ÖTILLÖ 2016 | Q&A With Andre Hook

In advance of the toughest race in the world, ÖTILLÖ Swimrun World Championships this September, we caught up with a number of competing athletes to see what ÖTILLÖ means to them and how they train for this grueling challenge.

Second in this series is from the #1 German athlete and Top 10 finisher from 2015: Andre Hook. Andre runs hard out of the blocks, pushing his partner to the limit and often struggles in the last quarter of the race, luckily this is when his partner pushes hardest. Check out how Andre came to find the ÖTILLÖ Swimrun World Championship here:

Q.) Tell me a bit about your career as an athlete, how did you begin and what drives you to get out and train every day?

A.) As a student, I competed in a wide range of sports to get my head free from university. Soccer, judo, volleyball, sailing, rowing, boxing – this was all for fun without any ambitions. Besides that, I ran and swam a bit, just to stay in shape. Then, friends took me to some competitions and I failed terribly. I remember that I finished my first marathon in slightly less than six hours with lots of cramps.

Instead of turning away from endurance sports, this actually pushed me, and I done a lot of training to improve. Today, I can easily run a marathon in less than three hours and I also managed to swim much faster over the years. However, I am not really happy when running through “street canyons” or only swimming laps in the pool.

Instead, I want to go out into the nature to run on forest floor or over mountains and swim in lakes or the sea. Swimrun offers me exactly this. So whenever I do my usual training routine, I think about being out in the wild again, where I give my best to achieve a good result. This motivates me so much and I have no problem with waking up early to go for a long run or a nice swimming-session. Then, the Swedish, Norwegian, Scottish nature is always on my mind and I actually dream while working out as hard as I can.


Q.) How did you find out about ÖTILLÖ and what made you interested in racing in one of the toughest races on earth?

A.) A close friend from my former triathlon club actually recommended the ÖTILLÖ event to me. He showed me a little video that he found on the internet, and I was right on fire. I just loved the pictures of athletes fighting their way through nature. I wanted to be there right away! So I never really thought about how though this race would be. Actually, I was “infected” with the beauty of the Stockholm archipelago. Everything else would be sorted out with a strong will. And it works like this until today. I really come there to enjoy – and not just to be part of some “ultra-tough” race.


Q.) Tell me about your past experiences with ÖTILLÖ?

A.) 2014 was my rookie year and I had to learn how wild this race is. Running in knee-deep water over edgy rocks was something that I never ever experienced in another race before. Or the trails through the forests and bushes – they suddenly end and you have to find your way through the wilderness. Even swimming such long distances again and again over the course of only one day was an interesting experience. But we managed and finished after 10 hours as the 14th men’s team. Not too bad for the first time with only a little swimrun-experience.

In 2015 we wanted to be a lot faster and adapted our training to the ÖTILLÖ course. The much training, putting in the kilometers on land and in the water, paid off: we finished in a Top 10 position after less than 9.5 hours.


Q.) Walk us through a day in your life when training for ÖTILLÖ?

A.) I have a very nice family and they support me a lot in my sporty endeavors. So in return, I want to hide my training efforts as good as I can. Or in other words: I don’t want to cut off hours from the time with my family. This means that I have to work out when the others are sleeping. Consequently, my alarm clock often wakes me at 4 or 5 A.M. and I sneak off to go for a long run, a swimming-session in the pool or a combined swimrun-training (together with my race partner, who “unfortunately” has to live with my early schedule).

Furthermore, I turned my trip from work into an additional running session. Still in the office, I change clothes – so shirt, tie etc. end up in my backpack, while I change into my running outfit. Then, I run home along the water and “challenge” the ships that go down the river next to me. By car or train, this trip would take me 25-35 minutes. When I run, it only takes 5-15 minutes longer. I think that my family can cope with that – and yes, I enjoy this run every single day 😉


Q.) What do you struggle most with while racing? Is it mainly a battle with your mind or your body?  

A.) Usually, I start very fast and push my team partner to the limit. However, after ¾ of the race, the mind sometimes tells me that I am feeling a bit weaker now. Luckily, this often is the time, when my race partner has his high, so he then motivates me to go on with running or swimming fast. At the very end, euphoric feelings set in and I can suddenly run as if we only started 5 minutes ago.


Q.) What pulls you through the last hour of the race?

A.) Euphoria!


Q.) How did you pick your race partner?

A.) My race partner is also my brother-in-law. He is the perfect team partner, since he is on an equal level when it comes to running and swimming. He loves adventures just as I do. And we also have the opportunity to do lots of training together.


Q.) What’s next for you?

A.) ÖTILLÖ world championship. Then LochGuLoch-Swimrun in Scotland, Allgäu-Swimrun in Germany and 1000-Lakes-Swimrun also in Germany.


Watch all the action from the final live on Monday the 5th September over at OTILLO 

Stay tuned for the 3rd and final interview with Swedish National Swimming champion and ÖTILLÖ competitor Henrik Wahlberg.


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Alan Lund

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