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Treadmill running: the first world record with Skillrun

Matthias Kyburz (born 1990) is a Swiss orienteering competitor, junior world champion, European champion and multiple world champion. On April 16th, 2020, Matthias and his friend had a luminous idea to do a challenge: a 50 km run on a treadmill and show it to the world. On the 16th of April, he attained the world record for the quickest time of 2:56:35 on Technogym’s Skillrun.

What’s the story behind this orienteering runner who has no links with treadmills really?

What is orienteering?

Orienteering is a running competition on different types of outdoor terrain. A competition can cover different distances, but it is not the distance that counts, you run against time. You have sprint distances (in cities) around 3 to 4.5 km actual distance, which take around 15 minutes. Then there are middle distances, which are typically the most difficult ones where the terrains are really technically demanding. These take around 30 to 35 minutes and are usually 5 to 8 km. And lastly, you have the long distances which take around 90 minutes and you could run half a marathon, or ‘only’ 12 km. It all depends on the sort of terrain you are running on. You have to navigate through unknown terrain from control point to control point to the finish with only a map and a compass. This sport requires technical thinking and fast running.

"Orienteering is really a traditional family sport", says Matthias. "Every age group gets a course corresponding to their level, even if you are 10 years old. In that case, the course will be simpler than that for the elite runners and you can run at your own pace. That’s also how I started as the youngest of three boys. What I like most about orienteering is you always go to different terrains, and they are mostly in the forest. Nowadays sprint competitions are quite common and normally take place in cities. But the original, traditional competitions were in nice forests and at a different location each time".

Most challenging about orienteering

What I find the most challenging and nicest part of orienteering is that when the competition starts you receive a map of a course that you have never seen before. So, you have to choose the fastest route, you have to think about how to get to each control point as fast as possible. That can be in a straight line but also through bushes, over rocks, up and down hills, or even taking a path around them. You have to think and act quickly. It is always a challenge to find a smart route to get the next control point without losing time. The challenge lies in running at your limit, thinking and making clever decisions. That is the thing about orienteering: some guys are really fast but make the wrong decisions and some guys are technically really strong but unable to push through their limit. It requires all these skills.

What is Matthias’s secret? What makes him the champion in orienteering? ‘Well, of course my strong physical ability is one of my strengths’, says Matthias laughing shyly. "We only train outside and the forests where the championship take place are closed off to us. We are not allowed to train there. So we train in all the surrounding forests. The terrains are extremely specific, so you need to train in the country itself, close to the terrain where the championship is being held. We go to a training camp and we train using maps of locations close to the area to get used to the terrain. That enables you to learn about the vegetation, the structures, the steepness, etc".

From orienteering to the Skillrun treadmill

Since Matthias only trains outside, where does this treadmill championship come in?
The initial story started at a training camp in February together with a friend. He is a coach and praised the good condition Matthias was in. The trainer mentioned that although we couldn’t train as normal because everything was cancelled, it would be a shame not to do something because Matthias was such good shape. To maintain his fitness levels, he came up with the idea of a 50 km run on a treadmill. "I thought it would be a great challenge because I’m not really used to running on a treadmill, especially 50 km. I only run on a treadmill for performance testing. He asked Technogym to provide a treadmill, Skillrun, especially for the world record attempt and they were really enthusiastic about it. So, we were very pleased to have this reliable product to do the world record on."

What Matthias instantly noticed is that Skillrun is soft to run on. "While running, you feel the extremely high quality of this treadmill. For example, when you land the push off is really good. You still have a strong enough push off but it’s also a kind of soft compared to other treadmills". That makes Skillrun a pleasure to run on. Matthias had to get used to the short surface, but after finding the right running form it all went perfectly. They also used the technical data Skillrun provides, like the heartrate monitor and the length of your strides per leg. "That was quite interesting and fun, a sort of gamification while running. We used it the whole 50 km, so it was also very useful data for the filming crew who used it in their production about me".

Training Sessions with Skillrun

Skillrun allows the user to perform a variety of unique cardio and power workouts, such as:

  • Running Session: the exclusive interactive technology Biofeedback tracks and monitors the main running parameters in real time, providing colour-coded feedback that enables the user to improve their performance.
  • Parachute training : users can strengthen the resistive power and top-end speed with parachute training that reproduces the feeling of outdoor running with a parachute. Resistance is minimal at the start and increases as the user gains speed.
  • Sled training: allows users to train their power, and can reproduce the feeling of pushing a sled on grass. Resistance is high at the start and decreases to a constant rate.

Skillrun is also ideal for group training sessions in a class or studio environment. Skillrun Class is perfect for those in search of a more effective and motivating group running class.

Matthias and the first ever world record on Skillrun

The crazy part was that  Matthias was not used to these distances and certainly not on a treadmill. "I thought I wouldn’t be able to walk the next day but I didn’t even have sore muscles. I was concentrating on a pace of 3.30 per km while I normally run at a higher pace. Maybe the combination of the high quality of Skillrun, my good physical condition and the pace were why I felt really good the next day. Everybody including me was very surprised", Matthias laughed.

Matthias prepared for the 50 km three weeks before his world record. Every week, he did one long run of about 30 km on flat terrain to get his muscles used to it.’ What started as a fun idea between two guys ended up as a 50 km world record on the Skillrun treadmill in April 2020. Matthias Kyburz was the first and he introduced the world to 50 km treadmill runs.

Nobody believed that an orienteering runner could achieve such a record. But he did, together with Skillrun.

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