When dreams come true

This is the year when I turned my Skyrunning into a professional career and became a part of something new and very important.

Blog by Snezana Djuric and a continuation of the story…
Everything is possible, the impossible just takes a little more time

These are my home mountains, Kablar, Serbia.
These are my beautiful mountains and home arena, Kablar, Serbia.

Everything is possible, the impossible just takes a little more time

That’s right. Point taken here is time. Of course, with time goes work, effort and willpower. As a kid, I often thought that people run so many miles, 10k, 20k … how do they do it?

Will I ever be able to do this?

When I started it was difficult. However, every start is difficult, so they say :)! I got to the half marathon from the beginning. Not so fast, but I arrived :). After that, I was thinking, can I do it fast? Can I go to some other races? What is a half marathon and what is a mountain race? Because, as you read, I am a fan of trail running :). So, I came to my coach and an extreme sports team in the city where I live. Well, then there was a mess in my head! Meters, kilometres, hills, plains, hillsides, speed, breathing, where are the arms, where are the legs: D ?!Ahahahahah…

But, as I wrote, with hard work and a strong will, everything comes into place. So, I started competing in trail racing. There was everything, ups, downs, hard races, those easy ones, the pain, the laughter, the fun … I was thinking more and more about how it would be good to make it a lifestyle, a job, something to live on.

How I turned my Skyrunning into a professional career

When I was writing last blog, one of the questions was, is Skyrunning my hobby or something that I live by? It was a hobby at that point, and my job was the job of a physical therapist. I was then named the Runner of the Month by the SkyRunner Adventurers Community and it was already the beginning of my dream come true … It is nice when you really want something, you work, and the results come.

A few months after that, after more races and miles, I was declared the winner of the SkyRunner Challenge. I was literally screaming with happiness! Wow! Me?!

Yes me. More specifically, my coach and I :). To make the surprise even bigger, SkyRunner, more precisely Katinka Nyberg (the founder), offered me a professional contract. My hobby is growing into something more … 🙂 Well, this is an opportunity not to be missed!

First place on Skyrunning race in Serbia. Ultra trail Stara planina 57km, 2450 D+ Time 6:44:53 SkyRunner Challenge 2019 Skyrunning Serbia.
First place on Skyrunning race in Serbia. Ultra Trail Stara Planina 57km, 2450 D+ Time 6:44:53, Skyrunning Serbia. Winner of the SkyRunner Challenge 2019.

We talked about everything, exchanged opinions, talked about mountains, about racing everywhere in the world, about Serbia and my opportunities and desires, about everything … One of the questions in last blog was, what are your plans for the future, what do I want? Honestly, I wanted something like this :). It’s nice to do what you love and enjoy it. Katinka recognized and understood it.

Serbia meets Sweden, meets Spain

Shortly after the agreement was concluded, Katinka and Fernando (SkyRunner Head Coach) expressed their wish to come to Serbia, to get to know me, and to start something that would certainly be big and important, nice and useful.

Serbia is a small country with a big heart. I hope they saw it. We trained together, doing tests of mobility, flexibility, strength. Go to the mountains and places where I usually train with my friends. They met my coach Marko, a friend of mine, Vladimir, my running pal. The week that we had together was hard-working, fun and motivating!

Me, Vlada, Katinka & Fernando mountaineering at Kablar, Serbia.
Me, Vladimir, Katinka & Fernando mountaineering at Kablar, Serbia.
Me, Vlada, Katinka & Fernando mountaineering at Kablar, Serbia.
Me, Vladimir, Katinka & Fernando mountaineering at Kablar, Serbia.

Working on our new training services

In my new job at SkyRunner where I now work together with Katinka and Fernando I will be a part of developing our Online Coaching Services for Skyrunning. We started off this work by doing some mobility and strength tests which will also be a part of the training services. You can read more about these mobility tests in the article “Stretching, yes or no?“.

Fernando is doing some mobility tests on Snezana,
Fernando is doing some mobility tests on Snezana,

Skyrunning Adventures this year

This year lots of great things is going to happend with team SkyRunner. We are arranging a Training camp in Spain – Valle de Tena, a Race trip to Serbia – Ultra trail Stara Planina, a Race trip to Sweden, Åre mountain marathon weeks, where there will be 8 interesting races, a Race trip to Spain, Trail Valle de Tena a high altitude race, a Race trip to Scotland, Ring of Steal Skyrace.

We will go on these camps and races as a team :). You can read about all this on our social networking pages. We hope that we will be able to motivate you and inspire you to join us and enjoy :)!

At the beginning of 2019 I asked my coach – can I do all this ???

He answered: – 2019 is your year!

And it really was. He was right as always. 2019 was the year of Dreams come true! To be continued…:).

2020 is the year of your dreams, go for them! J

/Snezana Djuric, SkyRunner

Be curious, wild and free. Do it for fun and don’t forget to smile!

He loves the challenge and he want to become better and achieve more every single day. Of course, he also does it for fun, but it’s more fun when you can see the progress!

Joar is a 40-year-old very stubborn, strong-willed and competitive guy from Sweden who loves doing sports and especially Skyrunning.

In his previous life he was a professional MMA athlete, but unfortunately, he got injured in a snowboard accident, and he needed a new passion in life.

Just a couple of years after, he tried mountain running and did his first race in Åre, Sweden 43km, 2100 D+. It was at that moment that he found true passion, even though he didn’t realize it then…

This is Joar’s story…

Infinite Trails, Bad Hofgastein, Austria. Photographer, Elisabeth Hansson Trail Running Sweden
Infinite Trails, Bad Hofgastein, Austria. Photographer, Elisabeth Hansson Trail Running Sweden

Who is Joar and your story behind?

Wow, this story could be long, so I will try to pack it up. I’m a guy full of energy who loves training. I’ve tried all kinds of sport activities and I started to train gymnastics on a high level at the age of eleven.

In my early twenties I started to train MMA, fell deeper in the “rabbit hole” and came out as a professional athlete on the other side.

In my early thirties I got injured in a snowboard accident, and that incident forced me out of MMA.

I took up running but didn’t do it very seriously in the beginning. After a couple of years, I started to run more frequently, and I also picked up triathlon and cross-country skiing along the way.

Can you describe yourself with two sentences?

I’m a very stubborn, strong-willed, competitive guy who loves to push boundaries.

A kind of “Hey ho, let’s go!”, “speed it up” and “never slow down” mentality.

What is most important for you in life?

I would love to be like that all-out philosophical mental Buddhist kind of guy. And believe me, I try really hard to be more like that. But the fact is that I am all about achievement. I want to become better and achieve more every single day.

Your passion for Skyrunning & Trailrunning where is that coming from?

It started with a race in Åre, Sweden. The race was called “Axa fjällmarathon” and was one of the first sky races in Sweden for the crowds. This was in 2014, and I didn’t really know much about trail-running back then. After the race, me and my friend were amazed by the experience. It was a whole new thing. Time didn’t matter (well, at least less than in an ordinary marathons), and the views where spectacular. This was instant love, but I didn’t realize I had a new crush until years later. I just kept on going chasing pavement kilometres.

Next year we came back. And the rest is, as they say, history. Or, kind of. It took me some more years to start training trail- and skyrunning. Every workout in the woods and the mountains give me so much energy. The races give me even more. I guess the feeling of being part of nature and the scenery is what gives me the feeling of complete satisfaction.

Can you describe your significant personal strengths that took you all the way to this level of running?

I think it is a mix on never giving up, my drive to become better and my share love for training and competing.

Joar just crossed the finish line OOC (UTMB week Mont Blanc).
Joar just crossed the finish line OOC (UTMB week Mont Blanc).

What do you do for a living? Is Skyrunning/Trailrunning something you plan/would like to work with in the future?

I would love to be able to just run as an occupation. But, as a middle age, not that impressive runner, I have come to terms with the fact that it is most unlikely… But I might go for it as a coach/trainer or in some kind of company that embrace outdoors… Or, I just stick at the magnificent workplace I’m at right now.

How do you do the puzzle? How do you make it work with job, family, training and racing?

It is fairly good to have a high level of energy and being a “high-performance kind of guy” to make it work. But I have to be honest and admit that, from time to time, I have problems laying the puzzle without harming my loved ones. I have a family who understands my needs, and I am trying to make the logistic work. Sometimes, it just doesn’t add up anyway. Most recent I have started with commute training. I also train on lunchbreaks and I try to train on hours that doesn’t affect my family too much. Most troublesome is time for rest. That one is always hard to prioritize for me. And to be frank, I don’t like rest…

Joar with family just after OOC (UTMB week Mont Blanc).
Joar with family just after OOC (UTMB week Mont Blanc).

Have you always had this type of lifestyle training a lot (Skyrunning/Trailrunning etc…) or have you done any change direction in life that you like to mention?

I have always trained a lot. I want to train even more. Like “all the time”.

Which is the most challenging and demanding situations in life that you been through to get you where you are today as a person?

I would say becoming a dad is one of the things that change my situation the most. When my kids were toddlers, I didn’t really find myself in that situation. It was a struggle for me, and I had to work a lot on my personality (which I still do).

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?

Pushing my self is what I love the most. Especially when it comes to something physical. It is sometimes hard to push through and embrace all the pain that comes when going outside of the comfort zone, but most of the time I enjoy it knowing it will take me further toward my goals. Workouts that ends in a pool of sweat and cries of suffering are the best there is…

How does your race plans and goals look like for 2020?

I was hoping for a spot in both WSER and UTMB 2020 but got rejected. Last year I did 24 races. A lot of them were Ultras and Sky-races. This will be a year with less amount of competitions and a big focus on training and building a stable and solid base. My main goal this year is to be injury free and to have fun.

Matterhorn Ultraks, SkyRunner World Series 2019
Matterhorn Ultraks, SkyRunner World Series 2019

How does a normal week with training and all that look like for you right now? (What do you train? How much do you train? Where do you train? Other things you do?

I train as much as possible. Last year was an all-time high with a bit more than 570 hours of training and competing. About half of that was running. The rest was a mix of swimming, cycling, cross country skiing and strength (sometimes I also had to do a bit of rehab). This year I aim for approx. 600 hours with a massive build period. I train all-over and everywhere I can. I really enjoy training and exploring new places.

Which are your best training tips to other Skyrunners/Trailrunners all over the world?

Be curious, wild and free. Do it for fun and don’t forget to smile!

Which are your favourite races that you would recommend to other Skyrunners/Trailrunners all over the world?

Can I say, “all of them”? Every race has its own glory. If I have to pick a few, I would say Fjällmarathon in Åre, The UTMB Week (I did OCC last year), Matterhorn Ultraks, Kullamannen in Mölle and …

No, it is too hard. I stick with “All of them”!

Infinite Trails, Bad Hofgastein, Austria
Infinite Trails, Bad Hofgastein, Austria

Do you have any dreams and goals for the future that you like to share?

I’d like to do all the races in “the Grand slam of 100 milers” and all the marathons in “Marathon majors”. But my main goal is be able to race as often as possible and all over the world. To keep on discovering new places, countries, mountain and trails.

How does your game plan look like for that?

Just keep on going! I’m in the zone and all I have to do is to keep my focus and drive. And yes, I might need a couple of sponsors. That would help…

What is your inner drive (motivation)?

To be the best I can be! To combine the chessy mantra “Harden the fuck up” with the friendlier “Calm the fuck down”. Yin and yang baby (or, at least my interpretation of it).

What is your advice to other people that is dreaming of an active lifestyle running in the mountains as good/much as you?

Just start! Right away. Chop chop!

Everyone can do it. It might take more time than the typical person think they have. But it all comes down to priority. If you want to compete or if you want to perform well, you shouldn’t be a stranger to pain or to be a bit uncomfy from time to time…

If you want something, go for it! Never give up. And, come join me for a run!

Vertical K, Åre, Sweden
Vertical K, Åre, Sweden

Facts

Name: Joar Palm

Nationality: Swedish

Age: 40

Family: Wife and two kids, Tea 9 and Ruben 7 years

Country/town: Sweden/Stockholm

Level of running: Don’t really know. Intermediate?

Your team or sponsor now: I train with, race for and coach in “Team Nordic Trail”, “Stockholm City Triathlon” and “Hammarby Friidrott”

Occupation: Head of Delivery

Education: Leadership, Key Account Management

Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/joar.palm

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/herr_lagom/?hl=sv

Webpage / Blog: https://herrlagom710739843.wordpress.com/

Thank you!

Thank you, Joar, 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.

Happy SkyRunning!

/Katinka Nyberg

 

How Skyrunning became my lifestyle

I turned my professional career upside down and my hobby became my lifestyle. From entrepreneur in IT to new exciting adventures with SkyRunner. 

This year I have done and experienced things that I before didn’t thought were possible. I’ve done my first Skyrace, seen the most beautiful places and met the most amazing faces.

I love the mountains, I love the challenge, and I love this lifestyle and everything about it. Actually, everything has been so good, so I decided to take the step fully and start a whole new business in Skyrunning.

I’m Katinka, a 45-years old Skyrunner, entrepreneur, mountain lover, twin mother and the founder of this startup company. I have many stories to tell you, but this time I will tell you about my new passion. My passion for Skyrunning and my new journey with SkyRunner.

This is my Skyrunner story…

Enjoying the mountains of Åre, Sweden
Enjoying the mountains of Åre, Sweden

How did I get into Skyrunning?

By the end of 2016, when I’ve just finished a *Swedish classic, I by a coincident saw a video of Skyrunning at Facebook. And I taught to myself. Wow. This looks so awesome; I have to do this. And the week after I was signed up for the next Mountain Marathon in Åre, Sweden (43k, 2100D+).

Ten months later I finished the race as planned together with my brother, and we scored as the last participants. Our time was not very good, and my body has never been in worse shape. A couple of hours later when we were going to have dinner together with our friends, they couldn’t help laughing at my funny way of walking. I looked like a misery and could not even walk straight up.

Nevertheless, it was a fantastic experience. Just the feeling of coping with such a big challenge, climbing the mountains and being involved in such an adventure was something totally new to me.

So, I taught to myself. I have to do this again.

A week later I was signed up for the 2018 race. This time I knew what it was all about, and I was so much more prepared. The race went quite well, and I accomplished my goal (which was one hour better than the year before). The race was a pleasure all the way through. The feeling of running downhill very fast with full focus and control, was like living in the moment for real.

All the work I put into this was absolutely 100% worth it, and for sure it was one of the best days in my life.

Then I knew it. This is what I want to do. I want to do more of this. I want to do international Skyrunning races, climb in higher mountains, and visit all types of countries and environments. In this I also like to involve my family and bring them around the world, keep them active and climb, hike and run in all those fantastic environments.

But I taught to myself. Is this possible? I’m 44 years old, work full time and have 2 active 7 year old twins that do all kinds of different sports.

That’s what we’ll see, and for sure I will try 110%.

Kia fjällmaraton 43 km målgång 2018
Kia fjällmaraton 43 km 2018 Katinka Nyberg, Finisher

I decided to go for it

In the end of 2018 (about 6 months after we sold our IT-company) I decided to make Skyrunning my lifestyle, and that it was time for a change. I decided to leave the IT-industry and I started my new company SkyRunner.

In the beginning I didn’t really have a business plan. But what I do had was a true passion for Skyrunning and an idea of what I wanted to do with the company. So, the plan for the first year was only to live my life fully, have fun, and to do all the races and visit all these places that I had been dreaming of for a very long time.

In parallel I was working on my blog skyrunner.nu and tried to learn, and to get to know the industry on a deeper level.

My goals for 2019 were to:

  1. run my first international Skyrace.
  2. beat my time in SkyRunning Marathon in Åre, Sweden with one hour
  3. Buff – Bydalens Mountain Marathon, 50k, 2900D+ (goal just to make it)
  4. grow my blog and get to know the industry
  5. make a decision what to do with SkyRunner and set a new direction in life.

I wanted to explore my limits and see how good I could possible could get if I really really put my mind into it.

So, I started to train. A lot.

Snowrunning close to my home at Värmdö, Sweden.
Snowrunning close to my home at Värmdö, Sweden.

My training journey

In the beginning of 2019, I started to really focus on my training, and the training became my absolute top priority. Although, I didn’t really know how to maximize my training and do it the very best possible way.

I started with the most important. I registered for all the races, and now all the goals were for real. My first Skyrace for the season would be Santana Skyrace at Madeira in June.

At the same time, I started to interview other Skyrunners for my blog, and one of them was Fernando Armisen (a trainer specialised in Skyrunning and Trail). I really liked Fernando, and he seemed very nice and competent. So, I decided to try out his online training.

Fernando’s training methodology was really the opposite to the way I used to train. I had never before been training with a training-watch, and I didn’t know so much about pulse-training.

Before I had been running about 2-3 times a week, around 7-9 km per session in medium pulse zone (pulse zone 3).  On top of that I had been adding a couple of long walks and a couple of gym sessions. I couldn’t run more than that because I struggled with some weakness in my body (hips problem and leaning forward shoulder problem etc…). Each week looked pretty much the same, and I didn’t move forward in the way I wanted to. Race-planning was not even on the map.

Now my training looks very different.

Fernando is now taking fully responsibility for my training and he helps me to get in my very best shape at race days according to my own personal conditions. He helps me to reach my goals, and race planning is a part of the package. The training started with a small start-up project. I filled out a formula and answered some questions about my physical condition, my goals and did some tests.

As tools I use my training watch, a pulse band and the Trainingpeak app. Fernando analyses and plans my training once a week, and next week trainings is always based on the performance and my physical condition and feelings from the week before.

The training methodology has been based on pulse training and a great variety in pulse zones. For example, 3 months before a race I have been doing a lot of training in pulse zone 1 and in pulse zone 5 and working extra on my weaknesses in the gym.

This change was very hard in the beginning and I suffered all kinds of muscle soreness in my legs and body, that is unfortunately not flawless. I have for many years now been struggling with all kinds of problems and I have had problems with everything from feet, hips, pain in right shoulder, upper back and I’m still struggling. Although I’m moving in the right direction now and I believe that I have found the main cause of all the problems.

It turned out that I prone with only the right foot. So, now I have a special training program to prevent pronation and strengthen my feet and I also wear custom made soles, which has been very good for me. I also do a lot of work with scapula stabilization, glutes activation, and strength training for my back.

This methodology was something totally new to me, but it has turned out working really well for me. I’ve had a quite a good season and one of the best parts is that I managed to stay away from illness and injuries. You can follow my training more in detail in this blog.
My Mountain Marathon Training Online Program – Week 1.

Functional training, Sats Värmdö, Sweden
Functional training, Sats Värmdö, Sweden

My first Skyrunning event

In June this year (2019) it was time for my first big Skyrunning event of the year, Madeira Skyrace. I went there to enjoy, to run, and also to do some work blogging 🙂

I was travelling alone ready to meet a whole new world, and I felt quite nervous. This trip was really important to me and I really wanted to take this opportunity to get to know the industry and to meet and interview some runners.

So, on the way there I contacted the sponsors of the event “Migu Run Skyrunner® World Series” for an interview. I got an interview with their marketing manager Seana, and she was also very nice and helped me to get some interviews with some of the top runners of the event.

Personally, I was going to run Santana Skyrace, which was my first Skyrunning adventure and goal for the year. On the race day it was very hot (30 – 35 degrees), and the race started off with an extremely steep and long climb. I got dehydrated quite quickly, and I was struggling to get back in track. But quitting is of course not an option so I finally I pulled it trough. Totally exhausted, very happy and very proud. You can read more about my race experience here Santana Skyrace 2019 race experience.

After the race I took a deep breath. No time for rest or taking a shower. It was show time 🙂

I was just in time to grab some runners that had been running the big race, Madeira Skyrace (55k, 4121D+). To my great surprise I managed to get the hold of some Swedish runners for some short interviews. It was also nice to see that there were more people than me from Sweden that do international Skyrunning races.

Learning by doing, I did some more interviews and at the end of the day I managed to get an interview with the female winner Maria Koller, which I taught were super cool.

After the race weekend I had decided to stay another one more week at the Madeira island, just to enjoy and do some trail-running together with Trail Run Adventures (Anna Frosts travel-agency). You can read more about these adventures here Madeira Skyrunning Adventures.

Santana Skyrace, Madeira
Santana Skyrace, Madeira

My first setback

Life doesn’t always turn out the way you planned it, or the way you once thought it would be. But the trick is to try to adapt, make some changes and don’t use it as an excuse for not training.

In the middle of June my husband Fredrik suffered a serious scoter accident in San Diego. So, I had to fly there and help him out. I changed my plans, packed my things and brought all my running gears and flew to San Diego.

The situation was quite bad. He had a broken neck with a fracture on the C6-section, a broken nose, several fractures in the face, he had damaged his mouth and lost a few teeth.

Mentally this week was very tough for both of us with all the worry and all that. But the doctors said that he would ok and that under the circumstances he was very lucky.

Me and my husband Fredrik, San Diego Hospital.
Me and my husband Fredrik, San Diego Hospital.

Although I wasn’t in the best mood for training this week the training must go on.

I did all the planned training sessions with a few modifications and it wasn’t that hard that I taught it would be.

Sometimes in bad situations the running becomes your best friend and actually it was very good for me to do all the running and to be able to think of something else for a couple of hours a day.

Now, in the writing moment Fredrik is ok, and he has recovered well. Next challenge for him will be to get started with the training and he will also try to do a smaller Skyrace 2020, which is great!

This accident really taught us a lesson the hard way, that life is vulnerable, and that it is really important to live it here and now. This experience for sure was one of the reasons why we decided to take the step fully with SkyRunner and follow our hearts, and throw ourselves out in the unknown (some business developers call it the Blue Ocean).

The Facebook page reached 10 000 followers

The interest and a need for a Skyrunner community was even bigger than I taught. In just 6 months the SkyRunner Facebook-page had reached 10 000 followers and the private SkyRunner Adventures group, that I started up for “Skyrunners only” just reach 1000 Skyrunners which was great.

I’m not so sure why the blog and my social media channels became so popular, but I think it has been the Skyrunner Stories. Here I have been interviewing all sorts of Skyrunners of all levels from different social backgrounds all around the world.

Here I also found out that most of these Skyrunners have the same value base, and they love the same thing that I do. The mountains, the nature and the challenge, which for me is like magic.

In my best shape ever

The plan for the rest of the summer was to go to the Swedish mountains on our yearly family vacation. But Fredrik couldn’t come at first because he had to go to all those doctors’ appointments, checking up his neck.

Anyway, we decided that me and the kids should go by ourselves, and that Fredrik would join us later.

Under the circumstances the vacation was very good. I used to do my mountain training before lunch while the kids went to the Kids Lab club at Holliday club. In the afternoon we use to do all kinds of fun outdoor activities together.

The Swedish mountain environment is so beautiful and actually I like it even more than Madeira. I also use to take out my kids to the mountains and especially my daughter Matilda loves it, she likes to be like her mother. A Skyrunner 🙂

Åreskutan, Sweden
Åreskutan, Sweden
Our kids Tom and Matilda running mini Marathon.
Our kids Tom and Matilda running mini Marathon.

These fantastic weeks in Åre were rounded up with Kia Mountain Marathon 43k, 2100 followed by Buff, Bydalens Mountain Marathon Ultra, 50k, 2900D+. I did very good in both races. Kia Mountain Marathon in 6:48 which is 2 hours better than the first year 2017, and Buff in 8:53, which is one hour better than I expected. I love both these races and I would definitely recommend them any international runner who likes to come here and run.

Mountain marathon week in Åre has grown into a real running festival with lots of races and activities for both runners, friends and family. The event took place in Åre, Sweden, July 27 – August 3, 2019.  Read more about it in this blog Mountain marathon week in Åre, Sweden 2019.

Buff, Bydalens Fjällmarathon 50k, 2900D+, Sweden
Buff, Bydalens Mountain Marathon Ultra, 50k, 2900D+, Sweden

Feeling low and out of energy

I had done everything that I only before had been dreaming about, and I had reached the goals for the year. Wasn’t it now that I was supposed to feel happy? Unfortunately, not. Instead I felt totally empty and I had no energy. After about 2 months I still felt very low and something has to be wrong.

Now, I know that it is not the goal itself that its important, it’s the journey. And now the journey was over, and I didn’t have a new journey planned yet.

But it was also something else. People around me started to say that I should eat more. I don’t know, maybe I looked more skinny than normal. So, I decided to go and do a body mass test. I was only 17.5% which is way too low for a female in my age. The test centre said that this was probably one of the main reasons why I felt like I did, and that I needed to add around 500 kcal a day. PUUHHH.

I followed their advice and things started to feel better after a couple of weeks and some new ideas started to grow…

The new business plan was taking shape

I had learned so much in this first year of Skyrunning and some new business ideas started to grow. After that I had met all these ambitious runners that really really wanted to do all these challenging, spectacular and hard mountain races, and in the same time where struggling with all kinds of problems and injuries. Then I knew exactly what we were going to do.

We were going to offer these runners personal training specialised in Skyrunning & Trail in combination with race trips to higher mountains and even harder races all around Europe. And around this we were going to build up a whole new community and a new brand focused in Skyrunning.

Me and my husband Fredrik started to do the first draft of a business plan in our kitchen at Värmdö, Sweden.

Very simple but also very unique.

When we were finished, we decided to call Fernando my trainer and ask if he wanted to be in the project. Fernando where very excited about it, and he said YES!

First Business Plan created at our home Värmdö, Sweden.
First Business Plan created at our home Värmdö, Sweden.

We partnered up with Fernando Armisén

In November 2019 we went to Spain to see Fernando. The purpose with the trip was to get to know each other, to see the mountains and to do some business together.

We did some nice mountaineering trips in the deep snow followed by a business meeting in Fernando’s family’s weekend house, which was very charming.

(By the way. In our new company there will be no need for a fancy office. We just try to keep it simple focusing in the core.)

Everything was good, and the new team got along very well!

We decided to really do this together and the first draft of the business plan for 2020 were set.

Now Fernando is a co-owner in SkyRunner AB, and as Head Coach he is responsible for the area Training of the company.

Katinka, Fernando and Fredrik in Valle de Tena, Spain
Katinka, Fernando and Fredrik in Valle de Tena, Spain

Our plans for 2020

We will start to sell personal training online specialised in Skyrunning on an international level in the beginning of 2020. For our team and our customers, we are also planning following training camps and race trips:

  • 28 April – 3 May, Training camp, Spain/Pyrenees.
  • 5 – 7 June, Ultra Trail Stara Planina, Serbien, (Snezanas favourite place)
  • 12 – 14 June, Gran Maraton Montañas de Benasque, (High altitude mountain race, Spain),
  • 20 July – 3 Aug, Swedish Mountain Marathon week (My favourite place)
  • 28 Aug – 30 Aug, Trail Valle de Tena, Spain, (Fernandos favourite race. High altitude mountain race in Spain),
  • 18 – 20 Sep, Ring of Steal (Maybe)

To our team we will also connect top Skyrunner Athletes as coaches and role models from all over the world. Our first athlete in the team is Snezana from Serbia, and she will come with us on most of the camps and races and take part in activities online. Snezana is a super woman and this year (2019) she won the Serbian Skyrunning series. She is our hero and a true inspiration for Skyrunners all over the world.

Snezana Djuric, Serbia

Snezana Djuric, Top Skyrunner, SerbiaOne thing that will differentiate our team from other teams is that we will run and compete with a mixed team with runners of all different levels, countries and backgrounds.

We believe that Skyrunning is not just for the elites and that anyone can do it!

We are looking forward to new existing adventures 2020 and you are all very welcome to join our team. If you like to join us, take part in our training or any of our trips please contact katinka.nyberg@skyrunner.nu.

Read more

If you like to read more in detail about my training journey last year check out My mountain marathon training, a series of 17 blog posts https://skyrunner.nu/2019/05/07/my-mountain-marathon-training-online-program-week-1/.

Happy skyrunning year 2020!

/Katinka

 

The Swedish classic is a sports challange where you in a year do 4 races in different disciplines. One race of running (30 km), swimming in open water (3 km), skiing (90 km), cycling 300 km.  (This sport is often exercised by Swedish middle-aged men with a 40 years old crisis).

 

Becoming a parent gave me the strength to quit my job and follow my dreams

One year ago, she decided to turn her professional career upside down, and to become an entrepreneur in Skyrunning.

Keri is a 40 year-old British climber and Skyrunner who loves the mountains, and especially the terrain with scrambling technical difficulty.

In her ‘previous life’ she studied in Cambridge as a scientist. But that wasn’t what she really wanted out of life, or maybe she just needed to physically challenge herself instead.

While climbing her very first mountain she had the misfortune to come across a mountain rescue incident, where the injured person eventually died. Perhaps it was fate, but something changed in her and that ‘mountain feeling’ started to grow.

Strangely, it was at first when she became a parent that she finally got the confidence to quit her job, and follow her dreams. In 2018 she founded Girls on Hills, in Glencoe Scotland and hasn’t looked back.

This is Keri’s story…

Winter skyrunning in the Scottish Highlands.
Winter skyrunning in the Scottish Highlands.

Who is Keri and your story behind?

I am a scientist who was thrown off track by unexpectedly falling in love with the mountains. I spent the next 15 years building a new and active life, with mountains in the centre of it.

Originally, I was a hockey player. I played national level as a junior but never really had a passion for it. At 18 I went to Cambridge University to study for a degree in natural sciences, and later a PhD in neurobiology. I kept up my hockey throughout, but my motivation was waning and soon I gave up sports altogether.

After leaving Cambridge, I joined an informal three peaks challenge group (to climb the highest summits in England, Wales and Scotland), my first time up a mountain!

Here I had the misfortune to come across a mountain rescue incident in which I assisted in giving CPR, and where the casualty eventually died. Perhaps it was fate or somehow just timely, but the incident changed me, and I literally started along a different track from that day. I took up rock climbing first and foremost, but around the same time I also started running.

I’m not really someone who does things by halves, so my first off-road race was the Lowe Alpine Mountain Marathon (LAMM), which quickly showed me how much I had to learn! Over the next 12 years all I did was climb and run my way around the world (with some skiing thrown in!)

I qualified as a climbing instructor and a summer mountain leader, but all the while I worked a ‘day job’ in the sciences, not knowing how I might make a living from doing what I loved.

Strangely, it was having kids that gave me the confidence to take the plunge and follow my dreams. Honestly, two back-to-back maternity leaves all but ruined my career and in the end, leaving my ‘office job’ was not as hard as expected. In 2018 I set up Girls on Hills with a friend (Nancy Kennedy) and I haven’t looked back.

Girls on Hills run unique skyrunning courses for women.
Girls on Hills run unique skyrunning courses for women.

Can you describe yourself with two sentences?

I’m a live-in-the-moment person who believes that life is about the journey and the experiences you have along the way – not about the value of material things. I’m also a trainee juggler, struggling to balance kids, work and running without dropping the ball too many times.  

What is most important for you in life?

My kids and my family come first. But I’m also a great believer in the ‘happy mum happy baby’ philosophy and know that I’m the best person I can be, and a better mum to my kids when I’m happy and fulfilled – and that means getting out in the mountains! 

Your passion for SkyRunning? Where is that coming from?

I’ve been a fell runner in the UK for over a decade (fell running is UK mountain running at lower elevations, using self-navigation), but when skyrunning came to my home village in Glencoe, I was tempted to give it a try.

My first race was the Ring of Steall skyrace, just 9 months after having my second baby. It was really tough, but I completely loved it. The combination of mountain running with technical/scrambling terrain really suits my interests and experience.

In 2019 I was awarded a spot on the UK Skyrunning Team (for the VK). But unfortunately, the World Championship race fell just 4 days after the Goretex Transalpine Run (260km|16,000,) which I was racing the week before. Needless to say, it wasn’t my best performance, but it was really fun to race with the elites and try my first Vertical Kilometre.

Naturally I’ve been drawn more towards extreme skyraces since then and look forward to racing some abroad in 2020.

Keri on her way to 3rd place in the Pinnacle Ridge Extreme skyrace (2019), not part of the UK & Ireland Skyrunning Series 2020.
Keri on her way to 3rd place in the Pinnacle Ridge Extreme skyrace (2019), not part of the UK & Ireland Skyrunning Series 2020.

Can you describe your significant personal strengths that took you all the way to this level of running and entrepreneurship?

I’m no elite level runner but by living in the mountains and spending so much time playing in them, the Scottish hills have gotten into my blood somehow. I think the more time you spend climbing, running and just being in the mountains, the more you gain experience with the terrain and knowledge of the environment, and over the years you build up neuromuscular micro-efficiencies that will ultimately lead to improved trail running economy.

I also think that many years of rock climbing, from the Alps, to Morocco and Yosemite has played its part too, helping me move quickly over steep ground. It’s really this, and strong sense of adventure that underpins my running, and I like to use it as a way to explore places!

Entrepreneurship is a whole other ball game. I’m just winging it really! I have worked previously in business development and marketing, but with no formal training. Through Girls on Hills I’m simply trying to offer women the services and support that I myself would wish for!

Can you tell us a little about Girls on Hills?

Girls on Hills Ltd is Scotland’s only guided trail, fell and skyrunning running company, designed specifically for women. Our guided courses take place in the Glencoe area of the Scottish Highlands and are aimed at women who want to break free from the road and take their running into the mountains. We seek to equip women with the skills and confidence necessary to become independent in the mountain environment. We also aim to challenge the gender gap in participation that exists in most forms of offroad-running.

We’ve seen a huge amount of support and the business has grown rapidly, with people coming to Scotland from all over the world to run with us.

Girls on Hills is a celebration of the ‘headspace’ and wellbeing that can be achieved by combining the liberating simplicity of running with the value of wild spaces. Travelling fast and light in the mountains with everything you need on your back is an empowering form of escapism.

Guided skyrunning courses from Girls on Hills help women improve their technique and confidence on technical and exposed terrain.
Guided skyrunning courses from Girls on Hills help women improve their technique and confidence on technical and exposed terrain.

Which is the most challenging and demanding situations that you been through to get you where you are today as a person?

It is always hard to turn away from opportunities to make more money or have more stability in your life, in favour of doing something that carries a risk, or where the outcome is unknown. But if your passion is strong, then there is nothing worse than being plagued by regret or spending your life wondering ‘what if’.

Making big changes in the direction of my life has involved some of the most challenging situations and difficult decisions I’ve known, but they’ve always proven to be the most rewarding. The biggest example of this was the decision to have children. Since having the girls, the struggles of skyracing seem easy!! 

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?

As you push outside your comfort zone (in terms of effort levels in training), there are certainly rewards, but they are sometimes hard to see. As you get stronger, you are able to push harder and running never seems to feel any easier!

In the mountains it’s even harder to see this change happening (compared to road running). This is where the value of smart watches and advanced physio metrics come in of course. But what I think is really interesting is how the same is true of ‘suffering’ and ‘fear’.

As you continue to push against the boundaries of your comfort zone, things that used to bother or scare you, slowly impact you less. I think it’s important to push outside your comfort zone regularly so that it doesn’t shrink back and smother you. 

Keri soloing Curved Ridge, an easy rock climb which features on the Glencoe Skyline race route.
Keri soloing Curved Ridge, an easy rock climb which features on the Glencoe Skyline race route.

How does your race plans and goals look like for 2020?

I don’t have many yet. I’d like to complete the UK Skyrunning series and do a few extreme skyraces abroad, but this depends on childcare arrangements and family commitments of course. 

How does a normal week with training, work and all that look like for you right now?

My training is quite limited just now, as whenever I’m not guiding for Girls on Hills (2-4 days a week) I’m busy being ‘mum’ and can’t really get out running (my husband and I live in a remote area of Scotland, a long way from family support!)

Fortunately, though my work gets me out for long days in the mountains and with lots of strong women who help push me. Whenever I get a little window of time, I make a mad dash for the hills and enjoy running and scrambling around Glencoe (I’m very lucky that I can access these hills straight from my door)! 

Girls on Hills courses empower women through mountain running and learning new skills.
Girls on Hills courses empower women through mountain running and learning new skills.

Which are your best training tips to other Skyrunners all over the world?

Although it is possible to train for big vert without living near the mountains, it is of course easier to train on the real thing. I am a big fan of ‘terrain-specific-training’ and think it’s important to run on the kind of ground, gradient and profile you expect to race on.

I also think that rock-climbing is a much-undervalued form of cross-training for skyrunners, especially for those interested in racing extreme courses. Rock climbing is great for building core-strength and training those movement patterns that you’re going to need to race over steep rocky terrain on race day.

Which are your favourite races that you would recommend to other Skyrunners all over the world?

I’ve yet to experience the great races on the world circuit, but ultimately, I’m biased and would say the Glencoe Skyline every time! 😉 Last year I came 3rd place in the Pinnacle Ridge Extreme, which was a race I really enjoyed and would recommend to anyone looking for something shorter that really packs-a-punch. 

Are you involved in any other types of running-projects that you like to talk about (ambassador / entrepreneur etc)?

Last year Girls on Hills launched the first ever skyrunning course for women and experienced a sell-out in just 24h! We were so shocked and thrilled that we just had to run a second course for later that summer, which also sold-out. For 2020 we’re adding a new location (Snowdonia) to our skyrunning calendar, and also a ‘Skyrunning Improver’ course here in Glencoe, for ladies specifically seeking to improve confidence on exposed/scrambling terrain.

Girls on Hills has also just been named as project partners in a new centrally funded research network (‘Women in the Hills’/WITH), which will focus on women’s historical and contemporary experiences of participation in running, hiking and climbing activities in UK. The project is led by a team from Newcastle University, Manchester University and Edge Hill University, with support from representatives at the National Trust, Forestry Commission and John Muir Trust. It will run from January 2020 to December 2022.

We hope to identify and evaluate barriers to, and benefits from, women’s participation in mountain recreation. We also hope to identify and implement evidence-based strategies to counter these barriers.

Keri on the Aonach Eagach ridge, a long technical scramble that features in the Glencoe Skyline extreme skyrace.
Keri on the Aonach Eagach ridge, a long technical scramble that features in the Glencoe Skyline extreme skyrace.

Do you have any dreams and goals for the future that you like to share?

See race goals above. I’d also really like to race the Els2900 with my husband (we always like to have a ‘romantic holiday’ doing something ‘relaxing’ together once a year!) The KIMA and Tromso skyraces are also on my wish-list.

How does your game plan look like for that?

I’ll be honest and say that it’s almost impossible to have a solid game plan with two toddlers in tow and a husband who often works abroad as a mountain guide. As a family we pull together really well and somehow manage to get a lot done, but mostly by winging it, and not really by having much of a game-plan! I tell myself that in the future it will get easier to have a game-plan, but most parents I know assure me that it won’t! 😊

What is your inner drive?

In terms of racing I suppose it’s really just to see what I can do, and how far I can go. I’ve always wanted to ‘find my limit’ – but not by just racing something I’m not prepared for, but by being ready.

Perhaps if you train correctly you can do anything? However, racing is just one small aspect of skyrunning to me. Running in the mountains is more about health and wellbeing. I soon don’t recognise myself if I can’t get out in the mountains for exercise. 

What is your advice to other people that is dreaming of an active lifestyle running in the mountains as much as you do?

Be bold, be creative. Make it a reality. Jump. Run. Live. Life is now.

#YouCanRunFree 😊

A Girls on Hills guided recce of the a Ring of Steall skyrace route (with Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in the UK, in the background).
A Girls on Hills guided recce of the a Ring of Steall skyrace route (with Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in the UK, in the background).

Facts

Name: Keri Wallace

Nationality: British

Age: 40 (apparently)

Family: Husband and two kids under 5

Country/town: Glencoe, Scotland

Your team or sponsor now: No personal sponsor. Girls on Hills is sponsored by Ellis Brigham and partnered with Inov-8.

Occupation: Trail running guide, freelance writer and Co-Director of Girls on Hills Ltd

Education: PhD in neurobiology from Cambridge University, UK

Facebook page: www.facebook.com/girlsonhills

Instagram: @girlsonhillsuk

Webpage / Blog: www.girlsonhills.com

 

Thank you!

Thank you, Keri, for taking your time sharing your fantastic story! Wishing you all the best luck in the future both with your Skyrunning business and your Skyrunning.

Happy SkyRunning!

/Katinka Nyberg

Work hard, stay hungry and enjoy the progress in your training

Life as a professional athlete is of course a big privilege, but also a lot of hard work. You must really believe in yourself, love the training and never ever give up.

Petter Engdahl from Sweden is only 25 years 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”.

Petter has always been in love with sports, and when he was 16, he moved to Åre to attend the Ski Gymnasium. His progress was very good, and he did his first World Cup in Oslo Holmenkollen in 2018.

In the summer, he loved to run in the mountains, and it was his favourite kind of training for the winter. That is how he slipped into trail and Skyrunning.

He started his Skyrunning career in 2016 and he was ranked as 2:nd in the Skyrunning World Series 2018 and 2:nd in the Skyrunning World Classic Series 2018. This year he accomplished a 3:rd place at Transvulcania Ultra Marathon and a 1:st place at Peak Performance Vertical K, and a 3:rd place at Salomon 27k in Åre, Sweden.

What could be the secret behind?

This is Petter’s story…

Trofeo KIMA in Val Masino, Photo Skyrunning.

Who is Petter and your story behind?

Since I was very young, I have always been in love with sports. You can almost say that I was born with skis on my feet! I also did other sports, like football, ice hockey, and track/field. But cross-country skiing was the sport that I liked the most.

So, when I was 16, I moved to Åre to attend the Ski Gymnasium. My progress was very good, and as I got better for each year, I did my first World Cup in Oslo Holmenkollen in 2018.

In the summer, I loved to run in the mountains, and it was my favourite kind of training for the winter. So, in 2016, I did my first Skyrace in Limone Sul Garda. I absolutely loved it and wanted to do more.

Now, I’m a part of the Salomon International Team. I won my first Skyrace in Livigno 2018 and finished 2:nd in the overall Skyrunning World Series in 2018, which was great!

I like to continue competing in both skiing and Skyrunning and see how good I can possibly get.

Livigno Skyrunning, Photo Petter Engdahl.

What is most important for you in life?

My family, friends and to ski and run. I also like to eat chocolate :-).

Scandinavian cup, Piteå, Sweden.
Åre, Sweden – Photo Petter Engdahl.

Your passion for Skyrunning? Where is that coming from?

I have never really considered myself as a runner. I was running during the summer to train for the winter. But then I started to follow the Skyrunning se-ries and I thought the races looked really cool. I also got very inspired by Kilian Jornet and Emelie Forsberg. I liked to take their skills in the uphill’s and apply that to my cross-country skiing.

So, I started to run more in the mountains and participated in some trail races and I absolutely loved it.

Can you describe your significant personal strengths that took you all the way to this level of running?

I think that the most important parts are that I believe in myself, in my training and I never ever give up. I’m also lucky to have great people around me that believes me and supports me. That is super great!

Photo Petter Engdahl.

How is life as a professional athlete? How do you think your life differs from a standard 9-17 office life?

Living as a professional athlete is of course a big privilege and awesome. However, if you are a serious athlete and you want to do it properly, it almost become a 24h job. But that is what I love about it, and of course there is a lot of travel for competitions, camps etc.

Dobbiaco with Ski Team Sweden, Photo Petter Engdahl.

Which is the most challenging and demanding situations that you been through to get you where you are today as a person?

I lost a dear friend of mine a couple of years ago and that was a very tough period in my life. But it also gave me perspective on what is important in life, and not to take anything or anyone for granted.

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?

Yes, and I do sometimes push a little bit too hard. In some situations, it has affected my performance, and this is something I need to get better at. During those years when I explored my limits and pushed really hard, I learned a lot about my body and what works and what doesn’t work for me.

Dolomyths Skyrun (Dolomiten Skyrace) in Canazei, Photo Philiph Reiter.

How does a normal week with training and all that look like for you right now?

My training very much depends on the season and what phase I’m in. But my training is mainly skiing/roller skiing and running. About 20-30h/ week with 3-5 interval sessions, longer days in the mountains, 2-3 gym sessions and recovery runs.

Which are your best training tips to other Skyrunners all over the world?

  1. Focus on the parts that you like to get better at and set up small goals. That will help you to see your progress and to keep up the motivation.
  2. Find your strength as a runner. Which weapon can you use to beat your competitors? Work extra hard on that and use it during the race.
  3. Don’t push 100% in training, save that energy for the race!
Photo Petter Engdahl.
Photo Petter Engdahl.

Which are your favorite races that you would recommend to other Skyrunners all over the world?

Limone Extreme Skyrace and Trofeo KIMA is two of my favourite courses of all time! But I would also recommend Zegama Aizkorri or Matterhorn Ultraks!

Limone Skyrace – World Cup Finals
Limone Skyrace – World Cup Finals, Photo Ian Corless.

Are you involved in any other types of running-projects that you like to talk about (ambassador / entrepreneur etc)?

When the time is right, I will tell you 😉

Do you have any dreams and goals for the future that you like to share?

I want to race Holmenkollen 50K in the FIS World Cup and UTMB the same year.

Photo Petter Engdahl.
Photo Petter Engdahl.

How does your game plan look like for that?

Keep believing in myself, in my training and find some small goals on the way to see my progress.

What is your inner drive?

I like to see how good I can possibly get and enjoy the journey!

Photo Petter Engdahl.
Photo Petter Engdahl.

What is your advice to other people that is dreaming of an active lifestyle running in the mountains as fast as you?

Work hard, stay hungry and enjoy the progress in your training.

Transvulcania Ultramarathon on Isla de La Palma
Transvulcania Ultramarathon on Isla de La Palma, Photo Jordi Saragossa.

Facts

Name: Petter Engdahl

Nationality: Swedish

Age: 25

Family: Father Jonas, Mother Petra and brothers Jonatan and Johannes

Country/town: Sweden

Your team or sponsor now: Team Salomon

Occupation: I’m currently a professional athlete and compete in cross country skiing during the winter and mountain running during the summer.

Education: Åre Ski Gymnasium

Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/Pettereengdahl

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/petter_engdahl/

Webpage / Blog: http://www.teamengdahl.se/

Thank you!

Thank you, Petter, 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.

Happy SkyRunning!

/Katinka Nyberg

 

With love and positive energy he inspires people everyday

Seventeen years ago, something happened, and he came to a turning point in life. He decided that enough is enough and he promised himself that he would never ever neglect his family again.

Thomas is a 39-year-old Swedish “active lifestyle guy” that loves spending time in the nature together with his family, preferably in combination with his favourite sport Ultra-trail/Skyrunning.

In his previous life, before being the calm and responsible person that he is today, he slipped into the wrong path in life.

The childhood wasn’t easy, and he was brought up in a messy home with alcohol abuse problems in the family. In school he was kind of shy and he was one of those unobtrusive kids in class. He tried to stay as little as possible in school and instead he devoted himself into trouble. The behaviour escalated during his teenage years, and eventually he was deprived of liberty and ended up in prison.

This was probably the turning point in life that he needed in order to make a change. He promised himself that he would never ever neglect his family again, and he started to train. This was also the time where he discovered that he had talent.

After a lot of hard work on himself, training, and also some doubts. He is now where he wants to be in life.

He’s a loving husband and a father of three kids, he is practicing the sport that he loves, and he works as an HR manager at demolition and transport group with over 250 employees.

It’s also important for Thomas to inspire and to create value for others. For that purpose, he and his wife took the initiative and founded “Vardagsstark” that you can read more about further down in the article.

For sure it hasn’t always been easy, and Thomas has put a lot of work in this to get him where he is today. Happy!

This is Thomas story…

 Arrival at Cortina d'Ampezzo for Lavaredo Ultra Trail 120k 2019
Arrival at Cortina d’Ampezzo for Lavaredo Ultra Trail 120k 2019

Who is Thomas and what is most important for you in life?

I like to see myself as an inspiring, very energetic person who always wants other people well, and who always has a new project going on.

Basically, I am a calm and confident person that usually think before I speak. I have no problem standing in the centre and speak if I have something to say, but I might as well take a few steps back if it is that other people in a context have a greater need to make their voice heard.

The most important for me is my everyday life. I love working and I love spending time with my family. My great interest is the “outdoor lifestyle” spending time in nature, whether it is walking, hiking or just sitting on a rock and thinking. For me, it is important to live life every day. I do not want life to be a transport route for the holiday or until you have made enough money to buy the house you dreamed of.

I have never valued gadgets and status particularly high, on the contrary. The relationship and love of the people closest to me means everything.

I dare to say with my hand on my heart that I am happy. Of course, I have not always been confident in myself and it has taken a lot of hard work to get to this point where I am today.

 Nice conversation and rest together with a friend during a long-run, Abisko, Sweden.
Nice conversation and rest together with a friend during a long-run, Abisko, Sweden.
 The whole family gathered at the top of Mulen during a mountain hike at Nipfjället, Sweden.
The whole family gathered at the top of Mulen during a mountain hike at Nipfjället, Sweden.

Your passion for Skyrunning/Trail-running? Where is it coming from?

In 2016, my wife and two friends would participate in the “Fjällräven Classic”. A hiking event that lasts for five days and involves moving 110 kilometres on foot between Nikkaloukta and Abisko in the most northern part of Sweden.

Their plan was to reach the distance as quickly as possible and only stay overnight in tents for a few hours during the night. They made it to the finish line after 36 hours and when my wife came home, she told me that there were also people running the distance.

A thought came to life and I decided to meet up with the challenge next year. I had experience in gym training, football and martial arts, but I had barely run 10 kilometres earlier. So, running was something totally new to me.

In 2017 I started my adventure between Nikkaloukta and Abisko with 16 kilos of packing on my back. I made it in 21 hours, and in the same time as I crossed the finish line, I decided to do it again, but lighter and faster next time.

It was an amazing experience and I fell in love with nature and the mountains. I fantasized about what it would be like to run in really high mountains in the Alps and started looking for cool races.

After my first race in Italy, I was hooked. I loved taking on this long distance on foot through magically beautiful surroundings. The feeling of how small you really are surrounded by the majestic mountains appealed to me.

I am convinced that it is useful for all people to be in an element where they themselves do not decide. I think many people would gain perspective on their own problems and find better tools to deal with them if they discovered the greatness of movement in nature.

 On ourway up to Sweden's highest mountain station during a training camp in the Swedish mountains.
On ourway up to Sweden’s highest mountain station during a training camp in the Swedish mountains.

Can you describe your significant personal strengths that took you all the way to this level of running?

I am positive and solution oriented by nature. I’ve always had the attitude that everything is possible. A positive attitude in combination with stubbornness and hard work creates favourable conditions for success. However, you must never forget that it should be fun. Without pleasure, the road becomes much more difficult.

I do not feel that I am at a high level in running and would rather call myself an elite amateur. I run tough races and perform according to my own conditions. To be honest, I am a better runner at shorter distances.

I often place myself at the top when I line up in smaller trail runs around 10 to 21 km. I love to run really hard and fast and to go all out. The problem is that I like adventure races where I get to stay active for over 20 hours. But my love for running fast also means that I often run out of energy at the first 30-40 kilometres. After that, I always end up weak and have to work my way back.

I think it would benefit me as an Ultra-trail runner to run a little slower and more stable. But fast feet in difficult terrain is fantastic fun so I may continue with my tactics. It usually takes me to the finish line at the end of the day anyway.

 Morning coffee before an early run in my home forests.
Morning coffee before an early run in my home forests.

What do you do for a living? Is Skyrunning/Trail-running something you would like to work with in the future?

I work as an HR manager in a transport group with over 250 employees. My role is to be an expert-supports to all the managers and leaders in the organization regarding work environment and personnel issues.

A fun job that I enjoy, where I get to be a part of the organization’s development. In addition to my regular work, my wife and I run the non-profit initiative “Vardagsstark” and I also organize my own hill-races and sometimes work as a race leader.

I have no plans to be a professional runner and I will never fight for top positions. I am confident that I will continue to develop as a runner, but I do not want the training to go beyond my family.

I know how much work it is behind every successful runners’ performance. Most of them run between 120-200 km a week and I also have friends who run more than that. I have neither the time nor the will that is required to invest in that time and hard work.

Have you always had this type of lifestyle or have you done any change direction in life that you like to mention?

No, this is not the type of background where I am coming from.

I come from a messy childhood with alcohol abuse problems in the family. In school I was kind of shy and I was one of those unobtrusive kids in class. I tried stay as little as possible in school and instead I devoted myself into trouble.

I have always had a lot of energy and drive, but I used it for a destructive purpose instead of doing something good with it. The behaviour escalated and during my teenage years I mostly devoted myself into trouble.

The turning point came when I was 22 years old. When my first son was born, I was deprived of liberty, which resulted in me ending up in prison. That’s when I made the decision to change my life and I promised myself to never neglect my family again.

During the period I served my sentence, I began to train with sheer boredom. I didn’t only discover how wonderful and energizing it was, I also discovered that I had talent.

Which is the most challenging and demanding situations that you been through to get you where you are today as a person?

Definitely the period in life when I was deprived of liberty and wasn’t able to take care of my son.

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, and is it worth this little extra effort?

Pushing myself to do uncomfortable things have in my opinion no purpose of its own. However, my attitude to life and challenges make me very often end up in such situations.

I have experienced my greatest development in life when I was exposed to mental challenges rather than physical ones. I am for example a very shy and withdrawn person, but over time I have learned to speak to large groups of people by exposing myself to these kinds of situations. In my work it is required of me and in my spare time I have the ability to always end up in situations where I am exposed to such challenges.

As far as running concerned, I am convinced that 90% of the success is to be mentally prepared. Of course, you have to be physically prepared too in order to cope with tough races, but I have learned that it’s your head that ultimately makes you perform.

How does your race plans and goals look like for 2020?

My racing season starts early in the fall, so I’ve just got off to a good start after this summer’s adventure. The focus right now is to get in shape and next year is an unwritten leaf.

Autumn in Sweden usually offers lots of fun trail runs in shorter distances which I think is incredibly fun. I just returned from a two-week stay in the Swedish mountain world where I combined some work with training. I got to experience the shift between autumn and winter in the mountains. It was absolutely fantastic.

When I arrived, nature was covered in incredible colours and last weekend we got a good deal of snow in the mountains. It really felt like winter was coming. This week, I have prepared myself for the first real challenge this autumn, which is going to take place this weekend.

The idea is for me to run 90 km and 3000 altitude meters in the southern forests. My form is not the best at the moment so we will see how it goes. But I will focus on having a great experience and socializing with nice people. So, I don’t think the challenge will be a problem for me to cope with.

My upcoming adventure is planned in November and then I have a couple of months to recover till the next challenge in February. But what I look forward to the most 2020, is a challenging race that I will do together with a friend. The Björkliden Arctic Mountain Marathon (BAMM), which is an orientation race on the mountain that is performed in pairs for two days. It’s a competition I really long for!

How does a normal week with training and all that look like for you right now?

My training consists mostly of transport to and from work as well as some long runs or hill-work in the weekend. I wake up every morning at 3:30 and start with 45 minutes of yoga, mobility and strength before breakfast.

A few days a week I run to work and home, and somtimes I take the bike. Usually I do around 60-70 km of running a week and 120 km of cycling, which I think is a great amount of exercise.

But the most important part of the exercise consists of “the everyday exercise” in the way that I walk wherever I go, never take lifts or escalators, hike, climb and play with the family. I see running as a hobby and a way to experience and relax. I like that attitude and have no dreams that running should become a bigger part of my life than that.

Which are your best training tips to other Skyrunners/Trail-runners all over the world?

My philosophy is that a strong and healthy body can handle most things. I try to be in as good shape as possible all year round, whether I have races planned or not.

My workouts consist as much of everyday easy exercise as of hard workouts. Above all, I have noticed that runners often have a tendency to “forget” strength training and mobility training. Of course, I understand that many people find it more fun to go out and run in the mountains or in the woods than to go to the gym, but my experience says that this leads to injuries and flaws that become an obstacle in running.

Of course, I am aware that there are exceptions. I also know runners who do not exercise strength but still stay injury-free and perform well. But in general, strength training and above all mobility training is something most runners benefit from.

Which are your favourite races that you would recommend to other Skyrunners/Trail-runners all over the world?

The most fun and enjoyable race I have run is the Dolomiti Extreme Trail, which is a 103-kilometre-long race in the Italian Alps with over 7000 D+. I’ve run it twice and plan to run it again. The race has an incredibly nice atmosphere and starts and finishes in the small mountain village of Forno di Zoldo. The race offers a variety of distances and the entire village residents are involved. A family-friendly and cozy arrangement I highly recommend.

Climbing up towards Rif. Coldai, Dolomiti Extreme Trail 2018.
Climbing up towards Rif. Coldai, Dolomiti Extreme Trail 2018.

Can you tell us a little about Vardagsstark? What do you do? Purpose? Vision and goals etc…

Vardagsstark” (Everyday Strong) is a non-profit initiative that I run together with my wife. It started as an Instagram account where we wanted to inspire people to performance-free exercise, preferably in nature and with the family.

We feel that people in general have a hard time to manage their lives with everything that come with it. Work, school, children, cooking, activities and above all training. People usually put too much weight on the word training. The word is associated with achievement and performance.

When you fail to get that thoughtful workout into your everyday life or when the workout does not turn out in the way you wanted, you get disappointed. We do not want training to be associated with anything anxious. We want it to be a way to feel good and also a way to socialize.

In our Instagram account, we suggest on how to lower the “performance bar” and how you can easily get some exercise into your everyday life. How you can involve your children, other family members, friends or colleagues.

“Vardagsstark” has grown and in addition to social media we give lectures in our philosophy and we also organize various activities that everyone is welcome to participate in. Best of all is that participation is completely free. We like more people to discover this wonderful lifestyle and highlight that training in the nature is free and also very easy.

 The whole family is very excited to run Kolmården Trail Run, Sweden.
The whole family is very excited to run Kolmården Trail Run, Sweden.

Are you involved in any other types of running-projects that you like to talk about?

As I told you before, I always have a new project going on and a new thought is constantly spinning in my head. I organize, among other things. race meetings along with like-minded, different races and other fun activities.

Right now, we are working on preparations for “Tre Toppar”, a small hill race here in Stockholm where around 200 runners will attend.

I am also planning a 50-mile race of 6500 D+, which will be launched in April next year.

Do you have any dreams and goals for the future that you like to share?

An incredible number of dreams and goals exist, but they change from day to day depending on which ideas come to my mind. But, basically my goal is for me and my family is to stay healthy and enjoy.

Running in sparkling fresh snow a fantastic autumn day during a running camp in Abisko.
Running in sparkling fresh snow a fantastic autumn day during a running camp in Abisko.

How does your game plan look like for that?

Whoever listens to the heart, body and mind will not fail. It is when you start chasing the goals of others that you get lost.

What is your inner drive?

Joy and curiosity. I will continue as long as I think it is fun. I have a constant curiosity about where both my mental and my physical limits might go. I haven’t found it yet so I will keep looking.

What is your advice to other people that is dreaming of an active lifestyle running in the mountains as good/much as you?

A good start is to do hiking. In order to enjoy mountain running it’s important to know how everything works, and before going out in a really tough environment you have to practice and gain respect for nature.

The best experience you will get when you feel that you are working in symbiosis with nature. Everyone has a small forest with a little mountain in their vicinity. Start small-scale and make no big deal of it. But above all, my best tip is to Stop dreaming. Just do it!

Finishing in DXT23 (Dolomiti trail-run) with my wife Louise.
Finishing in DXT23 (Dolomiti trail-run) with my wife Louise.

Thank you!

Thank you very much Thomas, for taking your time sharing your fantastic story! You are a real fighter, a true role model and very brave!

Wishing you all the best luck in the future with your Trail & Skyrunning and everything that you like to do.

Happy SkyRunning!

/Katinka Nyberg

Facts

Name: Thomas Nindjja Gottlind

Nationality: Swedish

Age: 39

Family: Wife and three kids (kids every other week, wife every week haha)

Country/town: Stockholm, Sweden

Your team or sponsor now: I run for Team Vardagsstark (Everydaystrength)

Occupation: Human Resources Director

Education: HR, Leadership, project management

Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/tretopparna/?modal=admin_todo_tour

Instagram: @vardagsstark @tretoppartretimmar

Webpage / Blog: http://www.vardagsstark.se

 

The mountains give me bravery to stand for my truths

Skyrunning is a sport where you are confronted with many difficult obstacles. You master them, you love them, and you become stronger.

To explain the meaning of that, obstacles are not places where you end your journey. Obstacles are places where you find your inner strength and where you realize that many impossible things are doable.

I had the opportunity to meet Marija, “mother nature’s special agent trained in deadly skyrunning skills”, a very interesting person and passionated Skyrunner. 🙂

Behind the everydayness of modern life, she found freedom and essence of happiness in the mountains and the outdoor lifestyle. She was also drawn to the extreme challenge, loved the obstacles and loved the game of Skyrunning.

Today Marija is one of the top Skyrunners in Serbia and she runs for team Tribe Trails. In August this year she took a first place in Čvrsnica trail and she was winner of the month in the Skyrunner Challenge 2019 (hosted by a Skyrunner Adventurers, a new Facebook group for Skyrunner lovers).

In the near future she is dreaming of a full time “Skyrunner lifestyle”, and she is heading for top 10 in the world.

This is Marijas story…

Marija Djordjevic, Cvrsnica trail – Hajduks’ doors.
Marija Djordjevic, Cvrsnica trail – Hajduks’ doors.

Congrats Marija for being the winner of the race Čvrsnica trail, 32km, 1 500 D+! Can you tell us a little about the race and your experiences from that?

The bus drove us to the start. It was a sunny morning, a promising predictor of a good day ahead. The race was held in Bosnian’s wild west, known for rocky technical terrain with a lot of wild raspberries and shrubs. It started with an up-hill till famous natural rocky frame Hajduks’ door, named after Hajduks – freedom fighters. You had to stop for a moment and look at this nature’s masterpiece crafted meticulously for thousands of years. After it, we went crazy downhill, then up-hill. All that time I was enjoying the view at long ridge that leads to nearby peak. As I am absolutely fascinated with ridges, this was my source of additional strength for continuous movement, that had lasted for 4 hours 37 minutes.

And when I crossed the finish line, I felt like a cowgirl riding back into her hometown after a successful standoff with her inner doubts.

Who is Marija and your story behind?

Marija is the mother nature’s special agent trained in deadly skyrunning skills. 😊 Behind everydayness of modern life, I found freedom and essence of happiness in outdoor lifestyle. Moving helps me clear my mind and I feel connected to something that is more real than our notion of normality.

Can you describe yourself with two sentences?

Collector of ridges and rocky downhills. Ambassador of smiles and brewer of beetroot magical potions.

What is most important for you in life?

Clear air, sunshine and freedom of mind and body.

Marija Djordjevic, Sinjajevina SkyRace – It was hot like in a desert.
Sinjajevina SkyRace – It was hot like in a desert.

Your passion for Skyrunning? Where is that coming from?

Skyrunning is a sport where you are confronted with many difficult obstacles. That confrontation is very important to me. Obstacles are not places where you end your journey. Obstacles are places where you find your inner strength and where you realize that many impossible things are doable.

Can you describe your significant personal strengths that took you all the way to this level of running?

Commitment was always something elusive to me. I used to start things, but never seen them through the end. I wanted to change that. I wanted to enter into something without exit strategy. That something is skyrunning to me.

Is Skyrunning a hobby or is it something you do for a living?

Being a Skyrunner to me is the same thing as being Batman is to Bruce Wein. 😊 It’ss not my job, but it is definitely not a hobby, it is the calling. It is something what I would like to do as my profession in the future.

I work 8 hours a day, sedentary job, in a team that implements and customizes software solution that banks use in their credit risk calculations. I have master’s degree in Economics, but always have had a passion for movement and more active ways of engagement.

Can you tell us a little about Oblakove Pertle?

I’m co-founder of the blog Oblakove pertle. We think that our running shoes are some kind of a portal to unknown that we need. They are not just a piece of sport equipment, but also a tool for our inner growth. Oblakove pertle is a blog through which we explore how this simple item can bring incredible changes in someone’s life.

Oblakove pertle stands for the name of an Indian child that laces up the clouds, instead of running shoes to keep them closer to his heart when he searches for mysteries in endless horizon in the sky.

Co-founders of Oblakove Pertle (Dimitris, 3rd co-founder, is running up mountains in Greece).
Co-founders of Oblakove Pertle (Dimitris, 3rd co-founder, is running up mountains in Greece).

Have you always had this type of lifestyle (Skyrunning etc…) or have you done any change direction in life that you like to mention?

Most of us are raised in some kind of comfort zone. With time you realize that all joys and hardships in that zone are not enough to tell you who you are, and that you need to go further into the unknown in search for the answers. If you are lucky, growth and change are never-ending processes.

Which is the most challenging and demanding situations that you been through to get you where you are today as a person?

I always thought that there was something wrong with the notion of normality. The most demanding thing for me was and, in a certain way, still is, confrontation with other people’s notion of what proper way of life is. Mountain gives me bravery to stand for my truths.

How does your race plans and goals look like for 2019?

This year is a test year where I am exploring skyrunning races all over the world, so I can see where I stand and what can I do improve. I have one additional race planned for October in Bagá in Spain and I am really looking forward to it.  The next year is important to me, as I will try to give my best and fulfil my passion – to become better Skyrunner and to motivate people to spend more time in nature.

Chamonix – Being at the top gives me wings to fly like a bird.
Chamonix – Being at the top gives me wings to fly like a bird.

How does a normal week with training and all that look like for you right now? 

Usually I have 5 days of running with 1 to 2 strength training a week.

I would like to get back to sports climbing and dancing (as I love music, and it often gives me energy). I was practicing hip-hop a couple of months in 2018 and Latino dances as a child. But it is difficult to do all of that before/after 8 to 9 hours of working in the office.

Which are your best training tips to other Skyrunners all over the world?

Knowledge is power. Know your body well, run on a mountain, do strength training and never avoid stretching. Each person is unique, and you need to discover what fuels you and how your body will react to different kind of stresses.

Which are your favourite races that you would recommend to other Skyrunners all over the world?

ZacUp skyrace in Italy with never-ending UPs where at the top you can only see clouds and peaks and where you feel like running on clouds.

Ultra kleka in Serbia, at Stara mountain, with a lot of distances to choose for your level of training. The mountain horizon is like a back of huge dinosaur. The nature is very old, and trails are profoundly unique.

Čvrsnica ultra trail is a race in Bosnia’s wild west where you can challenge yourself at different levels and, of course, enjoy in raspberries.

For all extreme runners Skyrace Comapedrosa is a must, due to its technical rocky downhill.

Do you have any dreams and goals for the future that you like to share?

😊 Sun rises and touches my hear, time to wake up. I am putting on my running shoes and heading out, up in the mountain for a couple of hours, to inhale morning freshness. On my way back, I pick up some tropical fruits for a breakfast. After a good meal, made mostly from ingredients from my garden, I create video vlogs and write about my running experiences at Oblakove pertle website. Evenings would like to spend walking barefoot by the beach and looking at the stars.

Marija Djordjevic, China – Exploring new paths.
China – Exploring new paths.

How does your game plan look like for that?

To be more active in creating vlogs on our page Oblakove pertle and to start writing and filming in English and, later on, Spanish.

Learning Spanish more deeply and understanding their culture, as we are planning to live there.

Improving my skyrunning skills, so I can be among top 10 women in the world (I am currently among top 40). I know I can be much faster and stronger.

If you really desire something, you need to work on it constantly, and you will achieve it and realize you dream. Follow us and I will share my path with you.

What is your inner drive?

My motivation is not to escape from reality, but to find a better one. To create meaningful world. To add sense to everyday life.

What is your advice to other people that is dreaming of an active lifestyle running in the mountains as good as you?

Get a pair of trail running shoes, find your mountain and go hiking, at first. If you want to be closer to professional level, it is important that you hire a coach, so you can avoid injuries. And, you MUST strengthen your body, as well as your mind, as this comes in a package, and if one part is missing, your form will crash, sooner or later.

Marija Djordjevic, Zac UP SkyRace – Smile even if it’s hard.
Zac UP SkyRace – Smile even if it’s hard.

Facts

Name: Marija Djordjevic

Nationality: Serbia

Age: 31

Family: My dad and myself

Country/town: Belgrade, Serbia

Your team or sponsor now: Tribe Trails / Oblakove pertle

Occupation: Financial Risk Consultant / Skyrunner

Education: Master of Economics

Facebook profile: https://www.facebook.com/marija.djordjevic.21

Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/OblakovePertle/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/majche_oblakove_pertle/

Webpage / Blog: www.oblakovepertle.org

Thank you!

Thank you, Marija, for taking your time sharing your fantastic story! Wishing you all the best luck in the future with your Skyrunning and everything that you want to do.

Happy SkyRunning!

/Katinka Nyberg

To become a true Skyrunner you need to find your inner motivation

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…

Rok Bratina third place on the Skyrunner World series in Andorra.
Rok Bratina third place on the Skyrunner World series in Andorra.

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.

Rok Bratina Skyrace des Matheysins
Rok Bratina Skyrace des Matheysins

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.

Let's go to work! Training and working is the two things that I love the most in life!
Let’s go to work! Training and working is the two things that I love the most in life!

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. 

Sometimes, during my long trainings, while I have a time for thinking about different things, I pretend myself to be a hero of my own story.
Sometimes, during my long trainings, while I have a time for thinking about different things, I take a picture and I pretend myself to be a hero of my own story.

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.

If I had to choose a place where my body would be buried, then I would choose exactly this one by the lake, behind which the great crown rises from the background.
if I had to choose a place where my body would be buried, then I would choose exactly this one by the lake, behind which the great crown rises from the background.

Facts

Name: Rok Bratina

Nationality:  Slovenian

Age: 25

Family:  Single

Country/town: Tolmin / Slovenia

Your team or sponsor now: Scott Running

Occupation: Master student

Education: Graduate hisotorian

Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/rokibratina/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/rokiskyrunner/

Webpage / Blog: https://bratinarok.blogspot.com/

Thank you!

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.

Happy SkyRunning!

/Katinka Nyberg

 

Everything is possible, the impossible just takes a little more time

She was born with a significantly reduced lung capacity and against all odds she is now one of the top Ultra/Skyrunners in Serbia.

Snezana is a 29-year-old very energetic young woman that lives and train in a small mountain village in Serbia called Kragujevac.

Life hasn’t forsure always been easy as she was born with a very bad diagnosis of asthma. The doctors advised her not to exert too much physical activity and she was told to take it easy.

Instead, she did the opposite and started to train.

Today Snezana is one of the top Ultra/Skyrunners in Serbia and the frontrunner of the Asics team. In 2018 she was the winner of Trekking League of Serbia and the winner of three Skyrunning races. This year she’s already won two Skyraces, participated in the RedBull 400 race, a third place in Half Ironman race in Montenegro, a first place in Ultra Trail Staraplanina and finally the winner of the month in the Skýrunner Challenge 2019 (hosted by a Skyrunner Adventurers, a new Facebook group for Skyrunner lovers).

This is Snezana’s story…

Congrats Snezana for being the winner of the race Ultra Trail Staraplanina, 57km, 2450 D+! Can you tell us a little about the race and your experiences from that?

This race was my first ultra and I prepared it together with my personal trainer Marko. The mountains in which the race was hold, I think are one of the most beautiful in Serbia.

The weather was a bit cooler, which is not so bad for me personally. The only thing that bothered was the fog. All in all, this was a very nice experience for me. Nice mountains, a whole new experience, I managed to run the entire race and win.

Who is Snezana and your story behind?

In the first place I am a dancer and I’m a part of our national dance, which is my greatest love. I’ve been dancing since I was seven years old and at the same time, I also started running in order to solve breathing problems. Soon I loved it.

When I was three years old, I started to experience serious breathing problems. The diagnosis were asthma and my breathing capacity was significantly reduced. The situation was so bad that I had to be picked up by the ambulance almost every night.

The doctors gave me lots of medications and I was told not to do anything physically strenuous.

When I was seven years old, I came to see a physiotherapist, who unlike the doctors advised me to start training and practicing sports as part of the treatment.

He told me that my lung alveoli were damaged and that it needed to develop, and that I needed to start training my lung.

So, I started dancing at first and then running later. Running went slowly, only later when I grew up and started to deal with it more seriously, everything started to change.

I love the mountains, so it was logical for me to start with mountain running. The mountains inspire me, motivates me and give me special energy. Ever since I was a child when my grandmother took me for a walk in the mountains to cure my lungs I started to love and respect the mountain.

Can you describe yourself with two sentences?

The dancing made me disciplined and positive. Dance and running made me healthy.

I’m an energetic girl, I have people around me that I love and I’m happy!

What is most important for you in life?

In the first place it’s always family and the people that I love. And of course, to be positive.

Your passion for Skyrunning? Where is that coming from?

I started to participate in mountain racing three years ago. In the beginning, they were some slightly easier races, shorter distance and with a little climb. As time passed, I trained more and naturally I started for more serious races. My luck is that I have people around me who love the same thing, so that we can train and enjoy together.

I fell in love with the mountains and the challenges, and Skyrunning races are always a challenge so…I must do that!

Can you describe your significant personal strengths that took you all the way to this level of running?

I think the dancing plays an important part and there for my joints and ligaments are strong.

For several years now I am paying a lot of attention to the stabilization of muscles and a strong core. The power of will is also very important and of course, my coach is very strong, so I have to listen.

Is Skyrunning a hobby or is it something you do for a living?

I work as a physiotherapist. Skyrunning is more like my hobby, but it would be interesting to do something about it. Medicine and sports are connected.

Which is the most challenging and demanding situations that you been through to get you where you are today as a person?

The most demanding and hard situation for me in life is as I told you earlier when my doctors told me that I should not do anything hard. Another person very smart told me the opposite. That I needed to start developing my lungs.

I started to do that and here is where I am now. Of course, it was difficult in the beginning. There were cravings and my lungs did not have enough capacity.

But I did not want to give up!

Instead, all this strengthened me as a person.

In any case, if someone had told me when I was a kid that I would run this many kilometre I would not believe him. But thanks to the man who treated me and now my coach, I made it.

Everything is possible, the impossible just takes a little more time…

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?

Leaving the zone of comfort also strengthens you as a person. Feel when you do something for what you thought you cannot…well that be incredible.

How does your race plans and goals look like for 2019?

I had 13 races already, half the season is over. Now the second half is not easy, but all of these are new challenges. My new love is a biking, so I will also devote time to do that. We will see.

How does a normal week with training and all that look like for you right now? What do you train? How much do you train? Where do you train? Other things you do?

My day begins at 7:00 am and lasts … lasts … until I finish all my obligations.
I have running trainings, power trainings, dance training and now I’m also riding a bicycle.

I have to go to work too, so the organization is important to me!

Because of my breathing problems my training program has always been designed specifically for me. My trainer had a similar problem, so he knew exactly what to do with me. Running 5 or 6 times a week, strength training 3 or 4 times a week, dancing 3 times a week. The bike was recently inserted into the program, so we’ll see.

Off course the pulse zone method is also an important part of my training. I use a Suunto that has a heart rate bar and measures the pulse at each workout. We do everything in training. Running at low pulse, at high pulse, short stretches, long distances, highs.

My lungs respond to a sudden change in time so in those moments we work with less intensity. The altitude of the city where I live is 173 meters and I go to races where the altitude is much higher, so I have to get used to that.

Which are your best training tips to other Skyrunners all over the world?

I cannot decide. I think they all have something characteristic. I would like to learn from the best.  

Which are your favourite races that you would recommend to other Skyrunners all over the world?

Lavaredo ultra trail, Ultra trail du Mont Blanc, Cappadocia ultra trail, every trail in the world J! Trail races in Serbia of course!

Are you involved in any other types of running-projects that you like to talk about (ambassador / entrepreneur etc)?

I am ambassador of the Asics team in Serbia, Asics frontrunner project.

Do you have any dreams and goals for the future that you like to share?

I would like to go to some of the world’s races to feel the atmosphere and see the mountains of other countries and to hear the experiences of world participants.

How does your game plan look like for that?

I hope that I will collect enough points for some of the races and I will train for more miraculous.

What is your inner drive?

A healthy body, healthy mind and positive vibes are important to me.

What is your advice to other people that is dreaming of an active lifestyle running in the mountains as good as you?

I advise you to get started. Go out into nature, climb to the top, and first of all consider yourself and nature, train for the beginning as much as you like.

Ask for advices from people who are skilled, wear shoes and go!

People! Do what you love and keep smiling!

Do you have anything else in your life that you like to share or talk about in the blog?

I like to share with all my gratitude to my trainer Marko for everything he has done for me.

Thank you 🙂

Facts

Name: Snezana Djuric

Nationality: Republic of Serbia

 Age:  29

Family: Parents, brother, sister and grandmother

Country/town:  Serbia, Kragujevac

Your team or sponsor now: I am in Asics frontrunner team and
Club of extreme sports Kragujevac

Occupation: Physiotherapist

Education: Medical college

Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/snezana.djuric.397

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/djsnezaa/

Thank you!

Thank you, Snezana, for taking your time sharing your fantastic story! Wishing you all the best luck in the future with your Skyrunning and everything that you want to do.

Happy SkyRunning!

/Katinka Nyberg

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