Reto Franziscus, there are still 12 weeks to go until the start of the first Engadin Ultra Trail. How is your planning going for the second year with Covid-19?
The organising committee is on track with the planning. However, the whole Corona situation with the associated measures is and remains unpredictable. However, we are optimistic about holding the event and are looking into various ways of making it possible despite the Corona virus.
Is your protection concept for the Engadin Ultra Trail (EUT) already in place?
No, the current situation does not allow for detailed planning. Depending on the status of the easing by July, there are various scenarios for holding the Engadin Ultra Trail. Fortunately, there are many possibilities for running events to act flexibly - an important partner in this is our timing partner Ovento AG. What is certain is that our supporting programme around the EUT will have to be very limited.
Is there a restriction on participants?
At the moment we see no reason to limit the number of participants. As a new event in the trail running scene, we are not that big yet - we still have to establish ourselves. We are very satisfied with the number of registrations so far. There will certainly be a lot more registrations at short notice if we can actually hold the event. The running scene has the desire to participate in competitions again.
Compared to other events, there is no sports management company behind the Engadin Ultra Trail. Isn't the workload of the OC members enormous?
Our core team has been working together for ten years: As OC Engadin we were responsible for the sections of the Swissalpine runs through the Engadin. We were able to gain a lot of experience, especially in securing the course and in running such a running event. For the Engadin Ultra Trail, there are also many administrative tasks for which we can count on the support of the event departments of our partner communities.
At the moment, the conditions are not the best for setting up a new event, how do you perceive this?
We want to create new added value with the Engadin Ultra Trail that goes beyond the running event. It is already apparent that new trail running offers are emerging in the lower part of the Upper Engadine between Samedan and Zuoz, which can certainly be greatly expanded in the future. Fortunately, we can count on the support of our partner communities.
What about sponsors?
At the moment it is difficult to get access to the big pots. Firstly, as a new running event, we are not yet interesting for big sponsors and secondly, companies are rather reluctant in the difficult economic situation. However, we have been able to build up some good partnerships and have mostly local supporters for our event. Our first priority is to be able to develop our race in the long term together with our partners and sponsors.
What was your focus when planning the route?
When planning the course, we deliberately focused on the lower part of the Upper Engadine between Celerina and Zuoz, because the event density in these communities is much lower than around St. Moritz. This region is also less intensively used for tourism and we walk through stretches such as Val Champagna or Munt Seja, where we encounter very few hikers.
From the beginning, we planned a route of about 100 km, as there are no such long runs in the Eastern Swiss Alps. The EUT route should cover as many beautiful trails as possible, but without passing extreme stretches that would bring dangers. One of our goals is to offer a run that allows as many starters as possible to become a finisher.
In addition, it was clear to us that all shorter races should run on the 100 km loop and lead to the same finish. The start locations Zuoz (EUT53) and La Punt Chamues-ch (ET23) were also predetermined.
What are the highlights of the Engadin Ultra Trail course?
The Engadin is probably the most beautiful high valley there is. If you organise a 100 km run through this valley, it will accordingly contain numerous breathtaking hotspots. One peculiarity of the Engadin Ultra Trail is that it leads through five historic village centres. However, the route also repeatedly leads up into the heights, with the Fuorcla Champagna at 2818 m.a.s.l. as the highest point. At altitude, you can always enjoy the Engadine panoramas from a different direction, which will certainly ease the strain of the exertion somewhat. For the runners' psyche, it could be aggravating that after each ascent, all the other obstacles of the day are always in front of your eyes.
How can we guarantee the safety of the runners on more than 100 km?
For all sections of the course that lead above approx. 2300 metres above sea level, we have the possibility to switch to lower-lying trails in case of adverse weather conditions (snowfall). In addition, when planning the route, we made sure not to include any dangerous mountain passages, as we are also on the road at night. Large parts of the route can be reached by vehicle or mountain railway, which makes possible missions easier. In addition, most of the EUT course has mobile reception, so we can regularly check the runners with the help of track boxes from our timing partner Ovento. With Dominik Hunziker from the company Berg & Sicherheit, we can count on the help of a safety expert who takes all scenarios into account in the safety concept. Ultimately, however, the responsibility also lies with each individual participant to comply with the rules and to assess their own abilities correctly at all times.
What is your motivation as OC President?
I compare my focus on the EUT with that of a runner. The runner has to prepare for our EUT 102 the whole year so that he can master the demanding course without any problems. The same applies to the OC president: Hardly a day goes by when my thoughts are not on the EUT. I know every metre of the course from my personal walks. The best ideas come to me when I am out in nature with my family dog Armani. In the end, it is important to motivate the whole OC team and all the volunteers to do their respective tasks as well as possible. Our goal must be that the participants feel comfortable with us and return to the Engadin again and again, whether for the next Engadin Ultra Trail or for a holiday stay with us.