Norway’s Sondre Amdahl stormed the international trail ultrarunning scene in 2014. This year, the Vibram Hong Kong 100k is his first in another big season. In this interview, Sondre talks about his background prior to ultrarunning, his thoughts on his breakout 2014, his family’s interest in travel, and what he’s hoping to get out of this weekend’s race.
For more on who’s racing this weekend, read our preview of the 2015 Hong Kong 100k.
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Sondre Amdahl Pre-2015 Vibram Hong Kong 100k Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here with Sondre Amdahl before the 2015 Vibram Hong Kong 100k. How are you, Sondre?
Sondre Amdahl: I’m good. How are you?
iRunFar: I’m doing very well. We both traveled half way around the world in opposite directions, and here we are.
Amdahl: Yeah, it’s great to be here.
iRunFar: You’ve made a very large presence and a very quick presence on the international ultrarunning scene. Last year you showed up with your strong run at Transgrancanaria and another one at Mont Blanc. What’s your athletic history before last year? How long have you been a runner?
Amdahl: Not that long. I was running when I was younger. I did cross country in high school in the States, actually. I’ve been running on and off and doing other sports. I did an ultra in New Zealand in 2003 and then had kids and less running, and then I wanted to get back to it again. I started doing more running in 2009 and 2010. I did my first six-hour race in 2011. Then I wanted to hit the trails and the mountains and I did an ultra (a 50 miler) in 2012 in Switzerland. Then it just started to snowball.
iRunFar: Very quickly. When did you decide this was your passion and you wanted to run 100k and longer on the trails?
Amdahl: I just love running. I love the trails. I love to go to the mountains. I’ve been doing mountaineering for awhile before. This mixes it up. I can run and be on the trail and be outside. It’s the way I like to do it.
iRunFar: Even with your mountaineering background, you still don’t mind races where there’s plenty of running as well.
Amdahl: No, I like that. I like both. I think I’m better on the technical stuff, but I like it when it’s a little bit faster as well.
iRunFar: You also mentioned you’ve done a six-hour race. I’m assuming that was on a flat circuit?
Amdahl: Yes. That’s not my favorite. I did a 24-hour race last December (2013), and that was horrible.
iRunFar: So we probably won’t see you in Torino for the [IAU] World Championships?
Amdahl: No, no. Never. I’m not fast enough either. I’m too slow.
iRunFar: It might not seem it at any given snapshot, but those 24-hour racers are…
Amdahl: They’re fast.
iRunFar: Yeah. So, you had these great results last year with Transgrancanaria and UTMB. Which do you think was your better race last year?
Amdahl: UTMB for sure. The competition was bigger than Transgrancanaria, and it’s a longer race, and I was able to stay tapped in the whole day. Yeah, I’m very happy with that.
iRunFar: Are you taking part in the 2015 Ultra-Trail World Tour? Is that your goal for this year?
Amdahl: Yeah, it is.
iRunFar: It seems from just talking to you over the last few minutes, right now you live in Gran Canaria in the Canary Islands of Spain. You lived in the U.S. apparently during high school. You’re from Norway; you’re going back there in July. You’ve raced in New Zealand a decade ago. You must like traveling?
Amdahl: I do. I do and my family does as well, and my wife. We love to travel and see new places and do new things. To mix the travel and the running is a good mix for us.
iRunFar: Your family wasn’t able to join you here in Hong Kong. It’s a very short trip. But will they be joining you at some of the other races this year?
Amdahl: Yeah, I hope so. Hopefully at Transgrancanaria they will join me and follow me. I hope my wife will crew me at Mt. Fuji [UTMF] in the fall and some other races during the summer. I’ll do Western States, and my family will join me there as well.
iRunFar: You’ve got a full schedule it sounds like?
Amdahl: I do. I do.
iRunFar: Those are four long races. Are you going to throw in other races in between or are you going to focus fairly heavily on those?
Amdahl: It’s Transgrancanaria after this. Then it’s Western States, an A race for me. Then, yeah, it’s Fuji, and I’m not sure about UTMB. It’s really close to Fuji.
iRunFar: Yeah, it is. It’s a hard double.
Amdahl: So, I might do the Transalpine-Run. It’s the same time as UTMB, but I think it’s easier on my body to do six days in a row than the UTMB.
iRunFar: There are a lot of ultrarunners who say they can go to a race and take it easy. Do you think you’d be able to do that at Transalpine or would you get caught up in the competitive spirit?
Amdahl: Ahhh. I don’t know. I normally get caught up. I’ll say it’s a B race, and I’ll say I’m going to go slow, but that’s hard. I’m competitive, and I like to race. I’m actually doing Miwok 100k in the beginning of May. Hopefully I can do that a little bit more casual as a training run for Western States.
iRunFar: Will you be racking up more airline miles with that or are you going to stay in the United States for a little while?
Amdahl: That’s a good thing, we’re going to stay in the U.S. Yeah, 2015 is going to be awesome. We travel to the U.S. at the end of April and then stay until after Western States.
iRunFar: Then back to Norway?
Amdahl: Yeah, then back to real life.
iRunFar: Back to real life—at least for now. For a lot of people from North America or from Europe, at least from Norway, this is a real early-season race to run 100k. You’re in Gran Canaria. Have you been getting good training in?
Amdahl: I have. I took four weeks completely off running after Diagonale des Fous. I then started running again at the end of October, no sorry, the end of November. Yes, December has been good. It’s nice to be able to train on good trails in Gran Canaria. I’m not 100%, but I’m in shape.
iRunFar: It must be a little strange because living in Europe, at Transgrancanaria you probably knew who the top runners were and same with Mont Blanc. Here…
Amdahl: I don’t know.
iRunFar: There are a lot of strong runners, but we just don’t necessarily know who they are.
Amdahl: Yeah, I’ve seen that there are a lot of good runners from Japan and Nepal and mainland China and here in Hong Kong as well. So that’s good thing. I think that’s one of the reasons why I do okay because I don’t think too much about the competition. I just get to the start line and see how it goes and do my best.
iRunFar: Do your own running.
Amdahl: Yeah. If you are from a small country like me, if you have too much respect, that’s not good either. You need to do your best and don’t worry about the competition I think.
iRunFar: Great talking to you, Sondre, and see you.
Amdahl: Thank you. Thank you.
iRunFar: One quick bonus question. We’re here in Hong Kong. Is there anything you’re looking forward to—food, a sight, or anything you want to check out during your few days here?
Amdahl: First of all, I want to get to the finish of the race, see a bit more of the city maybe?
iRunFar: See the city and have some real Chinese food. We have Chinese food all over the U.S., but I want to see how different it is here.
Amdahl: Yeah, me too. Me, too.
iRunFar: Alright, let’s go hit the trails.
Amdahl: Yeah, let’s do that.