Running in Austria
By Anton Reiter
Anton Reiter (PhD) is 62 years old, lives in Vienna and works at the Ministry of Education in the field of IT-didactics. He started running marathons in 2001, stopped in 2007 and continued again in 2009. He has now finished over 270 marathons including ultras (races longer than 50 km). He has completed a marathon in 40 countries and became a member of the Country Club in August 2015. His next destination will be the Andorra Marathon (3500 m elevation gain) in July 2016.
Maddog invited me to offer a brief overview about marathons, and running in Austria. I am a so called marathon collector, and tourist who has competed a marathon in 40 countries on five continents. For the past few years I don’t train anymore, I just participate. My latest marathon serves as preparation for the next one on the following weekend. That’s why I usually finish the marathon distance in about 5 hours (4:49 hours has been PB in 2016). For many years, I have been the marathon runner in Austria to complete the highest amount of marathons each year, and hold the Austrian record for completing 54 marathons and 1 Ultra in one year (2013).
The Half marathon is a popular race in Austria. More runners compete in the Half that is usually offered along with a marathon. And the number of runners competing in Ultras and time (12/24/48 hour) races is also increasing. Trail running is also becoming popular due to the beauty of the nature and mountains in Austria.
Anyone planning to run a marathon in Austria can find several websites on the Internet to get more detailed information. I recommend websites such as www.marathonaustria.com, www.hdsports.at/laufkalender, www.planet-marathon.de and for ultramarathons the DUV-calendar at http://statistik.d-u-v.org/index.php. Since August 2013, I have been writing reports on the German site www.marathon4you.de/autoren/anton-reiter/10090
Over 20 marathons and close to 20 ultras are run each year in Austria. Only three marathons are considered big with more than one thousand runners. The largest because of its sightseeing spots around Ringstraße is the Vienna City Marathon (6501 single runners this year, and 3,507 relay teams of 4 runners), plus another 13,316 runners in the Half. The other two races are the 3-Länder-Marathon at Bodensee (1116 finishers) and Salzburg (1038 finishers).
Other popular races are Linz (942 finishers), Graz (715) and Krems (Wachau Valley Marathon) with 605 finishers in 2015. Most of the other races are small marathons of several dozen up to 300 finishers.
In Austria there are Running Clubs in the cities and also in villages in alpine regions. Most of them combine running with other sport activities. All local clubs are members of the Austrian “Leichtathletik-Verband” (http://www.oelv.at/) that cooperates with IAAF and organizes national championships in many disciplines including marathon and ultramarathon running. It is necessary for a small running club to become an institutional member of OELV in order to take part in the yearly championship in any discipline. There are nine federal and territorial sections of OELV.
For example, well known running clubs in Vienna are LCC Wien (http://www.lcc-wien.at/) and Cricket (http://www.lcc-wien.at/) that also include athletics. They offer free training courses for any discipline and all the facilities of the club houses (LCC resides in the football stadium in Vienna). The yearly fee for a membership ranges from zero Euro for outstanding sportsmen and from 200 Euro for students to 600 Euro for adults.
Compared to 100 Marathon Clubs in England, Finland, Germany, the Netherlands or Serbia, the one in Austria founded in March 2012 (for which I was the official chairman until 2015), has not organized a marathon for its members yet. According to the regulations of the club, certain rules have to be taken into account such as advertising the race in advance, a transparent registration process of 2 weeks, a minimum of 3 finishers and published results on the website. And many runners/marathoners in Austria prefer to compete in ‘big’ races.
Road running is more popular than trail running because the costs for the equipment and travelling are higher for trail running. However, for runners in the countryside trail-running has become very popular. You can find special clubs for trail running and additional information at (http://www.atra.club/).
Registration fees in Austria start at around 35 Euro for smaller races, but usually cost from 60 Euro up to 100 Euro (Vienna City Marathon is usually sold out weeks before the start). At most marathons registration is possible also at the Expo but you pay a bit more – as in other countries. Now you have to buy the official race shirt at many races (20 to 35 Euro). In past years it was included in the entry fee. When you run a city marathon in East Europe, you get a nice shirt for free plus a wonderful designed medal. In the Czech Republic, Poland or the Ukraine the enthusiasm for the running sport dominates, poorer runners are offered free dormitories and seniors over 60 pay only half of the fee or nothing.
Running an ultramarathon longer than 50 km in general (not only in Austria) differs from the classical distance. Usually runners are offered a comfortable amount of time that enables them to finish in a quicker walking pace (which is not valid for Sparthatlon in Greece or other races with a strict time limit and check points). Again the question arises where running sport begins and when it ends. For me, marathons with an elevation gain of 1500 to 3000 meters such as in Innsbruck (www.innsbruck-alpine.at/#/), Kainach (www.tus-kainach.at/index.php/de/bm-startseite), (Montafon Arlberg (www.montafon-arlberg-marathon.com/), Silvretta-Run 3000 (www.ischgl.com/de/events/sommer-highlights/silvrettarun-3000), Sommeralm (www.lauffestival.com/sommeralmmarathon.htm) or Tour de Tirol (www.tourdetirol.com/) mean no stress at all as you walk upwards and enjoy the wonderful nature. As a mountain hiker you never would make 42 km a day, but at the marathon you can do it. I consider mountain marathons as a recovery from flat city marathons where you have to speed up.
In Austria there are many running cups (a series of races) such as “Volkslaufcup”. Anyone can register for the “Volkslaufcup” (http://www.volkslaufcup.net/infos/) – a series of 29 races (over shorter distances up to a half marathon) take place throughout Austria. The best three in each age group of both sexes win prizes. Another is the Austrian Ultralauf-Cup that comprises 5 destinations (www.ultrarunningaustria.com). There has been also a marathon cup that included races in Austria and Germany.
There are other running cups such as the “4th Salzkammergut Top-3-Running-Cup 2016“of three races: International Mondseelauf (June 5th, 2016 / 21km), Bad Ischler Raiffeisen halfmarathon – Kaiserlauf (Sept. 18th, 2016 /21km) and the International Wolfgangseelauf – Salzkammergut Marathon“(Oct. 16th, 2016 / 27 km or 42km) “.
The season for racing marathons starts in April and ends in October. Austria offers many types of races for runners/tourists who can enjoy the culture in the cities or nature during an Alpine marathon.
Much thanks to Anton for this 5th article in a series about “Running in a Country”. I hope to publish many more such articles from other countries.