Swedish Nordic ski racer turned mountain runner Petter Engdahl had a breakout race to take third at the 2019 Transvulcania Ultramarathon. In our first interview with Petter, he talks about his background in sports and how he got into trail running, the first half of the race where he ran alone at the front, the later-racing dynamic he shared with the rest of the men’s podium, and if he’s satisfied with his debut at this longer distance.
Don’t miss our results article which describes the full race story.
Petter Engdahl Post-2019 Transvulcania Ultramarathon Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Meghan Hicks of iRunFar and I’m with Petter Engdahl. You were just the third-place finisher at the 2019 Transvulcania Ultramarathon. Good evening, Petter.
Petter Engdahl: Good evening.
iRunFar: How are you doing? Congratulations.
Engdahl: Thank you very much. Yeah, bit sore right now in the legs but otherwise I feel fine.
iRunFar: Are you, you took a fall on the descent, so aside from that do you have some soreness or is it just left over from that, going down on the ground?
Engdahl: No, it’s like all the muscles in the legs.
Engdahl: I’m pretty stiff right now, but, yeah, that’s how it is after the first race of the season, I guess. Or any skyrace.
iRunFar: So let’s back up because this is iRunFar’s first interview with you. First of all, you’re Swedish.
iRunFar: What part of Sweden do you come from?
Engdahl: I live in Åre right now, but I’m born and raised in Borlänge a bit more south.
iRunFar: Okay. And you’re in your early 20s, or mid-20s?
Engdahl: I’m 24 years old.
iRunFar: You’re 24. And you come from a Nordic skiing background, is that correct?
Engdahl: Yeah, exactly. I’ve been skiing all my life. That has been my main focus, and, then I tried some skyraces a couple years ago and I was hooked after that.
iRunFar: I guess coming from Sweden being a Nordic skier is like being Swedish basically.
Engdahl: Yeah, it’s a big sport in Sweden. For sure.
iRunFar: So tell me about your upbringing in the sport and the level to which you competed before you switched over to running, or do you still do ski competitions?
Engdahl: Yeah, I still compete in cross country skiing, and I was in the national team until this year. I had a really bad winter due to some health problems, but, yeah, I will continue skiing the winter and yeah.
iRunFar: Cool. And so according to sort of online results it looks like you did your first skyrace some time in 2016?
Engdahl: Yeah that’s probably right. It was in Limone.
iRunFar: Okay. How did you choose mountain running? I mean I suppose there’s a natural crossover with some sort of endurance sport, but of all the types of things you could choose, why mountain running?
Engdahl: I think it was when I was 19 and 20 I wanted to be a better climber in cross country skiing, so I started looking at like other athletes who had really good oxygen intake and really good climbers, and ,then of course, when you’re looking for that kind of people Killian [Jornet] and Emilie [Forsberg] and all the other skyrunners immediately come up and so I started to follow in the sport and felt that their ability was really impressive and the sport looked really cool, and I was like, I want to try that. And I always liked to run and tried some local trail races in Sweden, and, then, after that, I want to do some in Europe as well, so then I went to Limone and yeah.
iRunFar: Got hooked really quick it looks like.
iRunFar: Because then in 2017 and 2018 you did tons of mountain races.
Engdahl: Yeah. It has evolved over the last few years.
iRunFar: So let’s talk about today’s race a little bit. Do I have it right that this was the longest distance you’ve raced on foot by like 20 kilometers or something like that?
Engdahl: Yeah. Something like that. My longest before this was Trofeo Kima last year.
Engdahl: So similar in time almost, but distance this was the longest by far.
iRunFar: So how did today feel exactly for you? You went out pretty quick.
Engdahl: Yeah, I felt really good from the start and actually during the whole race actually I felt, especially like when we were up in the mountains, I felt really good. And when they eventually catch me at kilometer 50 or something, I still felt pretty good so I could follow them for a couple kilometers there, and, then, I took a fall, and I had started a little bit, and I had to let them go, but otherwise I’m really satisfied with the feeling today.
iRunFar: Yeah, finishing on a podium in a competitive, in a race with this kind of competition for your first you know almost 80k, 50-mile style race, it has to feel pretty good.
Engdahl: Yeah, of course.
iRunFar: What else do you dream of doing with this sport? I mean you’ve done lots of shorter distances races around western Europe now. You bounced down to the Canary Islands to give a longer skyrace a shot. What are you thinking about doing?
Engdahl: Yeah. I have some plan I want to try longer distances.
iRunFar: Longer than today even.
Engdahl: Right now I don’t want to. [laughs]
iRunFar: Don’t ask me for a little while.
Engdahl: But, yeah, I’ve been curious for some time to try longer, how that would feel, but I want to also still compete in shorter races as well like VKs and sky, shorter skyraces. I like it when you can really push and be at your limit from the beginning and not have to think about I need to save some energy for the last 50k so.
iRunFar: Just sort of looking at your uphill running style today, I just, this was my first time watching you race, I couldn’t help wonder if you had raced VKs or thought about racing VKs?
Engdahl: I have done some VKs. Yeah.
iRunFar: And you would like to do some more?
iRunFar: It seems like you’d be a good uphill runner by your style.
Engdahl: Yeah. VKs have served me well.
iRunFar: Cool. Well congratulations on your podium finish. We’re off in just a couple minutes to the award ceremony where you get to collect all of your goodies.
Engdahl: Yeah. Thank you very much.
iRunFar: We look forward to seeing you around the races.
Engdahl: Yeah. Thank you.