Austria has to be one of my favorite countries in the world. I’ve cycled there several times – in fact my first ever cycle tour was in Austria. It’s a country criss-crossed with cycle routes, making it a safe, gorgeous place to tour. It’s a country of great beauty – from its historical capital city Vienna to the lakes and mountains of the Salzkammergut region. I love how its people often wear traditional Austrian dress in the streets. I love the geranium-bedecked chalets in villages. But I’ve never run there – I’ve not been a runner any time I’ve visited, so I was really interested to find out more about the running community there.
I found today’s interviewee, Johanna, via Instagram. Her photos are beautiful, as you’ll see in the post below. A bit of online stalking and I asked her if she’d be up for an interview. She was currently in San Francisco, on holiday, so maybe that swung it…because she said yes and this is what I found out.
Tell us a little about who you are and what you do when you’re not running.
Hello, my name is Johanna. I’m 27 years old, born and living in Innsbruck, a small town in the middle of the mountains in Tyrol in Austria. I’m a physical therapist working partly with patients who suffer from neurological diseases and partly with orthopedic/ patients with sport-injuries. I try to spend most of my free time outside, mostly doing all different kinds of sports. I started running about 2 years ago and I’ve since finished 7 half-marathons and a couple of shorter races (5 to 15K) and a trail & obstacle run. When I’m not running I love to go skiing, snowboarding, ski-touring, mountaineering and cross-country skiing. I also play the drums in a band called SO KLAR.
How did you get into running?
To be honest – I didn’t really like running at first. I always thought it was boring and way more exhausting than any other sports I did. What got me into running at the end was my boyfriend, who made a bet about whether he could finish a half-marathon or not. He wanted me to join and at first I wasn’t convinced that I would make it, but then we actually started running at a regular basis and made progress quite quickly, so I started to really like it.
How popular is running in Austria? Is it growing in popularity or has it always been popular? Or does no-one really run?
Running is actually about to be on the up in Austria. It was never really popular, since we’re more of a winter sports nation and it’s still not as popular as other sports (on a professional level), but it’s currently getting really popular among ‘normal people’. Since we’re living in the middle of the Alps, trail running especially is gaining more and more fans with a lot of smaller races (from shorter beginner races to ultra-trails).
How popular is it amongst women? Is that a new phenomenon or have women always been keen on running? Are the genders fairly well-balanced?
I wouldn’t say that running is more popular amongst women or amongst men. I think it’s quite well-balanced. There are usually more male participants when it comes to races, but you see as many female runners as male runners when you go out on the streets.
How popular is racing? What are the biggest or most important races? What kind of distances are popular?
Races become more and more popular here in Austria. The biggest race is probably the Vienna City marathon, with a race over the whole marathon distance, a marathon relay, a half-marathon and a 10K race, all taking place on the same day. It’s hard to say what kind of distance is the most popular one – I would say the shorter ones (from 5K to half-marathon distance) because also non-professional runners who don’t train on a regular basis can participate. It’s often more about the ‘social event’ than about results.
You said trail running is increasingly popular in Austria? What are the trails like?
The trails are mostly pretty rocky, steep and therefore quite challenging.
As a woman, how safe do you feel when you run? Are there any particular issues facing women runners?
I feel pretty safe most of the time when I’m running. Of course there are some parts of the city I try to avoid when I’m running alone or in the dark, but all in all I must say that I (thank god) hadn’t had any bad experience so far.
Are you a member of a running club or crew?
I’m not. Unfortunately there are just a few running clubs in Innsbruck and they’re more on a professional level so that’s not really suitable for ‘beginners’ like me. I usually go running with my boyfriend or friends. I think running clubs and crews are growing in popularity but more in the bigger Austrian cities like Vienna.
What do female runners wear in Austria? What kind of brands are big there?
During the summer we usually wear running shorts and a functional t-shirt or a tanktop. During the winter season we definitely need to switch to running tights, long-sleeve shirts, a jacket, running gloves and a headband.
What do Austrian runners use to fuel and to hydrate?
The common pre-run snack is a banana, a slice of bread (with marmalade or ham) or a bowl of cereal. There isn’t anything typical we eat as a post-run meal. I would say it depends on the distance, but pasta is kind of popular after longer distances.
When it comes to hydration we normally just drink water (on shorter distances). On longer distances we prefer water mixed with electrolyte powder. What’s also really popular in Austria is non-alcoholic beer after a run/workout, `cause it’s isotonic and hydrates you quite well.
Does the weather cause any challenges to runners in Austria?
Weather can be quite challenging during the winter season `cause the roads can be pretty icy and slippery, but it isn’t a challenge the rest of he year.
Who are Austria’s well-known runners/running heroes?
That’s a good question. Since we’re more of a winter sports nation track and field isn’t that popular, so there are (unfortunately) no real running heroes in or from Austria.
How big is social media within the Austrian running community? Which are the best known blogs? Any good Twitter users we should follow? Which are the most important magazines and podcasts?
Social media sure has a huge impact on the rise of popularity of running. I would say Instagram is the no. 1 platform for runners in Austria, with a lot of smaller accounts that focus on running.
I think more and more younger people are getting into running, mainly through Instagram and other social media platforms, although running covers every age group and that’s – in my opinion – a pretty cool thing.
The most important running magazine is probably the German edition of ‘Runner’s World’ and ‘Running’ (both published in Germany). Unfortunately we don’t have a real popular running magazine in Austria.
If I landed in Innsbruck, where would you send me to find out about the local running routes, group runs or races there?
If you would visit Tyrol I would take you on a quick run on our ‘home track’, which offers you a nice view over my hometown Innsbruck or on a quick trail run in the woods above the city.
If you wanted more information before you arrived, I would probably recommend to you www.innsbrucklaeuft.com They’re in charge of most of the races in Innsbruck – all really well-organized and really fun.
If I was going to do any race in Austria, which would you recommend and why?
I would either recommend the Vienna City Marathon because it’s a nice route through the city and you’re running by some of the famous sight in Vienna or a trail run in Tyrol, because the landscape and the view can be really breathtaking.
What are the best and worst things about running in your country?
To be honest, I can’t really think about a bad thing about running in Austria.
The best thing about running in Austria is that it never gets boring `cause our country and its surroundings offer endless possibilities whether you prefer street- or trail-running – it never gets boring.
Johanna, thanks so much for your time. You can (and you really should) follow Johanna on Instagram HERE.
If you’re an international runner from a country we haven’t yet covered, I would love to hear from you. Please drop me an email using the address on my ‘Contact’ page.
For more Running The World interviews, click HERE.