You need to accept Skyrunning as a lifestyle. You love the mountains; you never give up and for you all the hard training is part of the game.
Rok is only 25-year-old and already one of the top Skyrunners in the world. He loves everything about Skyrunning and he is a true role model for the “new generation of Skyrunners”.
He started his Skyrunning career in 2016 and today he is one of the most promising Skyrunners in the world. This year he accomplished a 3rd place in Skyrace des Matheysins, a 3rd place Skyrace Comapedrosa, a 1st place in the Internaltional Skyrace Carnia and finally the winner of the month in the Skýrunner Challenge 2019 (hosted by a Skyrunner Adventurers, a new Facebook group for Skyrunner lovers).
Rok has always gone his own way and earlier in life Rok dreamt about being a professional cyclist. But something happened.
Year 2013 Rok was involved in a serious cycling accident, he lost his consciousness and woke up in Ljubljana hospital.
After the accident, he put his bike aside, put on his running shoes and changed sport. Maybe this was his destiny that lead led him first into mountain running and now, Skyrunning.
This is Rok’s story…
Who is Rok and your story behind?
I’m a 25-year old mountain lover from Slovenia that grew up in small town in the western part of the country, very close to Italian border.
During my primary school years, I was never the one who stood out from the crowd. Neither for my mostly average school grades nor for my talent in sports. I tried athletics and football during that time, but I wasn’t particularly good at it.
However, I always loved to watch different sports on television, like skiing, ski jumping, football and cycling. It was Le Tour de France that influenced my future the most.
During my high school years, I started to train bicycling more seriously and as my hometown was surrounded by the mountains I mostly trained uphill and downhill.
The more hours I spent, the more confident I got.
My dream become to once be a part of Le Tour de France. As a climber I didn’t think about the yellow jersey for the best cyclist overall. Not at all. Instead I preferred to wear polka dot jersey, designed for the best climber.
However. My dreams collapsed in 2013, when I suffered a very serious bicycle accident on a race. After that I found my new way of life, running in the mountains.
However, polka dot jersey is still in my mind and heart and this is still my inspiration to become the best climber possible. If not on a bike, I will do it with a pair of shoes on my feet.
Can you describe yourself with two sentences?
I define myself as a Skyrunner. Running fast and light in the mountains is what perfectly describes my personality, my identity.
What is most important for you in life?
The most important in my life is motivation and endurance. From the moment you find your way it is important to follow it. Being motivated on a daily basis is a must if you want to go further.
From motivation then comes hard work attitude by which you can achieve amazing, unbelievable things. Here comes endurance, an important part of the game. With endurance I mean, that you are capable to endure different difficult situations that might appear while you are moving forward.
Your passion for Skyrunning? Where is that coming from?
Before I heard about Skyrunning as a special discipline, I already practiced the sport more or less.
In 2013, for example, I managed to take 6th place in the European junior championship in Borovets, Bulgaria, just minutes after the podium. Already being a part of Salomon Running Slovenia, having good international results, still under 20, with good social media presence were the keys to one day getting a call from Salomon Running’s International team.
In 2015, I was invited to Salomon’s Junior Academy for the top 16 young athletes from all over the world. The academy was located in picturesque Limone sul Garda where I actually first heard about Skyrunning and its type of lifestyle. I immediately fell in love with the sport and after a week of training and workshops with names like Emelie Forsberg, Kasie Enman, Anna Frost and Jonathan Wyatt, I found my own way.
For me, Skyrunning means running freely in the mountains without rules. It’s more than an extreme sport, and for me it’s a lifestyle.
Can you describe your significant personal strengths that took you all the way to this level of Skyrunning?
I have a very good self-confidence, I always put myself first and I think it’s important to always treat yourself in the very best possible way.
I prefer to go my own way. I do not listen to advices from others and I don’t care too much of what people might think or say. Sure, I’ve made a lot of mistakes and I hit the wall several times, but I also see that as part of the journey and game.
No one believed in me when I chose Skyrunning, which in my country is still not recognized as a sport. But that doesn’t mean I will give up. No, I will continue on my own and I will continue to fight and dream big.
When I speak from my heart, all I have achieved so far is the result of my own work.
I have no personal trainer. No, because only me can follow my dreams. That doesn’t mean that I don’t trust people. Obviously not. I just want to say that this is my personal opinion.
I am the only one who is aware of my own personality and inner motivation. The only one who knows the answer to a question, “why am I doing all this?”
Is Skyrunning a hobby or is it something you do for a living?
It is not my hobby, nor my job. Skyrunning is my lifestyle and everything is spinning around this sport.
However, I have a dream that one day it will also become something that I will get paid for.
Currently I am just finishing my master’s thesis from management, I already graduated from history, so this winter will be a super interesting period of time. Even the season will be finished.
When the season is over, I will probably go searching for a regular job. As I live just in the presence, I don’t really care about that now, because I am totally focused on my trainings, races and my master thesis.
However, it is in my mind and I am ready to take the next step.
Have you always had this type of lifestyle or have you done any change direction in life that you like to mention?
Generally speaking, the people who I was surrounded by during my childhood (friends, schoolmates, family, acquaintances) have always described me as a big dreamer, whose imaginations don’t belong in real life.
I was told that rather than dreaming I should keep both of my feet on the ground and do things in the same way as “ordinary people” do.
Being different in those times was very difficult. No one really understood my desire to do something big in life.
My introduction to sports were in primary school. Here I tried some athletics and football. However, training with others following the instructions from the coach was not really what I wanted to do. I did never really fit into the crowd and I was there just because my friends and schoolmates were.
If I look it back now, I would say that I was still in the search of my own way, unaware of how the near future would be like.
In high school I tried road cycling. With every single training I did, I was getting more confident. For the first time in my life I was doing it on my own.
I trained alone, spending hours and hours on local roads around my hometown. As Tolmin is surrounded with the mountains, I trained more or less just uphill. I was getting stronger and lighter, and In my first races I did I prove that I was a born climber.
After that I did some good results in uphill races, I got in contact with cycling team Sloga 1902 from Idrija. I was impressed and took everything so serious like I would already know that I will participate on Le Tour de France. I can’t really forget to mention this race, because it is still great inspiration for me.
But then it happened.
It was my first race in the season, with a brand-new bike. I was in a fantastic shape. I followed the leading group of 15 cyclists, but in one moment I fell over the bike and hit the ground. My helmet was broken, as well as my wrist. Moreover, I lost my consciousness and woke up in Ljubljana hospital.
The accident happened in spring, 2013. After that injury I put on my shoes and changed the sport. Maybe it was my destiny that lead me first through mountain running scene and now in Skyrunning. Not maybe, I really believe something is above me, taking care of my life while driving it through numerous obstacles that may appear.
But I am sure without all these experiences I would never have found my way, my passion for Skyrunning. Everything happens for a reason!
Which is the most challenging and demanding situations that you been through to get you where you are today as a person?
Here I have to mention again my bike accident in 2013 that completely changed my life. Until that moment I was easy going young boy with big dreams. After the fall, I felt like I was born again. I came home from hospital motivated as never before. I already had in my mind that the destiny gave me another chance to finally find my way.
From shy boy who was always afraid of expressing his personal opinions, always hidden in the crowd and flexible to the interest of other people, I transformed into a lion, who is doing it by his own, who knows what is the best for his own interests and will do everything to achieve them. Who doesn’t care of what other people might think. Why should he, if he is the only one who is following his chosen way.
Do you usually push yourself outside your comfort zone? How does it feel at the time? Can you see that the rewards coming out of this is worth this little extra effort?
Yeah, quite a lot. I mean, it’s just when you push yourself in the red zone you realize that you are alive and it feels like that moment seems to last forever.
It’s just like one of those moments after a workout, when I always feel better. I’m more confident and any kind of problem seems to be solvable.
How does your race plans and goals look like for 2019?
I am totally focused on the Skyrunning World Series and I don’t care about any other races or competitions. I even don’t find motivation to participate in other events. Speaking about goals, hm, actually I don’t have goals. I always go step by step, day by day and do it the best possible way.
If you have goals, once you achieve them the story is over, and you have to look for a new challenge. However, I have a way that I follow. It is all about being better than yesterday. To become the best version of myself is what pushes me forward, what really motivates me.
Of course, I love competitions. So, like I wrote above, fighting for the top positions in the Skyrunner World Series is what’s in my plan for this season.
How does a normal week with training and all that look like for you right now?
I am a 24/7 athlete. I train every day without rest. Of course, I don’t run every single day, then I would start to get bored. As a previous cyclist I like doing combination with my bike. I think it is perfect for me and I love changing sport in that way.
I normally get up at 4 a.m., eat breakfast, check e-mails, writing master thesis, and then spend 3-4 hours in the mountains. After I come back home, I prepare lunch, rest 1 h, do some social media stuff and then I have to go on work.
From 12 pm I have to be at the tourist information centre, where I work this summer. Then I get back home at around 9 p.m. and immediately fall asleep.
Which are your best training tips to other Skyrunners all over the world?
I strongly recommend everyone to do what you feel it’s the best way for you. What suits me might not suit you, so you should be careful when trying to copy other athletes.
My tip for you is just to enjoy the mountains, accept their love, feel free and run without worries. If you will do like that, you will forget how many hours you already did, how many kilometres are behind and how many vertical meters you managed to do.
Everything is about the moment. Try not to look on your watch and imagine yourself like you are a true part of the nature. An animal who is running like humans did in the past, quiet and free.
Which are your favourite races that you would recommend to other Skyrunners all over the world?
I like races that include steep uphills, technical downhills and are long enough so that you can still push yourself all the way to the finish line. I also love to participate in the races that are located in spectacular environment, not to mention the fans that make all stuff like a party in the mountains.
Thinking about all what I mentioned above, Limone Skyrunning Extreme and Zegama are the first two races that come to my mind. Also, because I have already experienced both of them. Limone has special place in my heart just because it was my first experience with Skyrunning. When we talk about Zegama then we cannot forget to mention all those crazy fans who are pushing screaming on you while climbing from Sancti Spiritu on the top of Aizzkori.
Of course, I would like to feel how it is running Olympus Marathon. As the historian Greek mythology always fascinated me, I get goose bumps just by thinking about climbing on Mt. Olympus, the palace of Gods.
For all lovers of long Skyraces, I would consider Transvulcania or maybe just book a flight ticket to the Madeira island, where Madeira Skyrace is taking place. I haven’t tried it yet, but I was on Madeira on a holiday three years ago and I fell in love with its landscape.
Do you have any dreams and goals for the future that you like to share?
As I wrote, no goals for me. I just want to follow my way, doing my best every day, working on my endurance and trying to become the best version of myself. If that means I will become the best Skyrunner in the world? Okay, I accept that.
How does your game plan look like for that?
Well, it is not really a plan. It is hard to make plans for something that can change in a moment. For example, it is impossible to predict weather for the next month, how we can predict our future? We can’t. Everything comes from present. Even if I know my way, I don’t know what is waiting for me. What is around the next corner?
Being patient and capable to adjust to different situations are the keys to success.
What is your inner drive?
I want to be the best possible version of myself!
What I achieved yesterday is just history. I try to live in the present and my focus is always to do better and faster next time. Never being satisfied is my inner drive which I wake up with every morning.
When you are satisfied you accept your boundaries and frankly, it is the same as giving up.
I don’t want to be a person that gives up. For me, there are no limits. I mean, the universe is infinite, while the boundaries are limited only in our minds.
What is your advice to other people that is dreaming of an active lifestyle running in the mountains as good as you?
First you have to find your inner motivation. You should ask yourself why you want to be as good as me? Isn’t that approach wrong? Why you don’t want to be better than me? I think you always have to be in your mind the best. Just with this approach you can exceed all your inner barriers.
Never stop believing is my personal advice to anyone of you. Don’t ever think about quitting. Because once you quit, you have to start all over from the beginning. Here it comes lifestyle.
If you accept Skyrunning as a lifestyle, you should never think about of giving up. Why? Because you love mountains and you don’t see hard training like a mandatory thing. Instead, you see it like a game, where you are playing the main role.
Do you have anything else in your life that you like to share or talk about in the blog?
Well, I would just like to exploit this space inviting everyone to follow my social media accounts (see below). I will try to do my best to present my lifestyle, publishing news, writing race reports and of course uploading some pics and videos.
P.S. You can remember me as a polka dot Skyrunner. This kit from Tour de France that is given to the best climber has always had a special meaning to me.
Name: Rok Bratina
Country/town: Tolmin / Slovenia
Your team or sponsor now: Scott Running
Occupation: Master student
Education: Graduate hisotorian
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/rokibratina/
Webpage / Blog: https://bratinarok.blogspot.com/
Thank you, Rok, for taking your time sharing your amazing story! Very inspiring!
Wishing you all the best luck in the future with your Skyrunning and everything that you want to do in life.