“There’s nothing better than having the WC in Tyrol”

Markus Kröll is one of the pioneers of international as well as local trail running.

It is one of ambassador Markus Kröll’s favorite stories, which is why we want to start with it when looking back at the legendary trail runner’s career: In the 1990s, Kröll, who hails from the Zillertal valley, was under contract with a global sports shoe manufacturer; during meetings at their European headquarters in the Netherlands he kept asking for shoes with a treaded sole.

“What do you need such a running shoe for?”
“So I can run in open terrain.”
“Nobody runs in open terrain.”

This was approximately 30 years ago, and lots has changed since then. Kröll is no longer signed to that but to another brand; he is an athlete and community manager for Salomon, and today it’s not nobody but almost everybody that’s running in open terrain. “Farm lanes, hiking trails, gravel paths – whenever you are not running on tarmac, you’ll be running through forests and across fields – which means that pretty much everyone is a trail runner,” says Kröll.

Personally, he has run everywhere. He started out doing 400 meters before specializing in longer distances, then changed from marathon to mountain running and, in 1990, with that year’s Schlickeralmlauf enjoying WC status, took the podium at the World Junior Championships – in Stubai. In 2002, the Mountain Running WC was staged in Austria one more time, with the route leading from Innsbruck to the Seegrube.

“The title races are finally returning to Tyrol. I am like a small child in anticipation of Christmas, full of joy and excitement. A lot of people won’t even be aware of either the event’s significance or the boom that the ten-day Mountain and Trail Festival will prompt - in Tyrol, in Austria, but also globally."

Kröll turns 51 on March 17, 2023, and he looks back at all those years when he was mocked for his ideas of running in the mountains. Today, it fills him with pride to be a small part of a continuously growing movement. He has not only made a name for himself among his peers (among his accolades there are six WC and EC medals, he was named Austrian Champion 17 times, and he won the “Dolomitenmann” seven times) but also as the organizer of the Harakiri Run and the Mayrhofen Ultraks.

If there is a goal that Markus Kröll would like to accomplish, it is to inspire others to run – irrespective of where and on which ground. “I keep preaching about how easy it is to run, how it doesn’t require any organizational effort, how the infrastructure is already there - no matter where you are - and that running goes hand in hand with a better quality of life. I love it when I meet other runners in the mountains - nature is vast enough to offer space for all of us.”

Even though she lived in Tyrol, Kröll’s mother hails from St. Margarethen in Austria’s easternmost province of Burgenland, which is why he was born in the province’s capital city of Eisenstadt. A few days after his birth they moved back west to settle in the mountaineering village of Ginzling. Whenever he went to visit his grandmother as a kid, Markus felt out of his element. “It was and still is too flat for me there, and I miss the mountains.” Maybe that’s one of the reasons Kröll found his calling in running vertically rather than on flat ground. “Every time I was sitting in the call room at a track race I felt like attending my own execution. Now that I run trails I feel free, and I get goosebumps just thinking of the upcoming WC, which will be a get-together of the global running elite.”

For Markus Kröll it is beyond question that it requires World Championships to bring together the best of the best from the mountain- and trail running scene. “The various disciplines and different event formats, but also the assumption of some ‘big players’ in the industry, according to which different title races are necessary for each discipline, are leading to a distorted image. The cooperation of the four associations - the ITRA for trail running, the WMRA for mountain running, the IAU for ultra running, and the World Athletics as the coordinating body - is thus an important step in developing the disciplines.“

“The WMTRC 2023 are a must for me, as they should be for every sports fan from near and far.”