Director Tourism Engelberg-Titlis
Andres, thank you very much for your time and the interview. Last year we presented this project to you and you were enthusiastic from the very first moment. What did you like from the beginning?
Yes, indeed. The Via Alpina is a very interesting product for us in Engelberg, which was brought to life by Switzerland Tourism. It brings us a lot of visitors, including people who would otherwise not come to Engelberg. Some stay overnight with us, others travel with their tents and take lodgings with us to take a shower. The idea of running this route fascinated me from the start. The fact that there are crazy people who want to run it in one piece is unbelievable. I'm a sports fan, but I'm more of a mountaineer/climber. That's where you're often called a crazy person too, but I think the people who will run that in one piece, they're much crazier. It's also a good story from a business point of view, to make the Via Alpina even better known for the normal hiker, nationally and internationally.
What advantages do you see as the Engelberg - Titlis tourist region, that you are virtually in the middle of the Via Alpina, after about 150 kilometres?
There are many hikers who hike the Via Alpina. International guests also sometimes come to Switzerland 3 times and do a few stages each time. We see Crossing Switzerland as a marketing tool to make Engelberg and the Via Alpina better known: maybe the supporters of your race will like it here too. I don't know if the participants will see much of Engelberg (laughs), but maybe they will come back. Trail running is a growing topic for us. We have a competition in September for the "Cirque Series", a big American trail running series. Trail running is not yet a mainstream activity like skiing or hiking, but it is growing and gaining in importance. I think it is also an attraction for the village - we will certainly communicate your event properly so that people support it. As a Hero Story, it has a great entertainment value which will fascinate people.
How do you plan to communicate the event?
We are still figuring out how - it doesn't have to be 2 months before, but the week before for sure. We want to communicate this as an event and attraction in the village The whole thing takes a bit long, of course, which has advantages and disadvantages.
We are also considering whether we could give the runners a special welcome in the village. I would like to encourage the shops to create a little atmosphere when the runners pass by.
So far we have been in contact with many people from Engelberg. We have a very good relationship with the sports centre, for example, and have already been in contact with the Samaritans, etc... the whole village is involved, so to speak.
Yes, definitely. We are a sports village; you can say that. Sport is very important here. We have 15 Olympic medals as a municipality, we have a sports middle school as a sports stronghold and with the Gisin family we have one of the most successful skiing families ever... the fascination for sports has a lot of room in Engelberg.
This year Crossing Switzerland will take place for the first time. We are starting "small" but would like to grow bigger in the coming years. Do you have any expectations, e.g. what could be done in Engelberg? Apart from the race?
I would be interested in shorter sections that can also be completed by normal trail runners. For example, Altdorf - Engelberg would be very interesting for us as an event calendar. We already have a run that leads from Engelberg to Melchseefrutt via the "4 Lake Hike", so it would be almost more interesting for us to have a part on the Surenen Pass.
Another idea for the future of Crossing Switzerland: It would be interesting as a normal runner to compete with the reference time of the fastest runner of Crossing Switzerland. E.g., from Altdorf to Engelberg, that would be a public event that could be communicated throughout the year.
Are you ready to participate in Crossing Switzerland in a few years or even next year?
I have run a marathon twice, that was quite painful (laughs). I don't think I could run the whole distance or even wanted to - but maybe parts of it once. My main sport is mountaineering or climbing, but every year I try to take part in a small run to motivate me to train. Last year I did the Vier-Seen Duell in Melchsee-Frutt, which is rather short. I don't think the Crossing Switzerland is for me. You have to be born for it, I think. But I am fascinated by it.
- Léa Guiraud, Paul van der Linden -