Four or five years ago nobody knew her name but we are expecting to see Esther Fellhofer compete in the WMTRC 2023 Long Trail contest – if she gets nominated by the Austrian Athletics Federation. Her success story is a rapid one.
Not only does Esther’s story have a timeframe, it also has a geographical anchor. Fellhofer, who hails from Rohrbach in Upper Austria, has been a runner since 2018, with a personal best of 3:07 hours at the marathon in Verona. Running on even ground became less and less interesting. However, her professional career first took her to Vienna, where she studied at the BOKU, the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences; she did a term in Peru, where she completed her Master’s degree in the country’s capital Lima by comparing different types of quinoa in terms of their physicochemical as well as sensoric characteristics. There would have been a number of great running trails in Peru, however, as the athlete tells us: “It is a real pity - I missed them all.” Only once she moved to Wörgl, a small town surrounded by mountains, to work for local milk producer Tirol Milch, she became a trail runner: A colleague encouraged her to join the Running Club Breitenbach and when she failed miserably during the first meters uphill, she decided to become a trail runner.
She kind of upended the national as well as the international ultratrail scene. Thanks to her ability to recover quickly, she is able to run and win a long run on a weekend, just to repeat it seven days later. In 2021, she came 7th at the Lavaredo Ultra Trail, while in 2022 she came third - “a result I would not have thought possible.” Fellhofer has joined the global elite, she is part of the ASICS Trail Team, and she trains like a pro without actually being one. “It is like a second job,” she tells us. “I exercise around 2.5 hours every day, with at least one hour dedicated to strength and stability, which means I do around 15 to 20 hours a week. I am lucky to have a trail leaving right outside my place of work, leading up to the Möslalm. It covers 600 meters in altitude, which I can integrate in my daily routine, both before and after work.” She is in the leading field when it comes to downhill, however, “uphill there is still a lot of potential for improvement,” Fellhofer, at 1,6 m weighing less than 50 kg, tells us.
She wants to give her all at the World Mountain and Trail Running Championships 2023 Innsbruck-Stubai but without putting too much pressure on herself. “I would like to compete in the WC with the same spirit as in any other competition: With the will to give my best, with the knowledge that so much can happen during an Ultra, grateful and humble and hoping to accept whichever final result I will achieve.”
Fellner has not yet inspected the WC route, and will only do so in spring. “As soon as the snow is gone, I am planning on spending a lot of time in Stubai,” she says. “So far, I don’t know the trails there; seeing that I have a certain home advantage, I want to make the most of it.” It is 80 kilometers, or about an hour’s drive, from Wörgl to Neustift, one of the two venues for the WMTRC 2023.
„The world championships will push us athletes into the spotlight. We are neither soccer nor tennis stars, but I am hoping that the WC will help us gain more people’s interest. And maybe, just maybe, the WC will serve to get trail running a step closer to becoming an Olympic discipline. I wouldn’t mind that.”
Images: © WMTRC 2021 Chiang Mai, MIUT, Lavaredo Ultra Trail, private
Esther Fellhofer, born on October 15, 1989, in Rohrbach, lives in Kufstein; she, runs for the ASICS Trail Team and the LT Breitenbach. Selected successes include: 2020: Winner of the Vienna Rundumadum; 2021: Winner of the Traunsee Mountain Marathon, winner of the GGUT, winner of the KAT100; 2022: Winner of the Hochkönigman, winner of the Eiger Ultra Trail E250 Mixed Team contest, third at the Lavaredo Ultra Trail by UTMB.