Florian Neuschwander was born on June 1st, 1981 in Neunkirchen an der Saar, Germany. He started his career as a runner at the age of 16: Without any training, he finished his first competition at the 20th International Nikolaus Street Race of the VFA Neunkirchen 1st. Since then, he looks back on a interesting career, runs his own online shop and became a brand himself. ISPO.com had the opportunity to get to know the Ultrarunner better in an interview.
ISPO.com: Florian Neuschwander, you participate in the Wings For Life World Run under the motto: "We run for everyone who can't do it anymore".
Florian Neuschwander: If I imagine that I could no longer run: That would be a disaster! Running is my life.
How did you come to this life?
My first race was a two-kilometre school run, I spontaneously went there with my mother, I got my start number just before the race, I was still wearing tennis clothes and tennis shoes. My mama said, "How do I find you later?" I said, "Look for me in the front. I just win this thing." It actually worked. Then it started. I was 16.
Youth selection, German B squad, DLV squad, training courses. It all looked like a classic career, as is usual in running. Until you got tired of track athletics.
I soon had no desire for systematic training any more. If you want to achieve something, you have to train really hard. Two, three times a week, go on the track, run your laps, always show discipline. That was too monotonous for me. I knew you couldn't keep up with the Kenyans anyway, even for Europe's top it wasn't enough. To me, the fun always stood in the foreground, and then I just decided: I just run the way I want to.
That's how Florian Neuschwander became an ultra runner: He read a book
They then switched to the long distances.
It fascinated me to run such long distances through the terrain. I wanted to run wild through nature. While I was studying sports, I had a hernia, I had to pause for half a year. Just partying. And then came a day later when I realized: I miss running. I was just jogging loosely in the woods. And suddenly felt like competing. Then I immediately won a city run, 10 kilometers. That's when I knew, "Okay, I'll always do this the way I want.
And how did you get to the long runs, the Ultras?
I lived in London for a year and read a book there: The Ghost Runner.
Bill Jones' story of the former boxer John Tarrant ...
... who wasn't allowed to compete in any amateur race because he had earned a little money as a boxer. He's been suspended from all competitions. He always hid behind the trees at the Ultras and secretly ran along, without a start number. The guy fascinated me, so I knew I wanted to do something like that. Then in 2011, I ran 50 kilometres through the terrain for the first time.
What's the attraction?
You never know what's gonna happen. The terrain is more varied. I just walk off, never look at the track. Just run to me, look around the countryside a bit. And if it works, I'm in a flow, it rolls. Run with the Flow, that's the name of my homepage (laughs).
But you do run on performance. You finished ninth at the 100km World Championships, were runner-up in the Ultratrail, just missed the German 50km record by a narrow margin. You can't do this without a systematic approach.
I'm one of the few who can combine both: Fun and the idea of performance. Many people say: Flo, how is that supposed to work, always running for fun and then breaking records, that doesn't fit? It works great for me.
How does your training look like?
I have two or three core units a week that require discipline. I have to do this so I can reach my times or break records. But the rest is freestyle. And I'll do that, like I'm in the mood to do right now.
The training plan of Florian Neuschwander? Freestyle!
An example of a Flo Neuschwander core unit?
Let's take a 30-kilometer run from a usual training week the other day: I need 1:19 hours for the first 20 kilometers. And then the last ten kilometers again a blow out, about in 31:20, so another blow on it. Or something else: 30 kilometres endurance run, including eight times 2000 metres at marathon speed, i.e. 3:15 minutes per kilometre.
And what is freestyle for you?
If I don't feel good in the morning and there is a 15 and later a 10 on the program, then I leave the 15 out, sleep longer, romp around. And then at some point I think, Now you've missed the whole day. And in the evening, I feel good again and instead of two 15s, I run a 30 in the evening. Anything can happen on a freestyle day like this.
How many kilometres do you run?
In the past weeks, I have made an average of 175 kilometres per week. In a year it is, also due to the regeneration, about 6000. I see however that I also insert rest days again and again. Two days a week I usually take a break, I just go jogging.
What does jogging mean to you?
Very relaxed, about 4:30 minutes per kilometer.
This is a reasonable competition time for many. But they don't run 100 kilometers at a time - like you do. What are your limits?
Limits? I don't know any. I've run the 100 kilometers three times already. My dream are the biggest hundred mile races in the USA, the Big 5 of the Ultratrail, starting with the Western States 100.
How do you keep fit for these distances? Do you also do regular stabilisation exercises and strength training?
Stabilisation and power are the worst! I'd rather run on the track. My coaches used to say: Stabilisation and power, if you did that, Flo, you'd be even better. I say it's not true. Because then I wouldn't have any fun anymore and I wouldn't run at all. At some point, they gave up. I've got a mind of my own. And it says: If it's no fun, I'm not gonna do it. I don't have to do anything.
No stabilisation training at all?
No. Nothing. Zero.
No. Nothing. Nothing at all.
It's against training theory.
But it works for me.
Just running! And resting extremely when I'm tired. If I don't walk, I'm pretty lazy. Then I just hang out on the couch and don't move at all. Or just to the café.
The Neuschwander nutrition plan? I eat everything!
And you don't have any problems with injuries?
I've been running without injuries for 19 years. Sure, some aches and pains. That's normal. But I know exactly what's going on in my body. It's different with hobby runners, they only have one or two three years of running experience, they quickly do something unreasonable. When I notice that my foot is pinching, I immediately know whether I can continue walking or whether I need to take a longer break.
Do you have a diet plan?
I eat everything!
At training camp, you posted food. There was fries, entrecote, red wine.
That was a big piece of meat! With fries! And of course, a glass of wine or beer. When I eat, I do it like running. Just the way I like it.
People like you for your own style. You have 25,000 fans on Facebook, a big community on Instagram.
This started last year after the Wings for Life World Run. On Facebook it really hit home! People said, "What kind of guy is this that's running so far! Crazy dude, with that mustache!" Many people who saw me on TV or read the reports afterwards said: "I haven't been running for ages, but now I'm doing it again - because I saw Flo". It's fun for me: motivating people to go out and run again. It gives me the chills sometimes.
The Wings for Life World Run 2015 was your breakthrough. Even as a professional?
If that's what you mean, yes, it pays my rent.
Sponsors: This makes Neuschwander attractive for Brooks & Co.
You have not only collected kilometres, but also sponsors since then.
All right, I got Red Bull. And Brooks as shoe sponsor. Garmin is a running watch partner. Plus Gore for clothes. And Led Lenser, they make headlights. They all support me, of course, but it's also work. I am now something of a businessman and travel a lot, also for the companies. Well, it's fun, but it's also work. Here a film on Mallorca, there a shooting in South Africa.
What makes you attractive for sponsors?
That I'm different. No regular runner. That I look different, that I run awesome tracks, that I'm kind of a awesome guy. That we can do cool things together. That's freestyle for me, too. I'll make them an offer. They want this.
You even played a part in a feature film: "Der geilste Tag", with Matthias Schweighöfer.
Well, I didn't find that so exciting: All day long on the set, standing around for ten hours, and in the evening I was allowed to rush through the picture for a second - nobody would recognize me anyway. I wouldn't necessarily do that again unless I got the lead role.
You would have talent, as your videos on Facebook Live show.
Oh yes, the one or other live video was quite well received. Over 47,000 people watched me get lost in the woods while my mother waited at home with the schnitzel. I'd like to expand on that. Facebook and Instagram are my thing. I would have some ideas for Snapchat, too, but it takes so much time.
Don't you employ an agency?
I've already had a few requests, but that wouldn't be me. Now it's 100 percent me. I also answer all the messages myself. I don't have a manager either. I don't need one.
And you make appointments with your followers to run on Instagram.
Yes, I did that at the ISPO MUNICH: On Friday I called to a run through the Olympic Park on Sunday, when suddenly 60, 70 people stood in my hotel foyer.
You also have an online shop.
It's called Shop with the Flow. Oh yes, I still have a lot of ideas on how to do something creatively. A real collection, designed, stylish, in surfer and skater style, my own line. Urban running, high quality, preferably fair trade or something from the region, designed together with artists, something creative.
It seems you still have a lot of ideas for the future.
I'm 35. As an ultra runner, I can't run at a good level for ten more years. And I've got a lot of ideas for later. I'd love to open a hip cafe. Anything I enjoy in a business model. A shop with its own collection plus craft beer, with good coffee, good food, and from there runners meet to start in all directions.