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?

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.

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

Follow your dreams, stop talking and start doing

If you want something you’ve never had, you’ve got to do something you’ve never done. It’s out of your comfort zone you grow and that is what’s giving you energy in life.

Joep is a 37-year-old very energetic and goal-oriented young man that always try to push his limits. He is an engineer for a living, has got three kids and his greatest hobby is running. He started with running only three years ago and this year he did his first Skyrace.

In June 2019 Joep won the prize Skyrunner Rookie of the month in the SkyRunner Challenge for doing his first Skyrace. The Livigno Skymarathon, 34 km, 2 450 D+, that is a very demanding and challenging race.

This is Joep’s story…

Joep Jussen - Livigno Skymarathon.
Joep Jussen – Livigno Skymarathon.

Congrats Joep to your first Skyrace, Livigno Skymarathon. Can you tell us a little about the race and your experiences from that?

Thank you! I can only describe the race in one word: Breath-taking! I really enjoyed the race. The mountains are really amazing.

 Who is Joep and your story behind?

I’m a very energetic guy that always try to push the limits. I think I found that in skyrunning!

Can you describe yourself with two sentences?

I would describe myself as unstoppable and I never ever quit.

What is most important for you in life?

My family and running are the most important for me in life. 

Your passion for Skyrunning? Where is that coming from?

Six months before the race I saw a video of the Livigno skyrace on Youtube. The only thing I could think of was, I WANT THAT TOO. I was hooked with the “Skyrun virus”.

Have you always had an active lifestyle, or have you done any change direction in life that you like to mention?

No, three years ago I started with running. I’m a person that needs some action and two years ago I started with trailrunning.

What do you do for a living?

I’m an Automotive Engineer OEM CAR Manufacturer.

Can you describe your significant personal strengths and how that helped you in the Skyrunning and life in general?

Just like the two words as I describe myself -> Unstoppable, never quit and never give up. I do have this mindset my whole life, so it is a significant personal strength.

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?

I always push myself outside my comfort zone. It’s just likeed the old saying: If you want something you’ve never had, you’ve got to do something you’ve never done. Out of my comfort zone give me the energy in life.

How did your training preparations look like for your first Skyrace? How does a normal week with training and all that look like for you right now?

In the Netherlands everything is flat, I am lucky that I live in the South and here are some little bumps (very little). There are a lot of trail runs in the South so a lot of people from come to the South. Most of the time I make around 40 – 50 km a week in 3 runs. Once a week a do a uphill training at Snowworld. At Snowworld is the largest stairs from the Netherlands. So, I will run 10 time uphill and go down the stairs. This is around 500 D+.

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

Marathon Eindhoven October and Beartrail 58 km October.

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

Some goals are 100+km ultra’s in the mountains and someday the Marathon Des Sable. I actually hate the warm weather, but I want to see If I can do a multistage in the warm weather.

How does your game plan look like for that?

Train, train and keep on training. Next year I will do some more “Skyruns”.

What is your inner drive?

It is in my nature to set the bar as high as I possibly can.

Which are your best advices or tips to other people that like to start with Skyrunning?

Follow your dreams, stop talking and start doing!

Facts 

Name: Joep Jussen

Nationality: Dutch

Age: 37

Family: Married, 3 kids

Country/town: Heerlen, The Netherlands

Your team or sponsor now: ICECARD.shop

Occupation: Lead Engineer

Education: Higher Professional Education

Thank you!

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

Happy SkyRunning!

/Katinka Nyberg

Adventure Race athlete switches to Ultra-trail and Skyrunning

He was an active Adventure Race athlete for many years and recently he made a new venture within Ultra-trail and Skyrunning.

I had the chance to meet Kalle and his Team Billingen X-trail at Madeira Skyrace this year. Except for that Kalle and his team did very well at the race, I really liked his way of looking at training. I liked his training methods and I got curious of his background.

Kalle is a 40-year-old very determined and competitive person that lives and train in Idre, a small ski resort in Sweden.

About fifteen years ago he and some friends started an *Adventure Racing (AR) team. They worked their way up to the AR World Series, they competed for some years and they also managed to place themselves in the top 10 in some of the races.

Running has always been Kalle’s best discipline within AR. So, two years ago when he started to run more, he found out that he evolved quite fast. He got some podiums in national competitions and after that he took his running to the international stage.

Now he runs Ultra-trails and Skyrunning.

This is Kalle’s story…

Congrats Kalle to your second place in M40, Madeira Skyrace 2019! Can you tell us a little about the race and your experiences from that?

One of the most beautiful races I´ve ever competed in, extraordinary surroundings and views. I, like most of the other competitors, struggled a lot with the heat. But I felt strong in the steep up hills and over all I´m really pleased with how the race turned out for me.

Can you describe yourself with two sentences?

When I set my mind to something, I will achieve it. I don´t stop when I´m tired, I stop when I have crossed the finish line.

What is most important for you in life?

My small family of three and to do the things we love. Be out in and enjoy nature, train and just have fun together.

Your passion for Skyrunning? Where is that coming from?

Skyrunning is very new to me I´ve only competed in like four or five races including this one. But what I like about it the most is the pure rawness of it. I love the rough, exposed environment that high mountains give you, and of course the adventure and adrenalin.

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

I would say my determination for sure, and my competitive nature.

Can you tell us a little about your training methods?

I like to work with very varied training to keep the motivation up!

I combine long, low intensity workouts with short, high intensity ones. I also like to emphasize that it is very important that you dare to keep the speed down in order to keep the pace/pulse low during the long-distance trainings. This in combination with hard intervals and some strengths usually do the work.

Running is always the primary focus, but I really like to mix things up so my body doesn´t get too strained. I corporate mountain biking into my training and in the wintertime, I do a lot of cross-country skiing. Of course, I do some weightlifting as well.

  • I train between 15 to 20 hours a week.
  • About 80% of my running is low intensity.
  • About 20% of my running is very high intensity.
  • About 60-70% of my training is running. The rest is strength and other sports.
  • At least 2 strength trainings a week

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?

No one likes being outside their comfort zone, but it is what makes you better at what you do. I don´t usually push myself outside of my comfort zone when I train but when I compete I´m good at doing so. In competitions I´m prepared to go far outside my comfort zone for long periods of time to achieve my goals and it´s definitely worth the misery when my goals are achieved.

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

My largest goal for 2019 is to win Kullamannen 100 miles in November. I was fifth in 2017 and third last year so I´m hoping that the third time is the charm.

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

Train low intensity workouts for long periods of time, and of course have fun.

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

Buff Bydalen mountain marathon. It is an ultra-trail in the beautiful Swedish mountains with tough terrain and hard exposure.

What do you do for a living?

I’m a part time worker in Idre ski resort and I do a few different things. I keep track of our trails and some hikes. I also work with our high-altitude course. These activities I combine with other jobs, like in the supermarket.

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

I am the cofounder and organizer of the competition Billingen X-Trail and the running team with the same name. The competition is a short but tough trail run in the southern parts of Sweden.

What is your inner drive?

My motivation is definitely to become the best mountain runner I possibly can.

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

Just do it and have fun while you are running.

Facts

Name: Karl-Fredrik Andersson

Nationality: Swedish

Age: 40

Family: Lisabeth, my partner and our five-year-old dog named Affe.

Country/town: Idre

Your team: Team Billingen X-trail

Occupation: Seasonal work in the local ski resort, Idre Fjäll.

Facebook page: Karl-Fredrik Andersson

Instagram: @Kallea1

Facebook page: Team Billingen X-trail

Instagram: team Billingen X-trail

Thank you!

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

Happy SkyRunning!

/Katinka Nyberg

*Adventure racing can best be described as races that integrate multiple disciplines into a single event, over a long period of time and over rugged terrain. Races can be solo or team events. The sport owes its origins to triathlon — swim, bike and run races. During the 1980s athletes took triathlon ‘off road’ and threw in a whole new mix of activities and adventure racing was born.

Entry level adventure races are usually four to six hour events and are essentially ‘off-road triathlons’ involving a lake or river swim, mountain biking and trail running (with a map and compass). From entry level events, adventure races increase in duration and number of disciplines involved, from multi-day races to elite level races over a period of weeks.

Madeira Skyrace 2019 interview with Sofia Smedman Sweden

I had the opportunity to meet this super strong and very nice Ultra/Skyrunner from Sweden at Madeira Skyrace this year (2019).

Sofia Smedman and her Team Billingen X-trail was the second team in the very challenging and demanding race, Madeira Skyrace 55k, 4121D+. Madeira 2019!

Congrats Sofia for your great achievement and your personal time 09:42:06.

Can you tell us a little about the race and your experiences from that?

The race was fantastic! Well organised from the beginning to the end. Good service out on the track and the course was well marked, so it was easy to follow. It’s one of the finest and toughest races I’ve done! Tough uphills and brutal downhills. The heat made it even harder, but the views made you forget how hard it was.

This was the first race I’ve done where the competition was really top notch. This is really good for me, to change my perception about what I need to improve to be able to fight about the top positions on similar races.

Sofia Smedman
Sofia Smedman

Can you describe yourself with two sentences?

I’m fun and a bit goofy but also very stubborn. I’m a person that like challenges and I’m always very competitive.

What is most important for you in life?

My partner in crime. 🙂 To be able to run and travel to all this amazing races.

Your passion for Skyrunning? Where is that coming from?

This was my first ”real” skyrace. I’ve done a couple of similar races, but none quite like this. I’m very passionate to spend time in the nature, which I find to be very calming. It’s fascinating what places running can bring you to! And I love to compete.

Can you tell us a little about your Team Billingen X-trail?

Yes! Team Billingen X-trail is a Swedish ultra-trailrunning (now also Skyrunning) team that race and train together.

Although we don’t live in the same town we have the same trainings that we do, and afterwards we check on each other how it went. We learn from each other and we get inspired by each other. I’m very happy to be able to hang out with these great guys (Kalle Andersson, Rasmus Persson, Viktor Stenqvist) on races in Sweden and all around the world.

Our first tough race that we did together were Buff, Bydalens Fjällmaraton, 50k, 2900 D+. This is one on the toughest mountain marathons in Sweden, I think.

Madeira Skyrace 55k, 4121 D+, is my first Skyrace, and also the toughest one so far that we have done together the whole team. So, we’re very proud of our second place.

We are all very different, but that also makes the group more interesting. Viktor is fast and explosive. Kalle is awesome pushing the boundaries, giving more than 100%. Rasmus is stable, strong, and runs effectively. I’m very stubborn, and I never give up!

Team Billingen X-trail 2:nd place in Madeira Skyrace 2019
Team Billingen X-trail 2:nd place in Madeira Skyrace 2019

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

It would be a dream to be able to do this for a living. Currently it’s my greatest hobby!

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

No, I started to get in to trail running around 2015, when I was 26. I was hooked! Since then I haven’t looked back.

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?

Sometimes I’m struggling to give myself that extra push. I’m working on this, and I do believe that I’m improving. Faster, stronger and more confident. It’s important to continue to challenge yourself. To do this one have to step outside of ones comfort zone, as you will be faced with hard and technical terrain and stunning heights, on top of that you will have really tired legs.

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

Next up is Ehunmilak UltraTrail, a 100mile race in the north of Spain. Idre fjällmarathon, Kullamannen. Hopefully I will find one more skyrace before the season is over.

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

I work a lot so it’s hard to tell how a normal week would be. I know I should train a lot more than I’m currently able to do. Now I catch all the moments that I can.

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

Train a lot of up and down hill running. That is something that is hard for me because we don’t have a hill that is higher than 125m D+. Making do might mean a lot of ups and downs.

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

Come to Sweden and run Buff fjällmaraton 50k and the 100 mile race called Kullamannen!

Sofia Smedman Buff 50K Fjällmaraton Bydalen 2018
Sofia Smedman Buff 50K Fjällmaraton Bydalen 2018

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

My dream and goal for the future is to become one of the best 100 mile runners.

How does your game plan look like for that?

Not sure yet, but first I need to stop working overtime and spend more time on my training. We will also move to the northern part of Sweden for better training opportunities. I have a lot of races on my bucket list that will challenge me to become a better runner.

What is your inner drive?

My inner drive is to explore and be able to push my limits. I’m very curious to see how far I can go.

Facts

Name: Sofia Smedman

Nationality: Swedish

Age: 31

Country/town: Sweden – Skövde

Your team or sponsor now: Team Billingen X-trail

Occupation: HR – coordinator

Education: Human Resources

Facebook page: Team Billingen X-trail

Instagram: @Iasmedman/team Billingen X-trail

Thank you!

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

Happy SkyRunning!

/Katinka Nyberg

My heart had never felt so free

Floored by feelings of anxiety, living in a van in central London to save money, she never stopped believing in her dream. To start a successful outdoor company in the beautiful Scottish Highlands.

Stacey is a 32-year-old newly founded Scot and a very stubborn young lady who has just started her own outdoor business, WayOutside, together with her husband Max.

They have both always been very ambitious and ‘winning’ for them was about being successful in the academic world. Their common goal was to get permeant science lectureships at the same top UK university, by publishing and presenting high quality scientific research.

After a few years of hard work (and not so much enjoying the essence in life) they both realised that achieving this type of success would also take a lot of sacrifice, both personal and financial.

In the same era, the concept “Skyrunning” was presented to them and they decided to try it. They entered their first Skyrace despite neither of them having any mountain experience.

The concept appealed to them a lot, and they wanted more.

The world became bigger than their universities and instead they started dreaming of an outdoor lifestyle, and to get them there they built a campervan which they could live and travel in.

They wanted to spend more time in the mountains moving across the land and swimming in the waters. And so they did…

This is Stacey’s story…

Stacey training for her next Skyrace.
Stacey training for her next Skyrace.

Your passion for Skyrunning? Where is that coming from?

We first ran the Salomon Ring of Steall Skyrace in the 2nd year of the Scotland skyline series. A friend was running the race the first year the skyline events were held in Scotland and reading his Facebook posts and seeing the race covered in running magazines was my first exposure to the concept of skyrunning. The idea of racing along ridgelines with your feet in the clouds just captured my imagination. I wanted to race this, I wanted to experience such trails and be someone who runs skyraces. Even the name sounded magical to me!

Despite my first skyrace being only 20 miles long, the mountainous terrain made the race the hardest thing I had ever put my body through. Unlike a low land race, you cannot switch your mind off, else you might plummet off the mountain! You had to be utterly in the moment and aware of your body and surroundings. It was just you, the sky and the mountains and you had to be right there in it the entire time. It took me 8hrs 45mins to get around that 20mile loop!

Can you tell us a little about your new company WayOutside?

At WayOutside we believe that the outdoors is for every-body and that no one is too slow. Our aim is to bring together like-minded people to swim, bike, run and hike in the Scottish outdoors – from the seas and lochs to moors and mountains! We cater for grassroots through to experienced runners and triathletes offering guided trips. We hosted a training camp last weekend aimed at trail running and ultra-runners. The participants ranged from hill walkers thinking about their first trail race to winning ultra-running athletes preparing for world championships.

We also host multi-sport training camps and are in the middle of organising a mid-winter 24 hour running race called the Tyndrum 24 next January.

Max Swimming at Castle Stalker, Scotland.
Max Swimming at Castle Stalker, Scotland.

What did you do for a living before WayOutside?

I was a radiotherapy physicist in the NHS since I finished university. Radiotherapy is the use of high energy X-rays to target and kill cancer cells in the body. During my time in the hospital I also studied for a PhD in Oncology at Cambridge University and later became a senior research fellow at the University College London in Proton Radiotherapy.

You have done a great change of direction in life. Can you please describe that?

It was not a sudden change, but it was a clear decision and a long story! Both Max and I are over achievers, very determined and ever willing to push ourselves to our limits. We had a very clear vision of success and a drive to win. Winning for us was academic, the goal was to both have permeant academic lectureships at the same top UK university. It was publishing and presenting high quality and policy changing science. Achieving this type of success takes a lot sacrifice, personal and financial.

However, we had another priority, to be with each other as much as possible and in our own home. Instead, in pursuit of our goal we found ourselves apart. I was working in London, and Max in Cambridge and we could not save for a house deposit while we had Cambridge rents and London commutes. It was also at this time we entered our first skyrace despite neither of us having any mountain experience!

Stacey running the Ben Cruachan Horseshoe, Scotland.
Stacey running the Ben Cruachan Horseshoe, Scotland.

The concept appealed to us so much, we had to try it! We purchased a car and on free weekends left the flat fenlands for the Brecon’s and the Peaks and then the Lakes and Borders, Troassachs and Mamores. I was running further, training for a 96mile race and Max was carrying out research in Antarctica. The world became bigger than our universities. Soon we dreamed of a campervan that we could live in and travel in, to spend more time in the mountains and to spend more time moving across the land and swimming in the waters.

To meet all our desires we built a campervan and moved into it, living in London on a campsite located between the M25 and M3, working full time in the university and trying to fit in our outdoor adventures and training on commutes, evenings and weekends.

Stacey at the campsite living in their self-built campervan in summer 2018.
Stacey at the campsite living in their self-built campervan in summer 2018.

Then in March 2018 on the shores of Loch Etive I was lying in our campervan trying to make a muscle memory for the angle my eyeball needed to look to focus on the mountaintop so that when I returned south, I could stare at the point in the sky and try to imagine a mountain there instead of thin air. I realised then that I could not bear to imagine my whole life ahead without them.

This was the moment I mentally quit. Max and I made a plan – to apply for jobs in Scotland and as soon as one of us got a job offer, we would quit and go and the other would build an outdoor business. In the meantime, we picked up skills to ensure our success and took as many opportunities as we could. I began writing articles for outdoor magazines, building an online presence and Max started open water swimming long distances and we both took on coaching courses and experience.

Then in December, Max was offered a job in Oban, within 3 weeks we left our campsite and drove to Scotland. My heart had never felt so free!

Stacey enjoying mountain running after moving to Scotland, Glencoe.
Stacey enjoying mountain running after moving to Scotland, Glencoe.

What is your inner drive?

What keeps me driven… it used to be fear, I used to be so afraid of failing! Now I guess I am actively risking failure and I am still scared all the time! I feel like an imposter every day and I am often floored by feelings of anxiety. But then I get a message from someone telling me what it means to their family to go open water swimming or a message from a reader telling me my blog has inspired them to run and I remember why I do this.

I love getting people outside and sharing my love for moving in the mountains and being still in the water.

Views of the temperate rainforest and castle ruins at Stacey’s favourite swim spot.
Views of the temperate rainforest and castle ruins at Stacey’s favourite swim spot.

Which is the most challenging and demanding situation you been through to get there?

Living in a van in central London to save money to make the change!

How does a normal day look like for you right now?

Right now, I am chained to the laptop setting up the business, but at weekends we are out in the land and sea all day. From our new home I can see the loch and the mountains and have never felt so settled or happy in my entire life. I am also starting a new job as the community sports hub officer for Argyll and Bute which I am really excited about.

60miles into the 95 mile West Highland Way Race in June 2018.
60miles into the 95 mile West Highland Way Race in June 2018.

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

Our business is only just up and running so that is our goal! To make a success of it and to help more people into the outdoors and mountains, but also to visit Scotland. One of the goals of WayOustide is to help those who do not feel there is a space in the outside for them to find it.

How does your game plan look like for that?

WayOutside is all about getting people moving in the outdoors, through wild swimming, trail running, mountain hiking, cycling and sleeping under the stars. Max focusses at the elite end of the spectrum, whereas my passion is more grass roots and the non-competitive. I love being a part of the community and, after years in the NHS, I understand the long term physical and mental health benefits of exercise and, in particular, exercise in nature.

Kissing Max at the finish line of Stacey’s first ever ultra-marathon, the Highland Fling 2016.
Kissing Max at the finish line of Stacey’s first ever ultra-marathon, the Highland Fling 2016.

What is your advice to other “hard working office people” that is dreaming of an active lifestyle running in the mountains?

Never give up, keep your dream present and don’t listen to those who say it’s silly. We printed a photo of Loch Etive (the place we wanted to set up the business) and mounted it on our van wall. That way, we could see our dream every morning and night, even though we were parked up in London! A year later, we now live with a view of that same loch from our bedroom window.

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

Please check out our website www.wayoutside.co.uk and my personal blog www.wayrunning.wordpress.com and contact us if you are interested in any of our events or some guided trips. You can also follow us on Instagram @wayout.

Facts

Name: Stacey Holloway

Occupation: Founder of WayOutside Ltd

Nationality: I think we are Scottish now?!

Age: 32

Family: My husband Max and my wider family full of aunts, uncles, cousins and their children! We are all very close.

Country/town: Oban, Scotland

Running level: A very slow amateur!

Your team or sponsor: My company is WayOutside Ltd

Favourite races that you have run: Highland Fling and the Ring of Steall Skyrace

Company website: www.wayoutside.co.uk

Personal Blog: www.wayrunning.wordpress.com

Personal Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/staceylizabeth/

Company Instagramhttps://www.instagram.com/wayoutsideuk/

Thank you!

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

Happy SkyRunning!

/Katinka Nyberg

Becoming a strong Ultra-trail runner doesn’t happen overnight

Anna Carlsson is one of the most promising Ultra-trail runners in Sweden. Constantly moving forward, always heading for the next challenge.

I had the chance to meet Anna for a small chat just a few days before TEC this Saturday (Täby Extreme Challenge 100 miles). Anna seemed to be in a very good health and even though we talked about some serious and important things too, she had a constant smile on her face, always close to a laugh.

Anna is a 33-year-old broad-minded and easy-going person that lives and train in the most northern part of Sweden in a small village called Abisko.

She started her running career in 2011, when she ran her first Marathon on the time 3:01. In July 2018 Anna was nr 4 in the Swedish Alpine Ultra (107 km), time 12:33. (1st female and new track-record). In November 2018 Anna crushed the track record and won the women’s class in Kullamannen Ultra on the 160 km race (one of the toughest Ultra races in Sweden).

Today Anna is ranked as one of the top 10 runners in Ultra-trail (ITRA Large) in Sweden, and her next challenge will be TEC this Saturday. 

Life hasn’t for sure always been easy and Anna is speaking very open-hearty about it in this blog. Anna is a very brave, honest and determined person and I’m happy to see that Anna finally found her inner peace and happiness in the mountains of Abisko.

This is Anna’s story…

The polarnight in Abisko lasts for 2,5 months. Here Scout is watching the sun shine on the peaks of the mountains on the other side of Torneträsk in late January.
The polarnight in Abisko lasts for 2,5 months. Here Scout is watching the sun shine on the peaks of the mountains on the other side of Torneträsk in late January.

Who is Anna and your story behind?

I’m a little curious about your overall background. I saw you started running 2011 and then had a break for a few years. Coming back 2017 running Ultras, better than ever.

What happened?

I’ve always been very active, and even before I got into running, I ran 2-3 days/week just to stay in shape and as a compliment to other sports. But 2010 I applied for Stockholm marathon the following year and started some “proper” running. I fell in love with running very fast and it was fun to feel the progress.

In spring 2011 I ran a couple of 10km races and then Stockholm marathon, which all went quite well considering I had only been training for about eight months. It made me super eager to train more and harder, so of course I did the classic mistake of “doing too much too soon”.

My body simply wasn’t ready.

I didn’t have any previous experience of injuries, and in the beginning, I saw the pain as something that I could teach myself to master my mind and my body. Something that I could learn to ignore and become a stronger runner. Although the idea sounds a bit crazy now.

Finally, I ended up not being able to run at all for some time, and at least I learned that this was a stupid way of thinking. An eating disorder I had struggled with on and off since high school escalated and I had a lot of anxiety.

Year 2013 I decided to “start over” and moved from Stockholm to Åre (a skiing resort in the north of Sweden). At this time, I could run and hike a little, and slow-moving on the mountains seemed to be healing my body.

But bulimia didn’t just disappear like I had planned (no shit Sherlock…) and I sank into a depression since I couldn’t see a way out. At last I made an active choice between finishing it or break with this way of living. It sounds very easy, but I can tell you it wasn’t. There were so many times I just wanted to crawl out of my body since I was so disgusted with myself.

But my way of thinking changed, and I shifted focus from training to just be outdoors, since that made my brain stop screaming. I worked at Sylarnas mountain station and running or walking was the only transportation. I spent most of my free time discovering new places and although I didn’t feel I was training I think that gave me a good base for ultra running. I mean, sometimes you ran 20 km to another station after work just to have dinner and watch a movie, and then back home again.

Year 2015 I got my dog Scout, and suddenly I had not just myself to think about. Some people say he’s just a dog, and I know that, but he’s still my family and best friend.

We moved to Abisko and life somehow stabilized.

Scout is my best running partner although he sometimes puts his paws down and tell me “enough”. Watching him run on the mountain fills me with gratitude.
Scout is my best running partner although he sometimes puts his paws down and tell me “enough”. Watching him run on the mountain fills me with gratitude.
Map pointing out Abisko in the very north of Sweden.
Map pointing out Abisko in the very north of Sweden.

Year 2017 it was time for a change, and I signed up for Swedish Alpine Ultra (a self-sufficient race from Nikkaloukta to Abisko, 107k) the same year.

My goal was to reach the finish line within the allowed time since, but it went surprisingly well and there and then my passion for Ultra started.

What is most important for you in life?

Time. I don’t like stressing and I do want to live here and now. That is also one of the reasons why I like Abisko and my new way of living so much.

Your passion for Trail-running and Ultras? Where does that come from?

I started with trail running because I needed it and because I wanted to explore new places. Running and moving on the mountain or in the forest is for me still not about training, it’s a way of living and something I do just to “clean my mind”. I love to feel my body work for me, strong and powerful, and to feel like a mix between a kid and a warrior. I play a lot when I run: on and off the trails I can let go of the filter and just be me. And I love to feel the wind in my hair, to hear the silence and losing time.

Running races is something different. I cannot say I love it, but I really like it. I like the challenge of preparing myself in the best way as I can, and I think the “mind game” is very interesting. It also forces me to “train” and not just run which is good because that means I get stronger and can move on the mountain with less effort… It’s also very fun to meet other ultra-runners since most of them are generally very nice!

The mountains around Abisko requires endless of tours if you take the time to run outside the trails. This picture is taken far inside the Kårsavagge valley when I was about to the decide which direction to head next.
The mountains around Abisko requires endless of tours if you take the time to run outside the trails. This picture is taken far inside the Kårsavagge valley when I was about to the decide which direction to head next.

You accomplished some great things last year, winning Kullamannen Ultra for example. Did you set any goals earlier in life that you wanted to run on this level? Or did it just happen?

I’ve never seen myself as a runner and I still don’t. I just like to move and spend time together with nature and running is the most comfortable way to do so since it doesn’t require a lot of gear.

But when you think of it. Running as much as I actually do it is impossible not to “improve” over time, and I think that the last year’s success was just a result of another extra year of continuous running.

It was actually just before the start of Kullamannen I realized that this was a race I wanted to win and not just complete and was about to go for it. That changed my way of thinking a little and made me accept that I also like this thing with competing.

My brother uses to say that I make it sound like I never train and just run like a hippie on the mountain, drinking wine afterwards. That’s of course just a part of the truth. I run because I love it, but I do work hard as well. And I never drink wine after a morning session.

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

I’m very stubborn, almost in a stupid way. I live after the device “ok, I’ve hit the wall hundred times now so next time it has to work!”. I’m also quite naive when it comes to realizing my own limits and most often think “how hard can it be?”. Although it doesn’t often go as I planned it usually ends up quite good anyway.

I’m also very determined and not afraid to work hard to reach my goals. Physically, I think I have the right conditions and I have a strong body that usually doesn’t give up on me in the first place.

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

The years when I couldn’t run was tough. Battling bulimia was very tough. Finding my way back to the joy of running was tough. Running itself is honestly not so tough.

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?

That’s a tricky question. I don’t think I’ve ever been outside the comfort zone when running. Of course, there are times when I’m pushing and moving the limits and it would be a lot more comfortable to just stop. But running or not running is always my own choice.

Racing however brings me out of the comfort zone since it makes me so nervous. But it’s getting better and once I start running it’s definitely worth it!

I never get tired of exloring new corners of my “backyard”. This summer I found this small lake with a big reindeer herd standing on the glacier above to cook off.
I never get tired of exloring new corners of my “backyard”. This summer I found this small lake with a big reindeer herd standing on the glacier above to cook off.

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

I’m running TEC 100 miles in the 27 of April. After that I will start training for TDS (Ultra Marathon Month Blanc, 122.4 km and 7336 in vertical) in the end of August. I will run Keb Classic summer and Swedish Alpine Ultra to prepare myself and maybe some shorter races.

In November I’ll do another try at Kullamannen.

But my main goal with this year is to keep building good base for longer distances. I see running in a long-term perspective and I realize that becoming a good ultra-runner doesn’t happen overnight.

TEC – Täby Extreme Challenge, 100 miles is now on Saturday. How do you feel right now?

I feel very good and I have prepared myself as much as I possibly can. I been free from injuries and sickness the past two years and I’ve been able to train and prepare in a great training environment. But it’s a big challenge and I’ve had some issues with a knee since end of January. But now I hope it’ll hold for a hundred miler!

This week I will take it a little bit easy with training and I’m visiting my parents in “Hälsingland”.

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

I have a training foundation, but I don’t follow a schedule. In the winter I basically just try to maintain my fitness the best I can and not get too much frostbites. I run mainly on snowmobile tracks or do snow pulsing, although I this winter was doing some more sessions on the road and treadmill aiming to not lose too much speed. I add up with skiing, snowshoeing and strength training. I train 6-7 days a week, one or two sessions a day of which about 100-140 k is running. I usually put in some specific hill and/or speed work to motivate myself.

In the summer and fall I run more but train less. I try to run about 160-180 k/week, divided into 6-7 days and 1 or 2 sessions per day. Sometimes it becomes more and sometimes less, mostly depending on what kind of terrain I choose. I prioritize beautiful runs ahead of collecting kilometres and I think it’s super boring to just run 15 k “because”. But I do when I’m short of time.

I have not done a lot of specific training until now – if I want to practise up and downhill, I include some peaks in my run. If I want some speed, I take a more runnable trail. As recovery and for strength and coordination I run off-trail. Stones, swamps or whatever I feel for. Every second week I might do a road run.

This summer however, I plan to have a plan… I’ll stay at the same mileage as last summer, maybe try some really big weeks, but include some more speed and hills. I think that might take me a step further. Off trail is also a key in my training – I do it both for fun, for strength, for coordination and as recovery.

Right now, I’m doing the last preparations for TEC 100 miles and I haven’t dared to increase the mileage so much from the winter yet. Instead I’ve done some more flat and “fast” running the last weeks, but I really don’t know about this. It’s a faster course than I’m used to and not really trail, but it will be interesting to try something different!

I usually don’t do much road running since I think the trails are so much more fun, and also because we only have one road that pass Abisko. But this winter I altered the snowmobile trails with some runs on the E10 to get some more “proper” running.
I usually don’t do much road running since I think the trails are so much more fun, and also because we only have one road that pass Abisko. But this winter I altered the snowmobile trails with some runs on the E10 to get some more “proper” running.

Example of a weekly schedule (before TEC):

Saturday:

  • 17 km incl. 9 km hill-work
  • 45 min strength training in the gym

Sunday:

  • 37 km on the treadmill. Slow pace with 5 faster minutes every 15 minutes.

Monday:

  • 45 min off-trail
  • 45 min off-trail

Tuesday:

  • 9 km incl. 6 km hill-work
  • Intervals (6,5,4,3,2,1 min + 10*30s) + 10 min threshold. 45 min strength training in the gym.

Wednesday:

  • 25km very slow, trail and off trail.

Thursday:

  • Threshold 2*15 min + 2*5 min
  • 60 min jog

Friday:

  • 30 km progressive distance.

I always do 10-15 min of strength training at home the days I didn’t train on the gym.

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

Don’t be afraid to have fun with running. It’s just running, not about life or death!

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

Well, I really like Swedish Alpine Ultra since it was the first ultra-race I ever ran. It’s a small race and you kind of get to know the other runners. I also like that it is self-sufficient. It’s in my backyard as well!

You are also a co-owner in Activities in Abisko. Can you please tell us a little more about that?

Activities in Abisko is a quite small company owned by me and my partner in crime Roger. Winter is our busy season and we offer snowmobile trips, snowshoe hikes, ice fishing and northern light tours.

In the summer we do day-hikes, fishing and sauna raft. Last year we also started up with running camps which is a bit like “my baby”. This summer we will organize three camps: two where we run about 30-50 k/day and one where we run 12-25k/day and have more time for other activities.

However, the focus is not training – it’s about exploring the mountains around Abisko and spend time outside.

Fall is my favourite running season, and also my favourite time in the mountains.
Fall is my favourite running season, and also my favourite time in the mountains.

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

This year I got the honour to be an ambassador for Hoka and Umara which I’m really grateful about. I’ve been running in Hoka for a long time in all types of terrain. So, I’m super excited to be a part of their team!

The first time I came in contact with Umara was on Kullamannen where they served their sports drink. Afterwards I read about the company and tried some other products and they work very well for me. I like that Umara is a small company and also their way of thinking. To this year they have also worked on a zero mission, meaning that all carbon dioxide are emissions 100 percent compensated for.

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

I have a lot of dreams! I really don’t know how I will have time to work! Next year I have a little vision of going up in distance and go for a 200 miler.

A dream would be to run Lake Tahoe (Tahoe 200 Endurance Run).

I also think about trying a 24 h race or a backyard simply because I’m curious of how it’ll affect my mind.

The backyard ultra is a form of ultramarathon race where competitors must consecutively run the distance of 6706 meters (4.167 miles) in less than one hour. When each lap is completed, the remaining time within the hour is typically used to recover for the next hour’s race. The race could be going on for up to 48 hours.

A race I also really want to do is Ice Ultra in the mountains around Jokkmokk. It’s 230 km divided into five days, taking place in February when the temperatures are often around -30-40 Celsius. I think that kind of races would suit me since it’s not just about the running. This multiday running seems “fun”.

There are also plenty of tours I want to do, both summer and winter. Next winter I might try to run Nikkaloukta-Abisko in snowshoes and some time I’d like to run the Nordkalottleden. This summer I will put together some more peaks as a training for TDS in August. I’d also like to organize a winter race in Abisko, for example a backyard.

How does your game plan look like for that?

Hmm. Those questions remind me it might be time to plan a little… But the game plan to increase distances is something I work on all the time. The main goal is to stay as injury-free as possible. For that I try to alter my training, run a lot off-trail and give time to strength training. I’m also very careful with my joy of running.

What is your inner drive?

I really love trail running and it simply makes me happy. Of course, I’m also driven by doing a good race now and then but that’s very secondary.

What is your advice to other ambitious high performing females that is dreaming of an active lifestyle running as fast as you do and/or like to be entrepreneurs in the “Sports & Outdoor” industry?

Listen to others and take advice, but don’t be afraid to apply it your own way.

Running has given me some of the most beautiful moments in life and I often remind myself to stop and really enjoy the views.
Running has given me some of the most beautiful moments in life and I often remind myself to stop and really enjoy the views.

Thank you!

Thank you, Anna, for taking your time sharing your fantastic story! And the most important. By talking so open-hearty about difficult things, you will be a great help and inspiration for thousands of female runners out there that might need some extra push to get out of a bad situation and/or wants to achieve more.

You are a great example of that anything you want to do is possible, and it is never too late for a change. You are a true role model!

Wishing you all the best luck on the TNC race this Saturday and of course all the other exciting adventures that you have in front of you.

Happy SkyRunning!

/Katinka Nyberg

 

Facts

Name: Anna Carlsson

Nationality: Swedish

Age: 33

Family: My Alaskan malamute Scout

Country/town: Abisko/Sweden

Your team or sponsor now: Hoka one one Sweden, Umara

Occupation: CO-owner of Activities in Abisko/wilderness guide

Education: Master in Marine Science, Vildmarks- och Äventyrsguide-utbildningen Åre

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

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

Instagram: amb.aurore

Webpage / Blog: fromabiskowithlove.blogspot.se

Mixing sports with nature, was something magic and that changed my life

Ten years ago, he decided to turn his professional career upside down and started studying sports and training on a professional level.

Fernando is a 40 years old Spanish guy who loves the mountains and everything about practising sports in its natural environments.

In his previous life he worked in the town centre of Madrid as an Industrial engineer, and he wasn’t 100% happy about the situation. One thing led to another and finally he decided to make a change of direction in life and moved back to his birth city Zaragoza and his beloved Pyrenees.

After a lot of hard work, studies and also some doubts that he was ever going to make it. He is now where he wants to be in life.

Fernando is now working 100% with his own business as a personal trainer with focus on trailrunning. He trains both experienced athletes and normal people that like to improve their physical capabilities, and to prepare for any race or challenge.

He does part of the work with his clients online, and with help from modern technology and smart training tools, his online method has proven to work out very well.

It hasn’t always been easy, and Fernando has put a lot of work in this to get him where he is today. Very happy!

This is Fernando’s story…

Your passion for SkyRunning? Where is that coming from?

Ten years ago, when I worked in the town centre of Madrid 12 hours a day, I realised that it was during the weekends in the Sierra de Guadarrama (the mountains just outside of Madrid’s capital) were I came alive. Out there in the mountains I felt that I could breathe, and that helped me to keep sane during the rest of the week working in the office.

I was already a city runner, but I had never before mixed sports with nature, and that was something magic and that changed my life.

I remember my first big trail of 25 km and around 1 500 meters in vertical. It was extremely hard, and I suffered from terrible cramps in my legs. I can honestly say now afterwards that this was a huge challenge for a cosmopolitan runner, and that I wasn’t prepared enough for the vertical meters.

Despite this tough challenge, it was a fantastic experience, and I loved it.

Can you tell us a little more about your new business in trailrunning?

I am a personal trainer specialised in running-sports and trailrunning.

I design individual training plans that will help my clients to achieve their goals, and I motivate them to reach their full potential. I also offer continuous advice on nutrition, equipment’s, tools and any other matter that would lead to an improvement of performance and health in relation with outdoor sports.

I work both with athletes and ordinary people that wants to increase their physical ability, or to prepare for any race or challenge. Most of my athletes are preparing trail races (KV, short trails, Marathons, ultras, stages races…), but I also work with road runners in long distances, from 10K to Marathon and even longer races).

Because of my on-line training method, I can be able to work with athletes all over the world. With help from new technologies and smart watches the possibilities are endless. I can see every detail of the training of each athlete through an internet sport web platform for coaches and athletes called Trainingpeaks.

Through the physical parameters and the feedback from my clients that I get from the platform, I can be able to control the training load and adapt the training process continuously.

Every Monday I analyse the training from previous week, and I program the next week’s training in collaboration with the athlete. It’s wonderful because I can control adaptations and schedule the best specific trainings for each athlete in every moment. I programme the whole training kit for each runner: from running and technique sessions to strength and flexibility sessions, all according to the possibilities of each athlete.

Moreover, I work in a sport centre (Holmes Places) in Zaragoza. There, I work with people who wants to change their life trying to incorporate a sport routine, people who wants to lose weight, or whom are recovering after any injuries.

I love my job, and I always put all my energy on every single client, both online and on site.

What did you do for a living before “Your trailrunning business”?

I worked as an industrial engineer, for a big enterprise building power plants. I was almost ten years there.

You have done a change of direction in life that many people are dreaming about. Can you please tell us a little about that?

Well, it is a great question and it has made me remember how everything was growing bit by bit.

It all began when my girlfriend and me knew we were going to have a baby. We did not want to raise a baby in that context of life that we had at that moment. We were both working long days, in a type of job that didn’t passionate us, and in a city that didn´t offer what we needed at that moment.

For this reason, we decided to come back to our birth city, Zaragoza, with our families and our loved Pyrenees near us.

So, I left my job.

I had to stay some months living between Madrid and Zaragoza, until I finally finished up the training of my substitute. I had already started studying my bachelor in sport science and several other courses about personal training.

In parallel, I was also matching my own training for long distance races. Training together with a team of runners getting a 1-year university degree of expert level in trailrunning. That was an excellent course with the best trailrunning trainers in Spain.

Those were times with mixed feelings, illusions and doubts.

Although I was happy because I was doing exactly what I really wanted to do, I had some nerves because I did not know if all this effort finally would turn into a professional career.

But nevertheless, everything was flowing…..I launched my web to the world and I was finally up and running.

Which is the most challenging and demanding situation you been through to get there?

Maybe those years of student when you are almost 40 years and you don´t really know if all the time and passion you are dedicating, will be enough to succeed, in a sector unknown for me at that moment.

The more I learn, I realize that I will always be a student, but I love that. It is my responsibility to offer my clients the absolute best knowledge and solutions in order to get the best results.

Which are your personal strengths that has helped you through this journey?

I´m just a normal guy who loves the mountains and everything about practising sports in its natural environments. I find inspiration there and it helps me to tidy my ideas and to charge my battery’s completely!!!

In combination with that, my personal strengths are motivation, aptitude, mental strength, persistence and resilience.

How do you manage your time being a successful entrepreneur and runner at the same time as taking care of your family?

I do not consider myself a successful entrepreneur. I’m just a normal guy that do what I love for a living, and for me that is enough and something great. If I had went on working as an engineer I´d probably earned much more money but I wouldn’t be as satisfied as I am nowadays. Personal satisfaction has for me no price.

When it comes to taking care of my family, it is those who have been very patient, letting me put all these hours down on studies and training. Moreover, this “new life” allows me to manage my working hours so that I can enjoy my family much more. This is also one of the most important keys of my happiness.

How does a normal day look like for you right now?

Monday and Tuesday mornings, I work at the computer, analysing the trainings done by my athletes the week before. After that I’m programming the training sessions for the next week.

In the afternoons I am training people in the gym and working in the park with some runners. Weekends I try to escape to the mountains, when possible from Friday to Monday.

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

Nowadays I´m focusing in my day to day business trying to go on learning to program the best trainings for my athletes and clients. Always trying to improve their skills and physiological parameters.

I think it’s a great responsibility. Always keeping an eye of health and performance, that in my opinion goes hand in hand.

In the future, I’m dreaming of opening a centre, where physical training of trail runners takes an important role and will become a reference.

Working in the sport centre, I have realised that my main goal in life is not only helping runners to perform, but also ordinary people to grow physically and mentally, to recover after any injury, to get a good quality of life, to feel better or to get a good routine for sport activity, ……, planning individual trainings adapted to every individual person.

For me that is something really beautiful.

How does your game plan look like for that?

Squeezing 24 hours a day, focusing in my day to day trainings and studying or reading at night. Some days are exhausting, but it is great!!!

This last two years my own training plan has almost disappeared because of the time, but I hope to get back there as soon as possible.

What is your advice to other “hard working office people” that is dreaming of an active lifestyle running in the mountains?

Well it depends, I think a hard-working office job, if you like it, can be compatible with enjoying the nature during the weekends. But if you do not like any kind of work where you are spending 8 or 10 or more hours a day, you must think seriously if this is going to be your life plan, or if you are going to fight for enjoying 24 hours a day.

We live only once, so in my opinion, it’s never too late to pursue your dreams. It is true that sometimes it is not easy, but if you really want it, for sure you will find a way to do it. You need a plan!!!

I usually say…

Once you discover your dreams and goals in life, your life will never be the same.”

What are your best training tips for us SkyRunners?

Trailrunning is great, and it offers a range of variety in running. For example, there are completely different skills that must be trained and physical parameters that are decisive depending on whether you are going to run a vertical kilometre or a 100-mile race.

Moreover, it is not only about distance and vertical metres, there is also another important factor about the type of ground. (paths, rocks, forest, ….). Near my home, in the Pyrenees there are some alpine races, where running is almost impossible during the bigger part of the race. So, you have to be able to do a good walking technique to move along this terrain in a fast and efficient way.

For running in the mountains, you must also be a lot stronger than in a classic street race and I recommend 2 sessions a week in the gym (or at least 1), in order to build your body for these great challenges that Sky- and Ultra marathons are offering.

One of the first things that I ask for during the initial questionnaires when I’m going to start training someone is about time disponible. To prepare long distance races, you need to have experience and you need to train at least 5 or 6 days a week.

The great challenge of long-distance runners consists of being able to run with low energy cost. To achieve this point, you must train your aerobic metabolism, which will help you also with recovery times after bigger efforts.

On the other hand, it is important not to exclude high intensity trainings, because we need those too. Increasing your anaerobic threshold will allow us running faster without entering our anaerobic zone zone (where our performance would end very soon).

Finally, the key of a good training plan is to get the best balance for each athlete between volume and intensity.

I do not like to give recipes because every athlete is different, but a training week for a long-distance runner could for example look like this:

  • 1 day long run in the mountains (3-5 hours). I always try to work some special skill during these trainings, it is not just running. (descents, technique uphill, …)
  • 2 days in the gym. The content of this training will depend of the muscular beginning runner level and the period of the season he/she will be (preseason, competitive,…). Base training and high loads at the beginning and then specific trainings and explosive strength trying to transfer all the force gained to running. Performance and health, these trainings are mandatory. One of these gym days, can be compatible with one of the slow running days.
  • 1 day fast interval training (high intensity)
  • 2 days slow run (volume and economy)
    Depending each runner and the time of the season will be, cross training can also take an important role when resting from impact trainings and to help recovery after hard trainings or competitions.

But my best suggestion I can give is about taking help from a professional in order to get the most out of your training.

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

Finally, I like to add that I’m not a hero or something like that. I have been really fortunate, because my family has trusted me and let me do all the things that I needed to do. Without the support from my family, this life change would never have been possible. Thank you, my love!!!

Facts

Name: Fernando Armisén Navascues

Nationality: Spanish

Age: 40

Family: Wife & Son

Country/town: Zaragoza, Spain

Running level: Amateur (for the last ten years I have run all the distances for Road and Trail running, from vertical kilometres to ultras.)

Favourite races: Trail Valle de Tena 80K, Zegama, Gran Trail Aneto Posets

Website: https://fernandoarmisen.es/en/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ArmisenEntrenadorTrailRunning/

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

 

Thank you!

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

Happy SkyRunning!

/Katinka Nyberg

Running mountain marathons is great and I really believe everyone can do it

Being an elite athlete with the constant pressure to perform hasn’t always been easy and after many years of competing it was time for a change.

“I met Jo on this crazy mountain race in Stockholm/Sweden doing laps in steep small hills. Jo was superior the fastest runner and I got curious about her story behind …”

Jo is a 41 years old socialable Scottish runner with a background as an elite athlete in orienteering.

Although she is now a “retired” orienteer, the sport is still an important part of Jo’s life. So, now days she is there as a coach and a mentor for younger athletes.

Jo’s own training has for the past 5 years been more focused on Trail and Mountain marathons. Running Mountain marathons for fun is something that would have been difficult to combine with the schedule of an elite orienteer.

This years goals are to master a couple of challenging and demanding races like Scafell Skyrace and Trail Verbier St-Bernard (73km).

This is Jo’s story…

Jo Stevenson, "Vemdalen Fjäll Maraton", Sweden
Jo Stevenson, “Vemdalen Fjäll Maraton”, Sweden

Can you tell us a little more about your background as an elite athlete and how come you moved from England to Sweden?

Well I’m Scottish although I studied at Sheffield in England. I started at Sheffield University on a sports scholarship when I was 17, so was quite young when I got my degree. Sheffield is a real outdoors city so I really enjoyed my time there orienteering, fell running and climbing (probably not studying as much as I should have).

Unfortunately, I fell badly while running in my last year of University, and I tore my cruciate ligament. I ran the Junior World Orienteering Champs with my knee heavily taped and got poor results. It was quite a tough time, rehab didn’t go very well, and I broke up with a long-term boyfriend.

After University I went traveling for 6 months before started work in Liverpool, where I knew no one. I started training with the athletics club there running lots of cross-country. I had a half-day off every Friday, so it was perfect for heading off for running weekends in the North of Wales, Lakes District or Scotland. Having the chance to do a bit of rehab and training on my own worked well for me and I got really fit.

I got selected for the European Orienteering Champs and made redundant from my job in Liverpool at the same time. It gave me the little kick I needed to make changes and I got the opportunity to move to Halden in Norway and run for one of the world’s best orienteering clubs, Halden Skiklubb. So, I moved to Norway just before my 23rd birthday. I lived in Norway for 3 years which was great, the club provided a fantastic training environment and I got the chance to explore Norway.

I worked as a waitress and for the club. I’ve always struggled with race nerves and put a lot of pressure on myself to perform. So, living orienteering in a top club was quite tough at times.

After some time, I realized that the routine of combining work and training suits me best and it gives me another focus.

So, when the chance to move to Sweden and combine working at AstraZeneca and running for SNO (a local orienteering club) came up, I took it.

I think I’ve been very lucky to be able to combine a job that I like with my passion for running.

This resulted in my staying in Sweden, even though I’m now a “retired” orienteerer.

Your passion for SkyRunning? Where is that coming from?

Well, I started running fell races in the UK as a teenager, so I’ve always done some races. I guess I’ve done more and been a bit more focused on longer races the last 5 years though. I’m lucky to have a group of friends that enjoy trail races, so we run races together and pep each other in our training. It’s been great fun to do it together and I really enjoy running and exploring new places.

I also really like to challenge myself and leave my comfort zone.

It’s an amazing feeling to come to the finish after standing on a start line slightly unsure if you will ever make it or not.

You did quite good in the Ring of Steall Skyrace. I think that many readers might be curious about that.

Since the Ring of Steall was on home terrain for me I really wanted to run well, so I did do some specific things. Otherwise the last years I’ve run more for enjoyment.

Start of Ring of Steall with my friends
Start of Ring of Steall with my friends

I was home in Scotland in the summer and was able to run and recce the first climb and a couple of the tops. This was great since it gave me a lot of more confidence and a good idea what to expect.

I was also able to combine a visit to friends in the Lake District with running the Buttermere Horseshoe Fell Race which was a British Champs races last year. It’s 36km and has 2 600m climb with lots of steep accents and descents so fairly similar to Ring of Steall. I ran together with my friend, but it was good “run through”.

I also did some hill reps on the little ski slope close to where I live, although probably not as much as you’d think.

I actually think mental toughness and general fitness probably prepares me more.

I’m a great fan on intervals since they are so effective and time efficient!

Otherwise I made and effect to get long runs in at the weekends and I’m lucky to live close to lots of nice running routes and trails.

Jo Stevenson, Buttermere Horseshoes, Lake District
Jo Stevenson, Buttermere Horseshoes, Lake District

Are there any requirements to participate in the Ring of Steall Skyrace, or the rest of Golden Trail Series? Or can anyone sign up for these races?

Anyone can run the Ring of Steall, so it’s a good first Skyrace. Skyraces are great fun but they do have a lot more steep up and down’s than most “normal” trail races, even trail races in the Alps. It means that it can feel like there is less “running” than a normal trail race and that’s not always everyone’s cup of tea.

Ring of Steall Skyrace
Jo Stevenson, Ring of Steall Skyrace

Which are your top strengths as a runner?

When it comes to running, I’m strong in technical terrain and a good downhill runner. I’m good at breaking down races into small sections and focusing on just them.

But the last and not least important thing is that I have a good inner strength and can turn off my brain and just plug on, which is good for long races.

How do you manage your time, combining work and training?

I’m not actually a super organised person but I have been training almost all my life so I’ve very goal orientated and good at planning in training and just getting it done.

I changed jobs in January so now commute into university campus in Stockholm every day, so that’s been an adjustment and I’m still trying to figure out the best way to fit in training. I usually run at lunch 1 day a week. If I need an extra quality session that week, I’ll run intervals.

Otherwise I prefer to run straight after work since I feel it’s a bit rushed at lunch. I try to avoid running with a rucksack since I like my training to be “quality” training and try to avoid plodding runs and junk miles.

I don’t want to teach my body to run slowly and I don’t want to increase the risk of injury.

I’m a coach for Team Nordic Trail on Mondays and have orienteering club training Tuesday and Thursdays so they are my standard sessions in the week.

I saw on Facebook that you also were a running coach. Can you please tell us a little more about that?

I got the chance through my orienteering club and “Idrottslyfta” to get my coaching qualification which was great. I’d already been coaching for within the club, but it gave me some new ideas and gave me more confidence in the role. I’ve been a coach for my orienteering clubs for over 10 years now, so I’m used to shouting at people!

I’m also a coach for Team Nordic Trail (a Swedish running group), which is fun. There are so many benefits to running, health, confidence, social, enjoyment so hope I can get other to enjoy running too.

I have also started as Woman’s coach for the British Orienteering team this year and I am finding it really rewarding. I can relate to the highs and lows of being in the team but having distance to it makes it easier to help. Its fun being part of the team again but without the pressure of having to run!

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

Monday: Team Nordic Trail coach (or run myself, forest intervals with different themes, 60min (25min intervals)

Tuesday:
At the moment I’m studying a university course and have lectures in the evening, so I’ve been running at lunch with a friend (45-50min). Otherwise during the winter I’m coach at my orienteering club intervals. I’m able to run and train myself even if I’m coaching though, 70min (25min intervals).

Wednesday:
Run after work from work or rest day or climbing with friends or swimming.

Thursday:
Orienteering club training, orienteering or running in terrain, 60min.

Friday:
Rest day.

Saturday/ Sunday:
Long run and/or orienteering.

At the moment I don’t have much strength training as I should, so I need to try and fit that in. Where I worked before we had lunch training, so it was a bit easier.

Can you describe your journey and the hardest parts that took you where you are today in life and in running?

I think I’m fairly easy going and believe things usually work out ok. Otherwise I guess that being part of a National team is like a roller-coaster, its full of highs and lows. It’s definitely shaped who I am today.

I find work quite easy in comparison.

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

This year’s races are Utö SwimRun, Ångaloppet SwimRun, Scafell Skyrace and Trail Verbier St-Bernard (73km). TVSB will be my longest running race (I’ve done Vasaloppet but that 90km of xc-skiing) and is a big step up on distance!

There is a group of us doing it so it should be great fun. Training wise I’m planning on doing a long run 2 days in a row to try and get some specific training for it. Other summer plans include orienteering and running in Scotland, running between huts with a friend in Jotunheim and Leader on Team Nordic Trail’s trip to the Swedish mountains.

What is your advice to other “hard working office people” that is dreaming of an active lifestyle running in the mountains as fast as you do?

All training that happens is better than no training! A 30 min run can still be great training, but more importantly it will give you energy. Don’t beat yourself up over the fact it was “only” a 30 min run.

“I really believe everyone can manage even these longer races, it just a case of setting the right goals and expectations.”

Facts

Name: Jo Stevenson

Nationality: Scottish (British)

Age: 41

Family: Just me! Parents in Edinburgh and my brother (who’s actually a former World Orienteering Champion), niece and nephew in Denmark.

Country/town: From Edinburgh in Scotland but now live in Södertälje/Sweden.

Your occupation: Physiologist / Research Scientist in the pharmaceutical industry for 15 years. Currently studying a distance course in the evening “Nutrition and Physical activity as Medicine”: Extremely interesting and something I’d really love to work with.

Your running level: I’m fairly fit even though I just run for fun now. I have trained all my life.

Your team or sponsor: I run for Södertälje Nykvarn Orientering (SNO) in orienteering. I’m also a coach for Team Nordic Trail so sometimes I run for them in races.

Facebook: Jo Stevenson

Instagram: josweden

Favourite races that you have run: I don’t think I have a favourite, it’s always the last one I’ve run! There are highs in all races, it’s funny talking about races after with my friends, we all remember different things and have different nightmare sections!

Thank you!

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

Happy SkyRunning!

/Katinka Nyberg

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