Thursday, October 1, 2015

An Interview With Andreas Wenger - 168km in 32hr 59min 42sec in Ultra-Trail Mount Fuji

By Rameshon
Andreas Wenger (left of the photo)

Andreas Wenger, who is of Swiss origin, came to see and he told me that, in his life, he has been doing all he could but the sub-3 hours was always evading him. He further elaborated to me that he wanted to do something about it. His personal best time for the marathon was 3hr 07min, before joining Flexifitness. Lim Thow Wee came into the picture, for him, as the former introduced him to me. 

I sat down for some time first to, in a vague manner, ascertain his formative years of training, and also in doing physical activities, as a young boy to his teenage years. I realised that he was a very active person. Later on, over a period of time, he decided to take on to trail running and ultra-marathon running. 

Just like Jensen Toh, who was doing Ironman Series races, locally, and in overseas, Andreas busied himself passionately by focusing and combining ultra - marathons with marathon races. I had to somehow inform him that he should be aware of the need for specificity in sports. That means, a runner will always win the running race, a swimmer will win the swimming race. Likewise, the cyclist will do well in the cycling race, not the swimmers and runners, and there is no doubt about it. Nearly all or if not all research says the same thing to support this statement. It was also a fact that was found in my discussion section of my very own research dissertation done in Loughborough University as part of my requirement to obtain my Honours degree in Physical Education and Sports Science (1992-1994). 

After having done 18m 01s in SAA Cross Country 5km, he hs done a 16min 43sec for the same distance, within a year
Jensen Toh, after doing his Cebu Ironman race, in 2013, doing a time of 4hr 59min, decided to focus a bit more attention to running. By setting sight on a sub-3hr goal, he finally has done a time of 2hr 58m 30sec in last week's Berlin Marathon 2015. My kudos to Jensen for this relentless attempt and finally achieving it. As for Andreas, he has turned to train for the marathon, although he has still some desire for the ultra- marathon races. 

The surprising thing is that he keeps improving in varied distances which can range from 1500m, 5km, 10km, half-marathon, and the marathon race.

The moment to celebrate for him and us came when he did well in the marathon race by doing 2hr 51min 39sec in Tokyo Marathon 2015. That was done with just few months training only. Subsequently, he turned to Kona Marathon 2015, in July, to race in the Men Open category. He he came in as the champion in the race. He did 2hr 54m 54sec in the tough and hilly course. So, he has two sub-3hour race under his belt already and hope that he keeps improving. 

After doing these races, he took my advice to improve upon speed to do well in the distance races, namely the marathon. He was consistent in coming down for our usually night training. I also noted that he was keen in discussing on diet and there was once we went a bit indepth on discussing food and beverages. I was amazed on his regimen on diet and I knew that more improvements are along his way. 

Comparatively speaking, Andreas had improved his speed to 18m 01sec, from 19min plus, before he joined us in Flexifitness. Later on, he brought the 5km time down to 16m 43sec, During the run, when I analysed, I found that the way he ran was good, but there was still some room for more improvement, as the pace was not steady enough, but it was only quite evenly paced. With pace judgement, I believe that he will be able to do a sub - 16min, in the near future. 

We are all amazed that, recently, he told us that he was going for the Ultra-Trail at Mount Fuji. I was appalled at the thought to do it. I don't mind doing it but it was alright to do when one is young and be specific of one's goal. Anyway, I have always had an admiration for ultra-marathon runners, as they are very strong in the mind to do it. Great discipline is needed!

A few days before last Sunday, Andreas took a flight to Japan, and while messaging ", Good Luck!," to fellow Flexifitness athletes, he daringly and ultimately took part in the Ultra-Trail Mount Fuji race for real and covered the distance of 168km in 32hour 59min 42sec. A lot of Flexifitness athletes sent him congratulatory notes for his brave achievement. We were really excited about this success. 

We hope that he will be able to focus on getting a sub-2hr 50min next. There is no doubt in getting it with the right time and place to do it, after his recovery from the recent ultra-marathon race. 

Having said that, I have included a list of interview questions of mine and answers of his for others to read and be motivated to excel in running. The amazing thing about Andreas is that he can run a 1500m in 4m 13sec, and also, at the same time, compete in Ultra-marathon races that are more than 100km in distance and above. Simply amazing!

Photo taken on SAA Cross-Country 2015

An Interview With Andreas Wenger

What is your pet event, 1500m or marathon or the ultra-marathon?
I am definitely more into the longer distances like marathons and ultras than 1500m. Usually, I travel to those races which makes it a whole different experience than just run 1500m.

What is your personal best before joining Flexifitness and now for the following events?

Past - Around 18m plus (not sure)
Present -16min 43sec (Flexifitness Time Trial)
Past - around 39m 
Present - 10km - POSB Run cancelled (still don't know)
Half- Marathon 
pb: 1h18m (for now)

(Past) 3h07
(Present)  2h51m39 (February) Tokyo Marathon 2015

Are you an Ironman competition racer or an ultra-marathon racer, or both?
I did triathlons and one ironman in the past. Due to the lack of my swimming skills I stopped with triathlons and only focused on running,

Why do you take part in Ultra-marathon races?
Ultras are a different challenge. It is more the search for the personal limit. When I did a 100km, I was asking myself if I could do 100miles. I just did a 100miles and of course there is now the question if I could do more. MaybeI I might try out an even longer race.

Which age onwards did you decide to take part in Ultra-Marathon races?
I did the first ultra - 100km of Biel in Switzerland - when i was 30 (2009). Then I stopped and did only shorter races. I started again with ultras in 2012.

Did you take part in MR 25 Ultra- Marathon race in December, ever?
No so far I never took part in that race.

How many Ultra - Marathons have you taken part in, to date?
I took part in 7 races with distances between 50km to 170km.

How many sub-3hr marathons have you done and can you tell us about the date and place?
So far, I have done 2 Marathons below 3hr. Tokyo Marathon on 22nd on Feb 2015 with a timing of 2h51m38 for the race, while in Kona (Hawaii) on 28th June 2015  I did  a time of 2h54m54sec also coming in first in the race. 

Has the training given in Flexifitness benefitted you in running, please elaborate if you have?
Since I joined Flexifitness I got stronger on all distances and I definitely benefitted from the training. I think 3 points helped me to improve
  • Professional training with all the coaches helped me to improve in areas of running, agility, mental preparation, core strength and stretching (although I am still the most inflexible runner in the group :) )
  • Team – It is very motivating to run with the team and it helps to push the limits. I think it is also great that we are a mixed group of Adults and Kids. I always look forward to the training and enjoy it. All goes easier if it’s fun
  • Individual sessions with Coach Rameshon where we discuss the progress and a program how to improve further.
Why did you choose Mount Fuji, Ultra-Marathon Trail for ultra-marathon race?
I love Japan and I have great memories of running in Japan. The UTMF (Ultra Trail Mount Fuji) is a famous 100 mile race and the scenery looked amazing. Also races in Japan are well organised and for our first 100mile it helps if the aid stations and everything is perfectly organised. So my friends and me decided to subscribe to UTMF. 

What is your next target and race?
The next race is the Standard Chartered Marathon 2015. So far, I never achieved to run a marathon below 3hour in Singapore. I will give my best, work hard and hope to achieve that goal in December.

Flexifitness would like to wish Andreas Wenger all the best in the upcoming races!