Mathys sets sights on more gold in El Paso ahead of dual Olympic ambitions
Maude Mathys is an off road running superstar and she is eyeing what would be a record-breaking fourth successive title in the mountain running events at the European Athletics Off-Road Running Championships in El Paso, Spain from 1-3 July.
The European Off-Road Running Championships is a new addition to the calendar, combining the disciplines of trail and mountain running. Mathys has won three successive titles at the European Mountain Running Championships and a fourth title would put her in rarefied company.
Mathys is someone who might be considered to be the complete runner. The Swiss star can run the marathon in under two-and-a-half hours and was recently crowned national champion at this distance in Zurich. Yet there are reasons why she will not be competing at the European Athletics Championships in Munich in August – and these can be found in the great outdoors.
Although Mathys has set her sights on competing in the Olympic Games marathon in Paris in 2024 as one of her long-term career goals - as well as participating in the ski mountaineering event at the 2026 Winter Olympics in Milan-Cortina two years later - this year her focus is clearly on trails.
Her love of this type of running is nothing new for the 35-year-old from Ollon in the Canton of Waad who excels both on the trails and in the mountain running disciplines.
“I began doing this half a lifetime ago,” said Mathys, who got into the sport by running through meadows and forests with her then-future husband.
“I wanted to keep up with him and wanted to get into running as a sport. I tried out almost all athletics disciplines in my youth – but I found stamina sports the most exciting and I specialised in them.”
And with great success as well. Mathys has trained - and trained hard - and has achieved the targets on her training plan which have been put together by her coach Mael Bohren since last year.
Her training programme is rigorous but Mathys follows it diligently. Sixty minutes of running means 60 minutes and not 58 minutes. And Maude Mathys would do another extra lap to reach the required time target.
“I love running outside and in the woods and I love that I keep discovering new places, wherever I am. I find all my favorite things in trail running. Running is such an easy sport. You just need shoes, pants and shirt and nothing more,” she said.
The fact that a backpack, water bottles, poles and head lamp are equipment needed - sometimes - in trail running is something the three-time European champion only partially accepts. “I prefer being out for two or three hours at a time and so I don’t carry much equipment. And by the time I’m thirsty, I’m already back home,” she said.
Mathys has established a long and lucrative career with many more chapters likely to be written.
She has won the European Mountain Running Championships three times as well as the prestigious and lung-busting Sierre-Zinal race in Wallis, Switzerland three times, a race that is 31 kilometre, ranges over 2200 vertical metres and whose course passes five 4000-metre high mountains. The course record for women is 2:46:03 (unofficial), and (official) 2:49:20 both of which were set by Mathys.
“Distances between 20 and 40 kilometers suit me best, as I can play on all my strengths,” she said.
Trail running has come a long way in recent years, has found acceptance and has also inspired more and more runners, says Mathys.
“This is great, as the more people who move, the healthier our society is. And trail running fits perfectly into the prevailing sentiment in terms of sustainability, climate protection and future thinking.
“But there is another side to this: the greater the number of people in the mountains, the more trash that’s found there and then taking a plane to run in another country also leaves an ecological footprint,” said Mathys.
Mathys is conscious that people’s intentions and actions are not in unison and educational work is needed. “For my part, I try to be careful with resources and live green. When I travel, it’s not only because running is my passion, but also because it’s part of my job. And I almost always use my bike or train for my daily trips,” she said.
Mathys will complete a special puzzle in El Paso on the Canary Island of La Palma. “I know all the parts of this island group, bar one,” she said. “And I am pleased I will be in La Palma in a few weeks to run for a European Championship medal.”
Her programme includes the uphill mountain race and maybe also the up-and-down mountain race, although this is subject to change. “I am currently somewhat injured as tendinitis and my Achilles are giving me problems and my training is suffering as a result. But I am going to enter to win and get medals. I think this new format of holding three disciplines in one place will be very successful and I really like it!”
The Swiss athlete has won the Golden Trail Series, which was established by one of her equipment suppliers. “It was a dream to win this competition. It was an important goal for me and I achieved it.”
Although Mathys treasured these races and the attention they generated in the media, she says this is not where reputations are built.
“Title contests are more important,” she said. “At the European Championships, you race for a place in the statistics books and for medals. No other race has the same meaning as a European or World Championship.”
Unsurprisingly, the Mountain Running and Trail Running World Championships in Thailand in November are another goal for Mathys. But while she might be looking beyond the European Championships in El Paso, this championship will be the next major target for the amiable athlete.
She has one final tip for anyone wanting to begin trail running: “Don’t just train in your running shoes, but also in your swimming gear and on your bike. Do strength and core training. Become the most complete athlete possible and trails will be real fun.”
The European Off-Road Running Championships will be streamed live through the European Athletics YouTube channel from 1-3 July.
Written by Egon Theiner for European Athletics
Photos by Alexis Courthoud and Marco Gulberti, for Corsa in Montagna.