Interview about trail running

It's like meditation

Matthias Bachmann is a passionate trail runner and completes several ultras a year. In the running story, he tells us how he motivates himself for these challenges, what he experiences during the races and why he always has his video camera with him.
Matthias Bachmann, as the owner and CEO of the prestigious Lucerne confectionery of the same name, you have a special hobby: trail running. Explain.

Matthias Bachmann: The summer months with the trail runs are the best time of the year. That's when I can live out my hobby with full passion. I always do it in a similar way: I sign up early for various ultras. That's how I put myself under pressure. I have to train. But I'm always rewarded in a marvellous way.

Can you explain that?

There are the beauties of nature: the mountains, forests, flower meadows, the barren wastelands. And that in combination with the confrontation with yourself and your body. You are challenged. You experience hard things. And you are reduced to a minimum. It's like meditation for me. I free myself from everyday life, isolate myself completely and concentrate exclusively on the signals from my body. All the problems and "annoyances" are suddenly far away.

Instead, the here and now is central.

Exactly. On very long runs, hallucinations occur after 150, 160, 170 kilometres during such a phase of exhaustion. For example, I see a house in a fir tree - probably because I long for civilisation. But sometimes elephants and giraffes also appear. And every large stone has a face. It often laughs at or at me. When I first experienced this, I was unsettled: What will happen to me now? What happens next, I asked. In the meantime, I've moved on. I know that nothing will happen. And it's interesting...

You beg your pardon?

You always know exactly that these images don't correspond to reality and try to think them away. But you don't succeed. They stay there.


They are reactions of the brain. This central organ is also at its limit.

And at the finish line?

You no longer know anything. No longer what day it is, what month. No longer where the car is parked. You need to restart. I say: It's like rebooting your computer.

Not tremendous experiences like that?

Not anymore with experience. A tremendous feeling of happiness quickly grows out of it. Images, impressions and sensations come flooding back. This moment is addictive. You feel like you've been reborn. And the "never again" that accompanied you on the way and first at the finish quickly develops into a central desire: to seek out this feeling again, to experience it once more. It is so unique, combined with such a deep sense of happiness. Then you quickly realise that you can continue.

And you process the experience in your own way.

That's how it is. I used to write blogs. For a few years now, however, I've been pursuing a way of processing that allows me to go much deeper. I carry my tripod and my video camera, which together only weigh around 300g, with me on my trail races and during training. This results in films of 6 to 10 minutes in length. I upload them to YouTube and Instagram. For me, it's a great way to deepen my knowledge, document and preserve.

That too: no rush job...

(laughs). Not really. The work starts immediately after the race and is very time-consuming. It takes 2 to 3 weeks before I have everything neatly put together and edited. I work for every second of film and compress the up to 47 hours of running into the few minutes of film. I also look for the right music to accompany the film.

What happens to you in the process?

I relive the race. My approach: I immerse myself and want to convey the search for physical and mental limits. In doing so, I can really savour the race again and let it settle. The race is only fully completed when the film is finished. I now have over 30 such films - many of them of training runs.

Are there external factors that influence the "works"?

Of course there are. The weather is important. When it's as beautiful as it was recently on the Eiger Ultra Trail E101, running is easier. And filming produces the more impressive images. And what I also want to say: At night, it quickly becomes less interesting from a visual point of view.

What role does the trail running scene play for you? Couldn't you experience something similar at the big city marathons, for example?

I feel at home at trail races. It's like having your own community. You meet up with people you know again. It's very different to the big fun runs with 10,000 participants: much more familiar, more personal.

And what does trail running fan Matthias Bachmann do in the seasons without trail runs?

He likes to train a lot. The last race is traditionally the SwissCityMarathon Lucerne. This is followed by the Christmas Marathon, now in the lead and closing stages. There is no time for competitions or training. I won't start again until the end of January - with 5 to 6 kg too much on my ribs and without the necessary muscles. Then I'll have to slowly increase my training so that I'm ready again in the summer until I can run three to five times a week again. I usually run 20 kilometres or more.

The interview with Matthias Bachmann was conducted by Jörg Greb