The Running Passion of Florian Neuschwander

Florian Neuschwander recently broke the 100km treadmill world record in a time of 6:26:14 while running on Zwift, but this man is finding running challenges and fun wherever he goes. There are some very entertaining YouTube videos from and about him, plus he shares various adventures on his Facebook page. But for now here is the man many folks call Flo or Flow.

Slowtwitch: Thank you for your time Florian.

Florian Neuschwander: Thank you. You're welcome.

ST: What are you currently getting ready for or what is looming in the near future?

Florian: After my 100km world record on the treadmill I did 2 weeks with very low training and now I am ready again to do more kilometers and training hours. My next big target will be the Wings for Life World Run with the App on May 9th. Maybe I will do a little project to test myself before the WFLWR at the end of March or the beginning of April. There are no competitions at the moment, so I have to do my own challenges again like last year where I ran a 10km personal best in training in 30:09 minutes.

ST: What inspired that 100km treadmill goal or is that simply a natural progression after a 50km World Record?

Florian: My 50 km World Record did not last too long. Already 4- 5 guys went faster and so there was no option for me to go again for that record. Instead I saw that the 100 km record was just 6:39 hours and I thought that’s a good goal and really possible. I then started to train for it and my training went very well.

ST: What was your 50km time you and how long did that record last?

Florian: I ran a 2:57:25 hours in February 2020 and that was a world record. But it just lasted 2 weeks. Then a guy from Switzerland came and did it 1 minute faster. I thought ok, that’s still possible to run. But some weeks later two guys from Russia knocked out 2:44 times and that was not possible for me in the end. During the summer there was a bigger contest in the USA where several treadmill World Records were destroyed. The fastest guy did the 50 km in 2:42:56 hours and Mario Mendoza did a new 100 km record in 6:39:25 hours. I then thought ok, let’s go for the 100 km.

ST: How much faster do you think you could run the 50k?

Florian: In my preparation for the 100 km I did a 50 km test run in 2:51:55 hours on the treadmill so I ran 6 minutes faster than my previous World Record.

ST: But back now to the 100k. How did you prepare for it?

Florian: My main preparation were long runs on the treadmill. Altogether I did 8 times 30km, 2 marathons, 4 times 50km and 2 times 60km on the treadmill. Everything well under 3:50 min/km in average. And this 50km personal best test in 2:51:55 hours and some intervals as well. All other things I did outdoors. Just very easy runs, ski mountaineering a bit, and a lot indoors on Zwift with the bike most of the time 100km rides.

ST: When did you start adding cycling to your routine as a serious training tool? And how much do you ride outside?

Florian: I started adding cycling as a serious training tool when I had a twisted ankle and I stopped running for about 10 days. During that time in the fall of 2019 I started indoor cycling. Sometimes up to 300km in a week and sometimes no cycling. Most of the time I just ride indoors in winter and during spring and summer I don’t ride that much. Just sometimes outside.

ST: Can you share what you took in nutrition wise during the event?

Florian: Yes, I took carbohydrate drinks or gels every 20 – 30 minutes to get the carbohydrates in. Water for sure. And in the last 20km I had 2 Red Bulls.

ST: What kind of drinks and gels did you use?

Florian: I used Maurten for the carbohydrate mix.

ST: As you started that 100k did you feel pretty confident?

Florian: I knew that I was fit and well prepared. Until 60km I knew what’s going on, so I focused first on the 60km to do it like in my training before. After the 60k mark it was new territory for me. I didn't know what will happen but my plan was to have a 10 minutes lead ahead of the world record and it was like that. I was thus in a comfortable situation. I had time to slow down a bit or to do a pee stop, but luckily I didn’t need that. Kilometers 70 – 85 were hard but my community and all people following pushed me through and the last 10km I knew that I would do it and I ran a 36:05 minutes to finish.

ST: No bathroom breaks?

Florian: No luckily not. 2 times I had the feeling that I need a stop but I went on running and after a while the feeling to do a pee stop was not there anymore.

ST: I think you had some connection issues early on. How frustrating was that?

Florian: It was not frustrating. I just focused on my running and did not let something disturb me during my attempt. I stayed focused all the time.

ST: The treadmill you ran on looks very unique, and we would love it if you could tell us a bit about it.

Florian: It is a HP Cosmos Quasar. The company is here nearby, and I was lucky to train all the time on it. The company builds professional treadmills for medical and professional sports stuff. They can also build a treadmill where you can do cross-country skiing on it. Crazy. Very accurate and calibrated so it is like running outdoors on a track. Very good stability and it feels real realistic and you can run so fast on them.

ST: What is the top speed of the treadmill you have and how much incline and decline does it have?

Florian: The top speed is 30 kilometers per hour (18.64 mph*) and you can do 27% incline and when you switch the running belt of the treadmill you could also do 27% decline. Never tried decline running on a treadmill to be honest.

ST: Do you run much at incline?

Florian: No or yes. But just outdoors!

ST: And does the treadmill directly connect or do you use a run pod?

Florian: No, the treadmill can not connect directly to Zwift, yet.
During my record we used the RUNN Pod to connect with Zwift.

ST: Which shoes did you use and what else did you have on you in terms of gear?

Florian: I was running in the ON Cloudflow and it went pretty well. I measured the run with the treadmill, sure and with Zwift as well. I was wearing my Garmin Fenix 6 Pro Solar and measured the run also on my watch.

ST: When will you do 100 miles on the treadmill?

Florian: I don’t know if I will do that.

ST: What is your weekly running volume and how much of it is on the treadmill?

Florian: In my preparation I did just one long run in the week on the treadmill. My weekly mileage is not that high at the moment. Around 60 miles a week in average. But also some other stuff like I said indoor cycling on Zwift. Often 100km rides 2 times a week. In winter a bit of skiing and in spring and summer I do more running and start to increase mileage again when the weather gets better to do a lot of running outdoors.

ST: You have not always been an ultra runner, and maybe you can talk about your running background or how you found running.

Florian: I started running on the track. Did, for example, 1500m in 3:49 minutes, 5000m in 14:20 minutes and 10,000m in 29:51 minutes. But I always liked cross country running and running the long runs in training. I then decided to go for longer ultra-trails after some marathons. I like being outside in the nature and not checking my watch all the time.

ST: For perspective, what is your fastest marathon and half marathon time?

Florian: My fastest marathon time is 2:20:28. My fastest half marathon time is 1:06:20. Last year I did a time trial due to Corona ad I did a lot of things like that. I did a half marathon on my own in 1:06:43. My target was to break 1:06:00 but it was too windy and being alone on a 2 km loop is quite hard then.

ST: We know you have run the Transrockies Run. Which other US races have you done or are on your bucket list?

Florian: I won a 100km Ultratrail in Malibu (Sean O’Brien) where I won a Golden Ticket for the Western States 100. That same year I started in the Western States and finished. It was a very nice and good experience but I was very slow. But I also learned a lot and I really wanna go back there and do it 4 hours faster. [laughs] There is also a little film about my Western States Run on YouTube for people who are interested.

ST: I have seen that film and it is very well done. What do you think went wrong and how would you change your next approach?

Florian: A lot went wrong. Next time I would like to be at least more than a week ahead of the race in the area. I would do more high-altitude training. Heat training as well. And a long preparation ultra as a race before. I would change shoes but you need the shoes at least 1,5 or 2 sizes bigger than usual. When I did WSER I changed shoes after 125 km and the river crossing, but the new shoes were way too small because my feet were so big and swollen. So, I had big problems running again.

ST: I also noticed you in one of the Golden Trail World Tour races. Which trail races in Europe would you recommend to folks from abroad?

Florian: There are so many nice races already. So far I did not run really much big trail races so I can’t tell you the nicest ones to be honest. As long as it is on trails and the people are nice it’s also a nice race I think.

ST: Looking back at all the events you have entered, which one do you remember most fondly and why?

Florian: I like running events a lot. But the best run a remember was my first 100km Ultratrail. I did it in my training because I wanted to see how it feels. I started in Trier where I lived longer time ago and I ran home to my Mum, 100km away. Some friends supported me and some runners joined me that time. I was awesome to feel such a long distance in my legs. In the end I came home with a 100km with nearly 10,000 ft of climbing in 7:59.

ST: Talk about your diet.

Florian: I live vegan, so plant based. But no real diet plan or something like that.

ST: Is there anything else we should know?

Florian: I don’t know. Just stay healthy, have a lot of fun in life and while running and stay positive and look for nice adventures!

* the treadmill speed of this HP Cosmos is 30kph according to Florian, and to put it in perspective 21kph is a 2 hour marathon pace.

Image 1 © Phil Pham @philphamphoto
Images 2 and 3 © Pushing Limits
Images 4, 5 and 6 courtesy of Florian Neuschwander