Kristin Berglund, a Swede who lives in Austria, had a huge breakout race to take second at the 2019 UTMB. In this interview, our first with Kristin, hear her talk about how she only decided a few days before the race that she would actually start, how the race played out for her, how her performance surprised even her, and her history in running.
Be sure to read our in-depth results article to find out how the race played out.
Kristin Berglund Post-2019 UTMB Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here with Kristin Berglund after her second-place finish at the 2019 UTMB. Congratulations!
Kristin Berglund: Thank you very much.
iRunFar: We were just talking, and you said you actually can’t believe that you got this result.
Berglund: Yeah, it’s unbelievable. So cool. It’s amazing.
iRunFar: Going into the race, what did you think was possible?
Berglund: I thought about not starting, just one week ago.
Berglund: Because it’s so much going on, privately in my life. But now I’m here and I started [the race]. I had some foot pain, but after 35 or 40 kilometers I didn’t feel that any longer. The race was actually perfect. I didn’t have any big problems at all.
iRunFar: Do you think that worrying about other things in your life, you maybe had less pressure to run here?
Berglund: Yeah, that could be. And it’s a big thing for every trail runner to, at least once, finish UTMB. I really wanted to finish that once, and I had the UTMB points and I had the vacation time and everything, so let’s have a try. And perfect conditions–the weather was good.
iRunFar: You ran a very smart race. You were controlled.
Berglund: Yeah, I don’t think so much when I’m running. I just do my thing and keep my pace. I don’t think so much about what other people are doing. I have just enough with me, and I think that’s quite good.
iRunFar: You don’t worry about other people’s paces.
Berglund: No, because I can’t change that anyways.
iRunFar: For your own race, did you have a plan to be conservative? Did you intend to go out easy and try to run strong later?
Berglund: No, I just don’t have a plan.
iRunFar: Just go run?
Berglund: Yeah. Yes, of course I was pushing like the first 20k, but when I do a race, I’m just thinking about me. I have my own pace, and it is how it is.
iRunFar: During this race, was there a certain point, a kilometer mark, when you started thinking this was a very special day?
Berglund: Yeah, at the end when I was fourth, and then I was third, and then I was second. The end was stressful because Maite Maiora came up, popped up. I thought, “No!” The last climb was quite stressy actually.
iRunFar: How close was she?
Berglund: She was 30 minutes from Vallorcine to Chamonix. I know she’s very good, also when it’s technical and on the downhills. Again, I thought I’ll do my own thing and we’ll see how it goes.
iRunFar: So, you had no troubles during the race?
Berglund: No, actually not.
iRunFar: Just a perfect, easy day?
Berglund: Of course, every time there was a downhill, I thought, “Oh, I can’t run with those legs!” But then I think, “Easy legs, easy legs” and so it goes.
iRunFar: So, the troubles you experienced were normal for UTMB and 100 miles.
Berglund: Yes, but I didn’t have any stomach problems or anything like that. Maybe that’s the most important thing in such a long race, is that you can eat and drink.
iRunFar: And this was your longest race ever by a good amount.
iRunFar: You had done Transgrancanaria.
Berglund: Yes, that was the longest race before.
iRunFar: You did well there, too.
Berglund: At Transgrancanaria I didn’t feel so good. That was hard. This one was much better.
iRunFar: You were fourth at that one?
Berglund: Yes. I think it had much to do with the nutrition.
iRunFar: Did you change your nutrition before this race?
Berglund: No, I don’t know. At this race I thought I’d take more normal food at the beginning and gels at the end. Not so much sugar at the beginning. I think that was good, but everyone has their own way with the nutrition.
iRunFar: It’s very personal.
Berglund: Yes! But for sure, you have to manage with the salt and so on–you have to think about what you’re eating on the course.
iRunFar: So, you had that fourth place at Transgrancanaria and you were fifth at Transvulcania. Those are good results, but this is a whole other level.
Berglund: Yeah, but I think Transvulcania was a really good race. This was good, too. I think I made a big step from last year to this year.
iRunFar: Why was that? Did you change your training?
Berglund: No, I don’t really know. I don’t have a plan for training and so on. I’m more like… I do what I want.
iRunFar: That’s kind of fun. I think Courtney Dauwalter is somewhat similar–you run your own race. Not to have a coach and a calendar.
Berglund: No, that’s not who I am. I can’t have it like this–have a plan and I have to follow it. That’s not the thing for me.
iRunFar: This is iRunFar’s first time interviewing you. I’d love to know more about your history with sports. Have you been an athlete all your life?
Berglund: No, no. Not at all. I’m from Sweden. I grew up in Sweden and everything. Then I figured out I loved the mountains, so at 19 I moved to Austria, close to Innsbruck, to do skiing and mountaineering, stuff like that. I did ski mountaineering, too. Since, I don’t know, like five or six years, I’ve been doing this trail running. But I never did track and field or anything.
iRunFar: No intense Nordic skiing or anything?
Berglund: No. So, I’ve lived in Austria for a long time now, and I spend a lot of time in the mountains.
iRunFar: So how did you find trail running?
Berglund: I was running with a small running club. A girlfriend asked me if I wanted to the Trans-Alpine Run with her. That was my first race: Eight days and 350k. You’re doing it as a team.
iRunFar: It’s very mountainous.
Berglund: Yeah, yeah. Then I saw this trail running scene.
iRunFar: That’s crazy.
Berglund: Yeah, I know. But it’s cool.
iRunFar: I know you’re from Sweden, but you learned to be a trail runner in Austria. Can you tell me more about the trail running scene in Austria?
Berglund: In Austria it’s getting bigger now, but it’s not like in France or maybe the U.S., I don’t know. In France it’s very big. In Austria, it’s more like mountain running. It’s just uphill mostly. But the sport is growing now. The scene is nice.
iRunFar: So, the community is small, but it’s growing. Is it more people coming from that mountaineering side?
Berglund: Yeah. The Austrians are a bit conservative, so it takes some time before they are accepting.
iRunFar: But there are also a lot of good trail races in Austria now.
Berglund: Yeah, it’s getting better now. Grossglockner Ultra-Trail is cool, Stubai Ultratrail is cool and also Trans-Alpine Run, but that’s from Germany. I think it will grow all the time now and become really popular.
iRunFar: I think with having examples like you…
Berglund: Yeah, that’s also good. It’s cool. I’m very happy especially if more women are starting to trail run.
iRunFar: Very nice. So, you’ve had–at least from what I can see–a fairly small race schedule this year. You had Transvulcania and UTMB.
Berglund: And Stubai. It was just the three. Stubai Ultratrail is 65k and 6,000 meters. That’s a very cool race because you start in Innsbruck, the city, and run 3,000 meters up to a glacier, and that’s the finish line.
iRunFar: Do you have any more races this year?
Berglund: Maybe Limone Extreme Skyrace. That will be cool. I hope that I can run, but we will see…
iRunFar: If the recovery is good.
Berglund: Yeah, if the recovery is good. We will start there, I think. And maybe also one in Austria, Gamstrail. So, we will see.
iRunFar: So, you’re not done yet for the year.
Berglund: No, I hope I can do something more this year.
iRunFar: That will be an interesting transition to go from UTMB to Limone and running fast.
Berglund: Yeah, but it’s so steep. Limone, I think that’s cool. I have never done Limone. I think it’s a cool race, and also the atmosphere. I’ve been there before cheering and everyone is there.
iRunFar: Next year do you think you’ll come back to UTMB?
Berglund: I think I will for sure be here, but we’ll see what I run and if I run.
iRunFar: Cool. Well, congratulations on a wonderful race.
Berglund: Thank you!
iRunFar: Well done.
Berglund: Thank you very much.