• Interview with Marcel Höche: ‘The mountains are my happyplace’

Interview with Marcel Höche: ‘The mountains are my happyplace’

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– Marcel, have the emotions subsided that filled the week of UTMB in Chamonix?

– Honestly, no. The time in Chamonix with the whole team was so special, it will take some more time.

– But Mont Blanc was not given to you for the ascent? Was this your third attempt to climb it?

– Yes, third attempt. Always a different reason for me to abort the ascent. I am sure next time I will be lucky.

– How did you like the OCC race? Is it better than CCC?

– I loved the OCC, just like I love CCC. This year we prepared well for 6 hours of race time, which is why I chose the OCC.

– You said that OCC you enjoyed during four hours out of six spent on the course. Did you suffer for the last 2 hours?

Yes and I guess this is how a good racing strategy looks like, right? But after 4 hours it really got tough as I had issues getting calories in, so that’s when performance dropped more than I had hoped.

– Considering that you were almost close to your goals for the race, can you say that you managed to realize the plan for the distance?

– I am really happy with almost sub 6 hours and almost top30, yes.

– What was the most difficult for you during the distance?

– When approaching the last climb, there was a pretty runnable section. Runnable only when still feeling strong. Forcing myself to run here was the hardest during the race.

– You noted that already 12 hours after the finish, you felt the energy was almost completely returned to you. Does the atmosphere in Chamonix so lively?

– Definitely. When OCC is done, we are not even halfway through the racing week. There were many friends of mine racing CCC and UTMB and after they had cheered for me, it was now time for me to cheer and crew them.

– Are you going to return to UTMB next year?

– Most definitely.

– Will it be OCC again or will you try a different distance? Have you thought about it yet?

– Yes, I think it will be OCC again. I believe 100km or even longer is not what I will be prepared for best.

– By the way, have you decided for yourself what distances of trails are best for you? Judging by the results, your crown is mountain marathons?

– Yes. Dmitry [Mityaev] and I analyzed my performance and decided that 3-5 hours of racing is where I can perform the strongest and also, this is what I enjoy most at the moment.

– You finally broke the 800 ITRA mark at 42 km on the Garda Trentino Trail. Had to give all your forces, right?

– Yes, I gave 100% at this race. As I do in most races. For the Garda Trentino Trail, it was special. The third place was just ahead of me during the final downhill and finishing third was something that gave me additional motivation to push hard.

– Have you set a goal to run 800+ points sooner or later, haven’t you?

– Now I have run 800+ points once. The goal now is to make this consistent.

– Admit, do you have any emotions from being able to reach the 800 mark? This is, after all, very close to the level of the international elite.

– Yes, I am very proud to have reached 800+ points. It’s what Dmitry and I have been working for very hard. I am sure next season will be even stronger than this one.

– At the end of last year, you moved to live in the mountains. How did you decide to take such a decision and did you have to solve a lot of issues related to the change of home?

– Moving to the mountains was a big dream of mine for a long time. I had to find a new job that I like and where I can grow and progress, just in my old job. But even when it took some time, it was totally worth it and I am very happy about the decision.

– How much has it influenced your training process? Apparently, you have significantly more training in the mountains.

– Yes, I train much more in the mountains now, which is not only more fun, but also is great for my performance.

– Now no flat roads, only mountain trails?

– Almost. Most of the zone 1 training (very easy training) I still do in hilly or flat terrain and then there are some speed sessions that I also do in the flat, but at least 80% of the training happens in the mountains. When I started to train so much in the mountains, I was worried that I would lose too much speed, but Dmitry told me not to worry. He tells me when to run flat and when to go to the mountains, which is very, very helpful.

– Now you probably have more scenery while running than you had before? Do you have your favorite places yet?

– Yes, the scenery is much, much nicer now. And yes, I definitely have my favorite places. There is a really nice route just behind my house (15 km, 1200 vertical meters). It’s a ridge between 2 mountains with very technical trails and beautiful views over a lake.

– Do you miss civilization and city noise?

– Never ever. Not even a bit.

– In addition to changing your place of residence, you also changed your job. You left the position of product and development manager at adidas Terrex and in February you became a member of the weareact3 agency, which is nevertheless associated with the Adidas concern. What is the reason for the change in the field of activity?

– For me, the professional career is similar to the running career: In order to grow, you need new stimuli. I am really happy to learn about different things now. And lastly, this new job enables me to live in the mountains, which was really important for me.

– Can you tell us what this company does and what functions do you perform?

– We do basically everything that has to do with marketing. Our projects have a wide range that includes projects about marketing strategy to execution and our tools are events, digital campaigns, community management and much more.

– You are also a member of the Kilian Jornet Foundation. What functionality do you have here and what kind of tasks does this project set?

– With my agency I am really happy to help the KJF to create the communication strategy for the foundation’s “athlete climate academy” and voluntarily, I am the team lead for the sustainable product creation workstream. Here we promote sustainable product creation – and manufacturing processes and materials.

– You are on a vegetarian diet. How long have you not eat meat and fish?

– About 4 years now.

– It is believed that a vegetarian diet is not able to fully supply nutrients, especially if a person is actively involved in sports? How do you manage to maintain a high competitive level? Perhaps you need to use nutritional supplements to balance your diet as much as possible?

– I think living as a vegetarian professional athlete is possible. There are some very great examples, especially in the world of trail running. Vitam B- and protein intake is something you need to watch. The first one I supplement, the latter is under control thanks to eggs, nuts, pulses and I also supplement this with isolated pea protein.

– Coming back to trail running, you have had a rather tight competition calendar since May. Don’t you feel tired? Ready for new trails this year?

– It’s been a long year. Longer than I had thought with COVID and much longer than last season, but I am motivated to race more and hopefully win a race while at it.

– You practically did not give yourself a rest after UTMB but you successfully performed at the Innsbruck Alpine Trailrun Festival, which has become traditional for you. You have finished in second place at 65 km and have lost a little to your adidas Terrex’s teammate Remigio Huaman. What attracts you to this race?

– At the Innsbruck Alpine Trailrun Festival, the whole german speaking trail running community comes together, it’s like Christmas when the whole family gathers. And then the city is just so awesome, too. Always a great time there. After winning last year in 42 km race, yes, this year I ran 65 km and finished the second, like in 2019.

– Did you manage to refill your tanks after the OCC?

– I think so. I always believe I need to rest mentally and physically. Mentally, a long day in the mountains is what gives me the most energy. Mont Blanc was perfect for that. Physically, I am trying to get lots of sleep and eat well. Training has been very easy since OCC.

– In the past two years, despite all these COVID restrictions, you have consistently shown very good results. How has your training changed in comparison with previous years and how much has the pandemic affected your lifestyle?

– Thank you. I train as Dmitry says it’s best. This hasn’t changed. With COVID or without. With COVID, I could work from home, which makes good time management and incorporating training into the work life much easier. I just miss meeting friends more regularly, as I think this is very good for regeneration.

– You also have a lot of climbing hours. How do you incorporate this into your training plan?

– Dmitry understands what climbing in the mountains means to me and how I can recover mentally through this. So we fit in a day here in there, mainly after the races as active recovery and before it is time to focus on the next race.

– Do you think mountaineering and climbing improves your running performance?

– Definitely, mainly because of the mental recovery, but also physically as mountaineering are many hours of zone 1, so I think it fits perfect into the training.

– In the future, don’t you have any thoughts to try high-speed ascents to the high summits like doing Kilian Jornet or Karl Egloff?

– Yes, I think this is something that I will evolve into at some point. But before that, I’d like to perform well in some more races.

– And in general, what is your attitude to the mountains? What do they mean to you?

– The mountains are my happyplace. There is no place I feel better. When I go to the mountains, I always return happy and balanced.

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