On the eve of the Inov-8 Descent Race+ I was fortunate enough to catch up with an old friend who I hadn’t seen in many years, Tobias Mews, a Brit who now lives in France. Tobias is an adventurer who has raced some of the world’s most grueling and exotic events. He now has a young family and our conversation drifted to how life changes and, especially, the pandemic, have provided new perspectives and reshuffled priorities, including our views on racing.
We commiserated on how we had both lost some of our desire to pin on a race number, due to the fact that we no longer experienced pre-race jitters. After three-plus decades of racing, we just weren’t getting pre-race butterflies. And, yet, we both admitted that we didn’t feel that way about the next day’s event. Although it arguably would be the shortest event of our running careers, we were both excited and intimidated.
The distance, you see, is secondary to the slope. Held at Kitzbuehel, Austria’s famous ski resort, the Descent+ takes place on the Hahnenkamm, touted as the most dangerous downhill ski course in the world. The run is held the same manner as downhill ski races, running through gates in big “S” curves down an insanely steep slope.
Uncertain footing and an insane slope highlight the Inov-8 Descent Race+ (Photo: Andreas Aufschnaiter)
The 350-meter course drops 200 meters, with as much as 85% grade in places, with soft, grassy ground underfoot that I found frightening not only for its incline but also because of the uncertain footing, which is pocked and rutted out by cows that graze on these Austrian ski slopes — and leave cow paddies, for good measure.
A Race Designed for a Shoe
The Descent Race was born four years ago, the brainchild of Britta Sendlhofer, Inov-8’s Marketing Manager for Germany and Austria and a crucial player for the brand’s sales and marketing team. Britta grew up in Austria and, when tasked with the challenge of introducing potential customers to the British shoes and their fell running prowess, she knew just the place to stage a Continental version of the challenges posed by the British Isle fells with their grassy off-trail routes and steep, soft footing.