Wings for Life World run

“I never stop. Ever”

Words: Werner Jessner 
Photography: Marco Rossi

Double motocross world champ and co-founder of the Wings for Life Foundation on boosting your athletic ability and why it’s better to break a sweat before breakfast.

THE RED BULLETIN: When you were still racing bikes [1988-98], you weren’t known to be a runner, were you? 

HEINZ KINIGADNER: Hang on a minute! It’s true that I’m not the classic running type, but I used to run every day.

Was it really every day?

I did, because there are so many pluses to running. You can do it anywhere, and unlike for other endurance sports, you only need a minimum of equipment. 

How far did you run?

As far as I had to. My training schedule was usually for 45 minutes; 50 minutes later I was back home again. The top sportsmen of today, and this includes motorsports stars, would laugh at the way I trained back then, but when I was competing, professional endurance training was still in its infancy.

Who was your coach?

I didn’t have one, at least not when I won my first world championship title. I picked and chose what I thought was useful from various sources.

Such as running up the steep Stairway to Heaven in the town of Feldkirch, Austria.

I’ll never forget it! [Trainer] Toni Mathis, who is an expert in his field, chased everyone up there. The name of the stairway probably comes from the fact that you think you’re in heaven when you’ve finally made it to the top and the pain subsides. You could run as slowly as you liked. The only thing you couldn’t do was stop.

What happened if you stopped?

No one did. The national ice hockey team didn’t stop. Nor did the Swiss women’s downhill team. Nobody did. And I didn’t either. I still stick to that principle today. When I go running, I never stop. Under any circumstances.

“The Wings for Life World Run has got me motivated to go running again.”
Heinz Kinigadner

How often do you run now?

The Wings for Life World Run has got me motivated to go running more often again. Now I run twice a week on average. [Kinigadner is 54.]

How do you motivate yourself?

If you want to be healthy, there’s no getting around moving, regardless of how fast or far you go.

Are you a morning or evening runner?

I only run in the morning. No breakfast. No coffee. I just get out the door and run. Any day you go running is a good day, because it begins with that nice feeling of having achieved something. 

What are your favorite places to go running?

I really like running on the island of Ibiza. The weather’s good there and it’s a great location. Perfect.

The second Wings for Life World Run will take place in May next year. What are your goals?

I won’t settle for 12 km [7.5 miles, his distance in the 2014 race]. This year it should be at least 9.3 miles. Men pushing strollers won’t be overtaking me again.

MAY 3, 2015

The starting pistol for the 2015 Wings for Life World Run will be fired simultaneously in more than 30 countries around the world on May 3, 2015. Register at wingsforlifeworldrun.com.

STATS

High point

Kinigadner was motocross world champion in 1984 and 1985, in the 250cc class, riding for KTM.

Turning point

Kinigadner’s son Hannes was confined to a wheelchair after an accident in 2003. It was then that he brought his competitive career to an end and set up the Wings for Life Foundation alongside Red Bull co- founder Dietrich Mateschitz. The non-profit foundation supports spinal injury research projects worldwide. All of the Wings for Life World Run entry fees go into funding that research.

Where will you race?

I have to fly to Greece the next day for the Hellas Rally, so probably Germany. I really liked St. Pölten, Austria, last year. 

How did you find the atmosphere during the race?

The more you’re overtaken, the more chill it gets. You understand that people aren’t running to try to break records. They’re doing it for the cause and the good feeling that they get from making something happen. Plus, everyone’s got a story to tell. Sadly, I was running a little low on oxygen, so I tended to listen more than tell. Peter Wirnsberger, who’s a former alpine skier, was by my side for most of the time and he chatted away. He’s 56 now and he’s still in really good shape.

Lots of sports stars took part in the last World Run, didn’t they?

The great thing is they’re doing it all of their own free will. In some cases, I only realized people had taken part after the event. Some I hadn’t seen for 30 years, such as my former motocross rivals. It’s true what they say: The whole world runs the Wings for Life World Run. 

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