The U.K.’s Jo Zakrzewski just finished third at the 2014 IAU 100k World Championships, which follows up her second place at the IAU 50k World Trophy three weeks ago on the same course in Doha, Qatar. In this interview, find out about Jo’s history with running, how she found herself running alone despite being part of a competitive race, and where we might see her racing in 2015.
For the whole story on the 100k world championships, be sure to check out our results article.
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Jo Zakrzewski Post-2014 IAU 100k World Championships Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here with Jo Zakrzewski after her third-place finish at the 2014 IAU 100k World Championships. Congratulations, Jo.
Jo Zakrzewski: Thank you very much.
iRunFar: This is not your first success in Doha. You were second at the 50k World Trophy just a few weeks ago.
Zakrzewski: Same course, half the distance, and about 10 degrees warmer.
iRunFar: Which was more pleasant?
Zakrzewski: When I got to nearly 50k in this race, I wished I was doing the 50k, but I have to say the temperature and the conditions were a lot better for this one.
iRunFar: It was a really competitive women’s race and a lot of women were together for a lot of it. What was it like being amongst so many competitive women for so long today?
Zakrzewski: In this race, I wasn’t. I was on my own.
iRunFar: You weren’t? How did you manage to be on your own?
Zakrzewski: I’m not quite sure. I could see people up ahead and there were people behind, but I tend to run my own pace and I didn’t want to be dragged into running someone else’s pace; so I just kept going at what felt comfortable for me.
iRunFar: That seemed to go well. Were there any low spots along the race?
Zakrzewski: As it got nearer the end and I thought I was tiring, but then I thought other people are tiring as well. It’s a case of you think you’re tiring but if you look at other people’s positions, they’re also getting slower. I did think that my teammate was going to take the place from me in the last 2k, so I did have to actually almost sprint the 2k at the end.
iRunFar: You didn’t want Jo Meek to catch you?
Zakrzewski: Well, I’d rather it was Jo Meek than anybody else.
iRunFar: While you were out there, there are so many ins and outs on this course where you get to see a lot of people, were you seeing Ellie [Greenwood] and Jo along the way?
Zakrzewski: Yeah, I saw Ellie for most of the way until the end when she was really motoring and she was just way out of it. Jo, I saw most of the race, and Ellie and I especially gave each other a cheer. We’re sharing a room. We’re good friends. We gave each other a cheer every time we saw each other.
iRunFar: Were you on the previous team when Ellie won team gold?
Zakrzewski: No, I don’t even think I was really much of a runner then, so certainly not this distance. This is only my second one I’ve done.
iRunFar: So how long have you been running? What is your athletic history?
Zakrzewski: I started about seven years ago. I came to it through the other side. I was a race medic and an expedition medic. Then one of my friends convinced me to try running a race which was across the Atacama Desert in Chile. I loved it. I thought, Actually, this is more fun than running as the crew.
iRunFar: When did you find yourself becoming competitive?
Zakrzewski: It kind of happened by accident. I went to Comrades one year with a friend who had always wanted to do it. Didn’t expect to do particularly well. Just saw it as an interesting trip to go on. After that, I was selected as a wild card for the British 100k team.
iRunFar: And you took that?
Zakrzewski: I took that and went to Winschoten and earned second in the race, and yeah, I haven’t looked back really.
iRunFar: So what’s your worst finish on a world stage? You’ve got two seconds and a third I know of so far.
Zakrzewski: I came fourth at the [IAU] World Trail [Championships] last year which was in Wales. I was kind of really happy to do that because we got team bronze, but I was about a minute behind third place and about 10 minutes in front of fifth place. Fourth place is not a good place to be.
iRunFar: How can you explain so much success so quickly because that’s tremendous and in a wide range of events, too.
Zakrzewski: I guess so, but I think people say one of my best assets for running distances is that I love to eat. I do eat. I have to eat before I run, and I can actually eat when I’m running because I can’t not eat for two hours. If I don’t eat for two hours I get really grumpy. I have learned to eat and run, and I think you have to for these distances.
iRunFar: So this is a 100k on the roads. How often are you eating, and what are you eating out there?
Zakrzewski: Today was slightly different. When I did the trails last year, people did laugh when they saw what I was eating because I had bags that I gave at every feed station. I had cheese in it because I wanted protein and fat. I had caramel slice because I wanted chocolate and sweet stuff. I had sweets, gels, and drinks. Here, slightly different. I had just gels and drinks and some caffeinated drinks, but I did have a secret stash of flapjacks in case I wanted that in the race.
iRunFar: It’s a different fueling strategy, but did you go there during the race?
Zakrzewski: I didn’t, but I’m hoping it’s still in my bag so I can have it now.
iRunFar: Do you go back to your room and chow down?
iRunFar: Anything else on your calendar for this year?
Zakrzewski: No, I think this is… I mean, I’ve had quite an interesting year this year. The year started off really, really badly for me because I got trampled within 10 seconds of the start of a race—I was doing a marathon. Then I got knocked down again. So I did that marathon with a broken nose and a cracked rib. I went to the hospital at the end of it, and that kind of put me out for awhile. Then this summer has been absolutely amazing. I got called up at the last minute and ran the Commonwealth Games. I did the 50k here, and I’ve just done this. I feel that’s quite a good year for me.
iRunFar: How did the Commonwealth Games go for you?
Zakrzewski: The race was not very good, but the experience was absolutely amazing.
iRunFar: So where do you see yourself going next year, not necessarily a race, but are you going to stay to the road side? There’s another IAU Trail Championships. Anything that’s sort of lighting you up for next year?
Zakrzewski: It’s really difficult because of the timing of everything. I think the trail championship is the same day as Comrades. I really like Comrades. I’ve loved running that. I really liked running with the team on the trails. It’s really hard to decide what suits you best. In a way, I wish I was good at one thing and really rubbish at the other and then I could say, “Definitely I’m rubbish at that, so I’m not going to do it,” but because I like both, it’s hard to decide. Also, I guess I have to see how it fits with work and how I’ll take leave and how I’ll work it.
iRunFar: So Ellie is your teammate and she’s just crushing—is it inspiring?
Zakrzewski: She’s amazing. I just… I haven’t got words to describe her. She’s just brilliant. And she’s so unassuming about it. We’re sharing a room together. When we first arrived, we arrived at different times and we hadn’t seen each other for ages. We didn’t get much sleep that night catching up. I think we haven’t really stopped talking the whole time we’ve been here.
iRunFar: Are you guys going to have armed guards with three golds and a bronze in your room?
Zakrzewski: Oh, it’s great, isn’t it?
iRunFar: What do you prefer? Do you prefer trails or roads?
Zakrzewski: I think it’s difficult to say. I really like the scenery on the trails and getting out there and not worrying about times and splits. From doing a marathon, then I’m obviously trying to run a time and certain splits. Here it was quite difficult because you have all these 180-degree bends, you were always going around every bend the same way and the course went always in the same direction. So I find now that one side of my body is really sore. It’s not something I really want to keep doing. Obviously, it depends on where they put races because you’ve got to travel to get to them as well.
iRunFar: Could you ever see yourself stepping up and going to the 100-mile distance or 24 hours or something?
Zakrzewski: Somebody asked me about the 100-mile race once before and I don’t run that many miles in a week, so to do it all in a race… and I can’t go that long without eating a proper meal.
iRunFar: You could eat a proper meal. It’s a 100 miler.
Zakrzewski: Well, I could on the 24 hour race because you get slower, but if you were pushing in the 100 miles, I doubt you’d sit down and have a meal would you?
iRunFar: The continental Europeans do. Just go watch at UTMB or something.
Zakrzewski: Oh, well, there you go. Maybe I’ll do that. Yeah, that’s great.
iRunFar: Congratulations on a great race and a great season.
Zakrzewski: Thank you very much.
iRunFar: Dr. Jo ride high.