With a steady, even effort from start to finish, Germany’s Nele Alder-Baerens took second at the 2018 IAU 100k World Championships. In this interview, Nele shares her relief and happiness for her second-place finish, how her close race with women’s champion Nikolina Šustić played out, how it feels to be a part of the ultrarunning family, and what she’ll race next.
Be sure to read our in-depth results article for more of the race story.
Nele Alder-Baerens Post-2018 IAU 100k World Championships Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here with Nele Alder-Baerens after her second place at the 2018 IAU 100k World Championships. Congratulations, Nele!
Nele Alder-Baerens: Thank you. I’m so happy.
iRunFar: You look happy.
Alder-Baerens: I am happy.
iRunFar: Do you feel you had a great race today?
Alder-Baerens: Yeah, it was a great race. I had a little bit of fear because of the hills and elevation, but it was better than I thought and easier than I thought. From my feeling, it was the easiest 100k I’ve had in my life.
iRunFar: Really? Why do you think it was so easy?
Alder-Baerens: Maybe I was confused because of the kilometers because normally it’s a little past 5k or 10k. So at 7.5k, I was confused how many kilometers I had. So I was just running. Normally after 30 or 40k I have a mental dip, and today there was no dip… only in the last lap. But until then, it was just rolling and running, and it was great.
iRunFar: There was never stress? Because once the race really started, you were right behind Nikolina [Šustić]—one minute, two minutes, 20 seconds.
Alder-Baerens: She was too strong. I was very happy. First I was in third place and Radka Churáňová was in first place. Then I overtook her and then was in second. Sometimes I saw Nikolina. In the second to the last lap I was close to her, and for one second I was first—one second or two seconds.
iRunFar: Really? You caught her?
Alder-Baerens: I overtook her, but then she made a sprint, and I said, It’s okay.
iRunFar: Was it on the last lap or before that?
Alder-Baerens: No, second to the last lap. It’s okay. I’m so happy that Croatia won the gold medal in their own championships. It’s okay to lose against Nikolina. She’s strong.
iRunFar: She’s a very good runner. She was second at the previous World Championships. Maybe next time…
Alder-Baerens: No, I’m too old for that.
iRunFar: You were…
Alder-Baerens: I’m just 40 and had the Masters win.
iRunFar: When did you turn 40?
Alder-Baerens: Today… no, this year.
iRunFar: Today—that would have been quite the day. You were second overall; you won the Master’s race. You set a deaf world record, but you knew that because it’s your own.
Alder-Baerens: Yes, it’s my own.
iRunFar: You set a personal best today.
Alder-Baerens: Yes, it’s a personal best by more than six minutes. It’s great. I never though I could break my personal best on that course. Never. Never. Never.
iRunFar: It’s a difficult course. It was humid.
Alder-Baerens: The weather conditions were okay. Only the last three laps, the sun and the heat rose and the temperature rose—only the last lap. But for five or six hours, it was okay. For me it was completely okay. There were hills, but as I just said, it was better than I thought. It was great.
iRunFar: You said you had a little bit of a scare when you went to get your water bottle on the last lap? Tell me a little bit about that.
Alder-Baerens: He changed the bottles and for that, I thought I had to run an additional lap. I was confused because I’d made my powder for exactly the last lap. I was confused because I saw my bottle with the number of the second-to-last lap. I was thinking, Oh, my gosh, I have to do an additional lap. But when I entered the tents, the coaches gave me the German flag and then it was clear.
iRunFar: It was not a big enough problem that you would have chased Nikolina or anything like that.
Alder-Baerens: No, it was okay. I was so happy Croatia won the gold medal at their own championships. It’s so nice. And Nikolina is a nice woman and a champion woman.
iRunFar: I don’t know if you noticed, but the announcer at the finish who was for the whole race, he taught everyone here how to cheer for you. Did you see?
Alder-Baerens: Yes, I did see, and I also saw you do the sign for the deaf. It was so nice. Thank you so much for that.
iRunFar: You have a deaf world record and those kind of achievements, but you’re as strong as anyone else. You’re as strong as any other athlete.
Alder-Baerens: I’m the only deaf person who runs 100k.
iRunFar: Yeah, but you compete with everyone else. As you explained before the race, it can be a challenge to prepare, but you’re just as fast and just as strong. Do you feel like you inspire other people with your achievements?
Alder-Baerens: Inspire? I just want to send out the message that ultramarathon runners are a big family. You have each other independent of the personal best or the medal or whatever. It’s a completely different feeling. Formerly, I also ran in a big stadium with 10k and 5k, but ultrarunners are like a big family. It’s so nice because it’s different to run 100k. It’s so hard. It’s so nice that in the end, all of the people are happy to finish 100k. It’s a big adventure to get this performance and to get the power to end 100k. I’m so happy with all the runners in the end. All of them in the end are only just happy to enter the race of 100k.
iRunFar: As you have said, you’re excited about how Nikolina did and her performance. I’m sure when she sees you, she will give you a big hug and congratulate you.
iRunFar: If you could run a very large personal best today in difficult conditions, how fast do you think you can run? Do you think you can improve more?
Alder-Baerens: I don’t know. Maybe the world championships pushed me, first. Second, the next time I will be two years older. I think the older I am, the slower I will be. I’m not 20, I’m 40. Maybe when you’re 20, you can increase your performance, but when you’re 40, I’m not sure.
iRunFar: I will email you the results of Meghan Arbogast, now Meghan Laws, who was at the front of these races at age 52, 53. Maybe at Winschoten?
Alder-Baerens: No, I’ll only just run the German Master’s Championships, and it will be too much racing.
iRunFar: No, but in two years, maybe we will see you in Winschoten in 2020?
Alder-Baerens: No, I will just run the championships to concentrate on the German Master’s Championships or world championships or European championships and not to make too much races.
iRunFar: Is your season finished?
Alder-Baerens: No, in four weeks on October 6, I will run the Taubertal 100 Mile. It’s a German race on the River Tauber, and it’s organized by Hubert Beck who also has a Facebook site. You can run 50k, 71k, 100k, and 100 miles. He invited me to run the 100 miles for the first time in my life. But I just wonder, it’s only four weeks after this championships, so I said, “No,” but he said, “Please, run.” “Okay.” Just four weeks.
iRunFar: Congratulations on your run today, and enjoy your new adventures at 100 miles.
Alder-Baerens: Thank you. I hope I can finish. It’s 60k more.
iRunFar: More time to enjoy the race.
Alder-Baerens: Thank you.