Meet Route Designer Sibylle Schild

Have you ever wondered at a sports event who does the vitally important background work that nobody sees? Who are these athletes, what are their struggles? What makes a sporting event work?  Well I do. I am a proud sports junkie. Ever since I was a five-year-old boy, playing baseball with my dad and brothers in the backyard and keeping track of the statistics of my favorite basketball players, I’ve lived and breathed everything sports. I have a passion for American team sports especially, but I am mostly fascinated with the human element. For me, these questions are just as interesting as the actual competition and who wins or loses.

Though I am a relative noobie (beginner) when it comes to trail running, it’s a sport that is quickly winning my heart, not only from the joy of galloping/trudging freely over every type of countryside but even more so, because of the people involved and the stories they tell.

Trail running itself is a simple activity; you need little or no equipment, there are few to zero rules and it can be done practically anytime, any way and anywhere. This is, I think, a huge draw for athletes from around the globe who use it as time to clear their minds or to stretch their competitive muscles without the stress of equipment or copious amounts of money.

Though the sport itself is simple, events like the adidas INFINITE TRAILS World Championships are anything but. They take months of dedicated preparation, detailed planning and the blood, sweat and tears of many hardworking individuals to pull them off. One of the individuals who is intricately involved with the planning of such an event is the route designer. Fortunately, I was able to interview the Gastein/SalzburgerLand native and INFINITE TRAILS World Championships route designer, Sibylle Schild.

Sybille is a veteran runner who turned from marathons to alpine trail running following an injury to her achilles tendon suffered shortly after a run in Vienna. She discovered that the long-term injury was less affected when she ran at an incline and so she started to run in the mountains surrounding her hometown.

“I am a physiotherapist and so I work all day long with people and afterwards I search for silence in my mountains. I love running alone, enjoying the quiet and sometimes I just stand still in the forest and enjoy the sounds of nature but I also enjoy running with friends and being able to  share the wonderful impressions.”

As a local, she is blessed with having some of the best trails in the world at her doorstep.

“I love my home-valley, especially the mountains. It is not so difficult to run right up to the summit because there aren’t so many rocks but mostly grass. I really love standing up there looking down on my beloved valley.”

It was an obvious choice for the adidas INFINITE TRAILS World Championships team to join forces with this local woman, who could, “run some of the parts of the trail with her eyes closed.” There were some obstacles, though, before things could be set in stone and the event could officially take place on June 22-24 in Gastein.  Among other concerns, could they get approval from over 250 land owners to use the paths that cross over and through private property and would there be enough infrastructure to design the routes without building huts or latrines?

As for the first question, it took some time but hand-in-hand with the tourism board and the event organisers, they got the consent of each and every person involved. The promise of environmental protection and sustainability from both adidas and the Gastein/SalzburgerLand region doesn’t come lightly and it’s a big reason for being excited about this event and its future in the area.

With some skillful planning, the second problem was also solved, as Sybille was able to direct the three loops of the team relay through hot spots and pre-existing infrastructure of trails, huts and toilets.

As an experienced runner, she doesn’t think that the team format will be more or less difficult than any other event, but she does think that the twist of choosing teammates for each route and the benefit of working together makes it a truly unique event.“The extra challenge will be to decide which team member should run which loop and so you have to know your skills but also your weaknesses. Normally I am not a team player, I am responsible only for my own results but I think it will be a special experience for our runners to fight in a team and finish all together. Maybe you push yourself harder when you have teammates relying on you.”

Of course, I couldn’t pass up the chance of getting some “insider” tips for the race. She was nice enough to give a few details on each loop that just might help teams decide who should run each section.

“Loop 1 is not so tricky, it is steep at the beginning but runnable. Maybe the challenge will be that you have to run in the dark but the sunrise at the ridge will surely compensate for that.”

“Loop 2 will be the longest one and also the hardest. There are two parts which are not easy to run but the trail is firm and you should be able to run safely even if you have tired legs.”

“Loop 3 will be the quickest one (based on the pace) and it is incredibly beautiful while running along the ridge between Gastein and Rauris. It’s an easy run with mostly solid trails but at the end, forest roads.”

She obviously won’t be running in this race since she will be far too busy organizing and making sure things run smoothly, but she will most definitely be there from start to finish and is as excited as anyone for the big weekend, only 11 weeks from now.

What is she most looking forward to about this unique trail run?

“I think the biggest difference is running in a team, not together at the same time like other team races but one after the other. Everyone can run his own pace but in the end, they did it all together as a team. There will also be a lot of side programs on Saturday which are all included in the entry fee and it should be a really fun and electric atmosphere. Also it is definitely unique because it will take place in MY home valley.”


What may be the most important tip of all: Where is the best place for a late evening beer after everything has calmed down after the race or before it has all begun on Thursday night or earlier?

“Oh, there are a lot, but a really stunning place is up on Gamskarkogel (if you are good at hiking). Otherwise the Stubnerkogel which you can reach by cable car or Poserhöhe which is just 500 altimeters and a fairly easy hike”

Thanks to Sibylle for filling us in on what goes into designing the routes and planning the adidas INFINITE TRAILS World Championships. As we get closer to the event, maybe I can sit down with her again and get some more tips on
the three routes and if we are lucky, she will tell us where to find the best schnitzel in all of Gastein.

-Kevin Gillikin


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