After finishing as runner-up at the previous edition, Croatia’s Nikolina Šustić won the 2018 IAU 100k World Championships. In this interview, Nikolina talks about her all-race duel with second-place Nele Alder-Baerens, how she self-talked positively late race when the running got hard, what it felt like to win a world-championship title in her home country, and if she plans to race again in 2018.
Be sure to read our in-depth results article for more of the race story.
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here with Nikolina Šustić after her win at the 2018 IAU 100k World Championships. How does it feel?
Nikolina Šustić: I’m really happy.
iRunFar: You’ve looked happy for quite awhile.
Šustić: That’s my style of running with a smile. The last 30k was not so fun because the German girl [Nele Alder-Baerens] was close to me and I was feeling a bit tired. My leg started to hurt. I started to use my head. Then there was no more smiling.
iRunFar: What were you doing with your head?
Šustić: I told myself, Okay, I’m at home now, and this is an opportunity to take the gold. I lost the gold two years ago in Spain by a minute-something little. I didn’t want to lose it also here. Then I just said, Okay, I have to continue pushing, pushing how it goes. In the end it was okay.
iRunFar: It was both the memory of 2016 and the positive of your home?
Šustić: Yes, I really wanted to win here because all the people I know came here to support.
iRunFar: The ‘other Nikolina’ was here.
Šustić: Yes, my twin sister came, and this is perhaps the only big race she has come to watch me. Before she was never with me.
iRunFar: Early in today’s race, Radka Churáňová went out very fast.
Šustić: Yes, I was expecting that because she had great results this year. I was expect she would go fast from the beginning. Later, she lost that because it’s a long race and the course is not so easy here. It’s a bit difficult.
iRunFar: You were not worried early in the race then?
Šustić: No, I was not worried for her but for the German girl, yes, because I know she’s a good runner and uses also her head when running. I was expecting her to make problems.
iRunFar: Watching from the start/finish line, you had 2:00 lead and then 1:20 and 0:40 and 0:20.
Šustić: Yes, I was not feeling good during that period. She passed me with two laps to go and was leading for less than one kilometer. Then I told me, Okay, I have to go now. How it goes, it goes.
iRunFar: There was no holding back. You should try for the win and if you can’t get it, it’s okay?
iRunFar: You pushed it and passed Nele and were back in the lead. When you passed her after a few kilometers, did it feel like it was your race to win?
Šustić: No, still not. I was still not sure. I decided to push, but I didn’t know how it would go at the end. Nele is a really nice girl and a really fast runner. She’s great. It would be also fair if she won the race today.
iRunFar: How was the energy from the crowd here?
Šustić: It was great.
iRunFar: Were there any moments that really stick out from the day as positives?
Šustić: Everything was positive.
iRunFar: How was the heat at the end of the race? Was it hard for you?
Šustić: A bit, yes, it made a difference. In the beginning the weather was okay, and later it was sunny. Usually I can support sunny weather and warm really well, but it seemed today I wasn’t really okay the last 30k probably also because of the warm temperatures.
iRunFar: Were the hills a challenge at all, or did you enjoy the fact it was not flat?
Šustić: Hilly races are my races, but yeah, it was not so easy. I like when it goes up, up, up, up, and then down and not like this (undulating) all the time—up, down, up, down. The circles were all the same; there were too many circles.
iRunFar: I know you race a lot. Do you have any races coming up soon?
Šustić: Yes, there are a lot of races, but I have to decide which I want to run.
iRunFar: So you’re not finished with your racing season yet?
Šustić: No, no, no, now there are a lot of races in autumn. Last autumn I was racing the whole three months with no stopping.
iRunFar: Every week?
Šustić: Every week.
iRunFar: In 2016 after you finished second at the world championships, did you take time off after that? How soon did you…?
Šustić: After that, I had an injury. I had to stop. I was forced to stop.
iRunFar; You really like running. You can just tell. Whether it’s racing or training… how much do you train?
Šustić: I do not train so much. I usually train after work in the afternoon, but I do not run every day. Sometimes I ride a bike or go to swim. It depends how I feel.
iRunFar: So you’re active all the time. You mentioned work. You’re an engineer? Software? What do you do at Ericcson?
Šustić: Yeah, I’m working in system testing of the software. I’ve been at Ericcson for more than six years now.
iRunFar: It’s technical?
Šustić: Yes, it’s very technical, and it’s eight or nine hours in the office. You have a PC and that’s it, but I like my job. There’s no problem.
iRunFar: Then you go out to have your real fun.
Šustić: Yes, I go out to have run with running.
iRunFar: Congratulations on winning your race.
Šustić: Thanks. Thank you very much.
iRunFar: I have one bonus question for you. Tell us about ‘Slonica.’
Šustić: Slonica? It’s an elephant.
iRunFar: It is your nickname?!
Šustić: Yes, it is my nickname. It was four years ago there was a [Red Bull] Wings for Life race, and someone referred to me as Nikolina Slonica Šustić, and from that time it remained—Slonica Šustić. But I’m a bit taller and stronger than other girls that run, so it can stay like that.
iRunFar: You have fun with it?
The second article in a two-part series about the hip-hinge position for efficient running.