunFar: Does that, is that exciting or a little scary or both?
Namberger: I would say it’s a bonus race for me because my season was very good. I’m very happy with my results. And now, yeah. I’m happy to be here in good shape and we’ll see what happens.
iRunFar: Yeah. I’d love to, before we get into this year, which has been amazing, I’d love to know a little bit about your history with sports. How did you, what’s your history with sports?
Namberger: Yeah, I was an alpine skier.
Namberger: Downhill, or giant slalom. Yeah. And then I quit my career. I had to quit because I was injured and, and I changed everything. I lost some, some weight and I found my love in the mountains and especially to run. Yeah, and then I started to trail run.
iRunFar: How many years ago was this transition from skiing to running?
Namberger: From, it was 2011, it was my last race as an alpine skier. Then 2015 my first one as a trail runner.
iRunFar: And the injury from your skiing days doesn’t bother your running?
Namberger: No. I had two operations on the knee and, and that was fine to run but not to ski.
iRunFar: Yeah. Well, you made quite a transition, and then in just a handful of years. This year you were, you won Lavaredo. You were sixth at UTMB. How did those races feel?
Namberger: It was great. It was, I was always dreaming about this race, especially to finish one time the UTMB and this year, yeah, a dream come true for me.
iRunFar: Does one of those two performances stand above the other in your mind?
Namberger: Yeah. Lavaredo was the best performance.
iRunFar: What was special about that day?
Namberger: My mind was, was perfect in shape. I was focused for this race over a long time. And for UTMB I was very scared about 170k. And it was not always good and but at the end I … I could fight very hard.
iRunFar: It’s interesting to hear you say that. Like it seems to you that mental, the mental aspect must be very important to these ultramarathons.
Namberger: Yeah, mentally is always one of the most important things and especially ultrarunning for the long distances. If you’re … if you’re not in a good shape, then in your head and mentally, then it’s not possible to make a good result, to perform what, what you can do.
iRunFar: I don’t think a lot of people really talk about that or maybe I think a lot of, maybe think about it to themselves, but did you prepare mentally before Lavaredo? What does that look like for you?
Namberger: Yeah, but that’s my secret.
Namberger: Yeah, how should I explain? I imagine always what, what I have to do if something goes wrong, if I have bad times, if how is the course, what I have to do about my maximum limit about, yeah about everything and …
iRunFar: Are you not just thinking about it, are you almost visualizing? I’m thinking about this from like maybe a giant slalom perspective where you, it’s … you have to know where you’re going.
Namberger: I would say it’s, could be the same maybe in giant slalom. You have to know what you have to do on every gate. And yeah, on the ultra trail race, you have to know, yeah, how many meters uphill, how many … Yeah, how is the course and that it’s a longer race.
iRunFar: That’s a balance. You can’t, you can’t have that focus, intense intensity. So how do you balance that? That knowing what’s going to happen, being prepared with if you’re at you know, 20-plus hours at UTMB, you, it’s almost impossible to.
Namberger: Yes, sometimes you are very tired but then you have to bring your mind and your body back if we have bad times. So I cannot, I cannot describe it perfectly, but I find a good solution for me.
iRunFar: There’s like a balance and yeah, of working and not, but yeah, almost like flow.
Namberger: Not, it’s not a flow. I would say it’s a fight. A fight against me and my body.
iRunFar: But it’s not always about pushing harder.
Namberger: No, no, no. I would say hold the limit. Limit on, on the same line.
iRunFar: I think that’s a much different perspective than a lot of at least ultrarunners share, a lot want to hurt or to fight you know, to go to the dark place and stay there. You want to stay out of the dark.
Namberger: Yeah, I, I would say stay out of the dark or don’t push too hard. I would say, don’t run, don’t run and because you want to go as fast during the time, or especially at the beginning and yeah, that’s sometimes the secret of good result.
iRunFar: That seems like I want to be watching you well when you hit the last 30 or 40 kilometers on this course which are fast and runnable.
Namberger: They are very important here.
iRunFar: I see you might be ready for those.
Namberger: I hope.
iRunFar: What are you excited about for MIUT?
Namberger: I think you run seven hours in the dark and then you have a good morning. I love it, to start in the dark and then go into the morning. And then yeah, I’m back at lunchtime. Hopefully.
iRunFar: Sit in a café by the ocean and …
Namberger: Not the café. It’s my last race for the season. I don’t drink coffee after this.
iRunFar: Maybe a beer? [laughs]
Namberger: [laughs] Not only one.
iRunFar: I think they serve those at the cafés as well.
Namberger: Yeah, but I don’t think too much on what I drink. I think a lot of the food afterwards.
iRunFar: It’ll be good. Yeah. Well, I think it’d be really fun to see your strengths here. So you’ve had a downhill skiing background. Do you find that you’re really strong in comparison on the descents in trail running? Are you also good on the climbing?
Namberger: I would say I’m not good on … I’m not very good on a special part. I can compare everything. I can, I would say I’m a normal runner. I’m a normal climber and a normal downhiller, and I don’t waste or I don’t lose too much time on this part. And at the end, these skills make me at the end, a little bit more successful than another guy. Hopefully.
iRunFar: Hopefully. Well, I look forward to watching you and good luck this weekend.
Namberger: Thank you.