Jo Zakrzewski has twice run the IAU 100k World Championships. She’s got a second (2011) and third (2014) to show for it. In the following interview, Jo talks about how she started her 100k career in Winschoten, what she’s been up to of late, and how she paces herself for a 100k race.
To see who else is running, check out iRunFar’s 2015 IAU 100k World Championships preview.
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Jo Zakrzewski Pre-2015 IAU 100k World Championships Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here with Jo Zakrzewski before the 2015 IAU 100k World Championships. How are you?
Jo Zakrzewski: Yeah, good. Good to see you again.
iRunFar: Likewise. Last time we chatted, it was the middle of the night in Doha, Qatar.
Zakrzewski: Oh yes, it was rather warm… and dark.
iRunFar: It was—and dark. You had a great race there.
Zakrzewski: It was brilliant. We had a great team, and it was fun.
iRunFar: You were third. You guys won the gold medal going away for the team. What have you been up to since then?
Zakrzewski: Since then, having Christmas and eating lot, doing a bit of running, and then I found myself back here again. It’s just where it all started for me really.
iRunFar: Really? You were here in 2011?
Zakrzewski: Yes, I ran my first 100k here. I was here as a wild card. Qatar was my second, and then this is my third.
iRunFar: How did it go in Winschoten last time?
Zakrzewski: It was really good. I had no idea what to expect. I hadn’t been to a race like this before. It was my first G.B. race. I came along just hoping, as the fourth team member, hoping to have a good run, come third, and make up the team. I had just a great day, loved it, and did really well.
iRunFar: How well?
Zakrzewski: I was second.
iRunFar: That’s a pretty good…
Zakrzewski: It started my consistent streak because I think I ran exactly the same time to the minute in Qatar. I’ve done two races the same time, so I must be the most consistent runner.
iRunFar: Are you thinking of maybe running a little faster here?
Zakrzewski: I don’t really have a time goal. I just like to enjoy it, get around, and hopefully get all the team around.
iRunFar: You were second at your first 100k. You were third last time. Are you shooting for maybe a…
Zakrzewski: Going downhill you mean?
iRunFar: No, good luck with that fourth place. Is gold in sight?
Zakrzewski: It isn’t something I would aim for. I don’t have ambitions like that. I just like to go out and enjoy it. It’s quite interesting here. We’ve got the European as well as the world championships, so I like to think we took a European team medal home from here before, and it would be nice to take the same win this time.
iRunFar: Yeah, the British women’s team has three members, so…
Zakrzewski: So we’ve all got to finish. Well, obviously, we’d all like to finish, but anything can happen in a 100k race. You might be really well prepared. Something can go wrong on the day. You might get an injury. You might get gut problems. But hopefully, we’ll all finish and we’ll be happy.
iRunFar: How was your own lead up to the race? Have you been training well?
Zakrzewski: My running has been going okay. Mentally, less good because it’s been a really, really stressful time at work, but here, I get to switch off from work and see what happens.
iRunFar: Have you done any racing this year? Were you at Comrades?
Zakrzewski: I went to Comrades, and I did my usual. I finished two places behind Ellie [Greenwood]. I need Ellie here, so I can finish two places behind her.
iRunFar: Ellie, you hear that. Get over here.
Zakrzewski: Yeah, we’re missing Ellie and Jo [Meek]. They need to come back. So I did that, and I did a race called the Dragon’s Back.
iRunFar: Oh, yes, you changed things up quite drastically.
Zakrzewski: Just a bit. That was a whole week through the mountains in Wales north to south. It was absolutely amazing. That was my last big race before coming here. I’ve still got scars on my face and on my legs.
iRunFar: Oh, yeah? It beat you up?
Zakrzewski: Yeah, I took a few face plants.
iRunFar: How is that transitioning from doing some road racing to doing a pretty rugged long-term trail race?
Zakrzewski: It was brilliant. It wasn’t so much a race as it was an adventure and an experience. It was such a brilliant week meeting new people, running every day, seeing country I’ve never been to. Brilliant.
iRunFar: How have you transferred back to the road then?
Zakrzewski: I guess that gave me quite a bit of endurance. I had to make sure I’d recovered from that. It’s the first time I’ve ever lost sight of my ankles because they swelled up after the race. Then I just started doing a bit more back on the road, doing a few shorter races, and putting a bit more speedwork in. We’ll see. I’ll tell you tomorrow.
iRunFar: Now you feel fit?
Zakrzewski: Yeah, I feel good. It’s just nice to get out and run really and see how it goes.
iRunFar: 100k—how do you pace yourself for that on the road. It’s so even and so flat. A lot people who watch this are trail runners where you have the natural variation of terrain and temperatures and all that. How do you set out with a goal here?
Zakrzewski: I think everyone is different. Some people run on their heartrate. I don’t have a heartrate monitor. I don’t run with one. Some people run on a pace. Some people run on feel. Some people run from the front. There are some British ladies—Lizzy [Hawker] is quite good at running off the front Ellie comes from behind. That’s more what I do. I try and go off steadily. It should be comfortable. You should be comfortable at half way and talking to people the first few laps definitely. The first time I was here, I think I ran the first couple laps talking to some ladies from South Africa. The next few laps I hooked up with some American ladies. I got to know people. Then the race only kind of kicked off in the last few laps. That’s when you dig deepest and keep going.
iRunFar: That sounds like a pretty pleasant experience.
Zakrzewski: That’s why I do it. I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t enjoy it.
iRunFar: For someone coming from the trails or coming from road marathons as well, the idea of running 100k on roads seems mentally quite taxing.
Zakrzewski: These people who do 24 hours on a track, could you do that?
iRunFar: Maybe someday if I had a lot of whiskey?
Zakrzewski: If you’re going to do it, I’d say you’d be better off doing this year’s race than last year’s because the terrain was hard. It wasn’t a beautiful course. It wasn’t quite as interesting. Here, from memory, you’ve got everything. You go through town, they have a party, they have bunting, music, kids out with paddling pools and sponges, they spray you with hoses, you go along the canal—you’ve got a bit of variety. You see windmills. You see everything.
iRunFar: It’s not a trail race, but there is something to observe and take your mind off.
Zakrzewski: Yeah, you’re not just running on the tarmac on a highway, no.
iRunFar: Thank goodness. Well, best of luck out there this weekend.
Zakrzewski: Thank you very much.
Zakrzewski: We’ll see you after.