Mimmi Kotka is the defending women’s champion at the 2019 Madeira Island Ultra-Trail. In this interview, Mimmi talks about her family’s history with Madeira Island, why she’s returned to race MIUT again, and a big lesson she learned during her 2018 of racing.
Mimmi Kotka Pre-2019 Madeira Island Ultra-Trail Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Meghan Hicks of iRunFar and I’m with Mimmi Kotka. It’s the week of the 2019 Madeira Island Ultra-Trail. Good morning, Mimmi.
Mimmi Kotka: Good morning.
iRunFar: How are you doing?
Kotka: I’m doing great. The sun is shining.
iRunFar: Madeira Island is familiar to you. You said your mom used to live and work here?
Kotka: Yeah, so my mom was a tour guide here in the 1970s. She actually met my dad when she was home visiting my sister. They hooked up because he came to visit her here, and they became a couple here in Madeira. So maybe even the idea of me was born here [laughs]. You never know.
iRunFar: There’s a lot of history of Madeira and Mimmi intertwined.
Kotka: I love this place. For me, it’s always… my parents have this story around this place, so they always talked about it growing up. Now that I’ve spent some time here, I’ve really fallen in love with this island, too.
iRunFar: So is this your second time on the island for MIUT, or have you been here for other races?
Kotka: No, I haven’t. But there are some nice races here.
iRunFar: There’s a lot of races on Madeira now.
Kotka: Yes, it’s supposed to be really nice, all the races.
iRunFar: Let’s talk about last year’s Madeira Island Ultra-Trail. You were here and you won the 115k event. What brings you back again? You already did it!
Kotka: [Laughs] The island brings me back. The race, the course. First of all, I love Madeira. MIUT is one of my favorite races. I have a bucket list of races that I want to do, and some are so great that I have to do them twice. Or maybe even more. This is one of those races for sure, so that’s why I’m here.
iRunFar: And you had just a great performance here last year. You were sort of all by yourself at the front. Is that a source of motivation to come back, too, that it was such a good race?
Kotka: No, not really. No, because I actually had some struggle because we had really bad weather in the night. It got really cold up on the high peaks, so it wasn’t the perfect race in that sense. I had a part where I was really, really cold and I was suffering a lot, actually. I’m back because of the race. It’s a very nice organization around the race, too. Sidónio Freitas, that’s the race organizer, he’s a good guy. I just like the event. And the course–beautiful and brutal.
iRunFar: So let’s talk about the course for a minute. We’re at sea level [gestures to the sea in the background]. The race starts and finishes at sea level.
Kotka: Do not let sea level fool you! [Wags her finger at the camera]
iRunFar: [Laughs] Okay, talk more about that because up high, the island goes up to almost 2,000 meters–around 1,800 meters or something like that–and the climate is so different there.
Kotka: Yes, and it’s very exposed because we’re in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. The peaks here are very exposed, too, and there’s a bunch of steep climbs and steep descents. I think the most gnarly descent is taken out this year.
iRunFar: Which one was that?
Kotka: You do the first climb, then you go down the second one. It’s very technical.
iRunFar: Got it. You’re going around and down this year, as opposed to straight down.
Kotka: I think so, I’m not sure. But I heard it’s gone, the straight-down stuff.
iRunFar: It’s a little less straight down.
iRunFar: Right. So, let’s talk about your year in running last year. You had a really great first half of the year. The last time we saw you and talked to you was before UTMB, which didn’t work out for you.
Kotka: No, it was just… I was blinded by my obsession with the grand UTMB, I think. I started running when Rory Bosio did her best UTMB performances. To me, that was a very important part of my running dream. Seeing her do such amazing things, finishing seventh overall, for me it changed my perception of what the female athlete can do. I was very inspired by that. So, I had UTMB as this goal I wanted to do at some point. I said it in an interview before: I think I held onto it so tight, but I had lots of health problems from injuries from falling and also from scrambling. I also had a virus.
iRunFar: You didn’t have anything going for you that day.
Kotka: No, and I should’ve listened to my body and to people around me, but I was just in denial. It was like pouring cold water on your head afterward: What are you doing? But in a way, it’s good because for me it took some of the obsession away.
iRunFar: It was a little like opening the pressure valve and letting some of the gas out.
Kotka: Yes, actually it was. Now I realize that for me, I haven’t been running for so long and I haven’t been an ‘athlete’ for so long. I also felt like I have responsibilities toward sponsors and the people that follow the sport. I felt a need to be more honest with myself in the future. Lessons learned.
iRunFar: Now here we are at the start of your season in 2019. How are you feeling? Do you feel like you’re back and comfortable?
Kotka: For me, it’s always like… if you’re a winter skier, the spring is like a special time. You don’t know how it will go. This is the first race of the season and I haven’t been running for that long. We’ll see how it goes.
iRunFar: We shall see on Saturday at midnight.
Kotka: Yes. Let’s see how it goes. It’s going to be fun either way.
iRunFar: What an adventure. Best of luck to you, and we’ll see you out on the course.