It was the 2019 Hamburg Marathon and Ida Nilsson was through halfway in 1:15. She only ran a few more kilometers, though, to the 25k point, before dropping. Her racing’s been limited ever since.
“Pain in my left foot,” she said of the drop. “It was a navicular stress fracture. It’s a tiny bone,” she explained and started to visually size it up with her fingers during our video interview. “I decided not to have surgery and walked with a boot for a long time. I skied a little this winter and tried to run a little this spring. It gets worse to run. It’s hard to know how much to do,” she said, echoing the thoughts of every injured runner. Nilsson had an MRI in February, but her stress fracture of course wasn’t a priority in medical facilities in recent months, given COVID-19 considerations, and now still ailing, she’s getting opinions on a next step and that might include surgery.
Nilsson swears off the end. “I feel like I’m not done. I just started with the ultramarathons, mountain running,” her tone audibly picks up at “just started,” pointing to the affection she has for the sport. “There are more things I’d like to do, longer distances.” I prompt, and she answers, “yeah, I’d like to,” about 100 miles.
The 39 year old is Swedish, but living in Norway. “There are a little more mountains, that’s why I moved here. Great nature,” she simply stated. She lives in a fjord-heavy region of Norway popular with tourists, and even now during the COVID-19 pandemic, she’s surprised at the volume of travelers coming through, mostly Norwegians camping. She’s summering at a local outdoors store and sees a lot of those folks come through on their way to the backcountry. Sweden and Norway are quite similar she says, likening the language parallels to Spanish and Portuguese. Although she doesn’t speak Norwegian, she understands it, and Norwegians likewise understand her Swedish.
“I’d like to be a little closer [to family],” Nilsson admits. “My younger brother has a kid now, and it feels far away–a 12- to 14-hour drive.” I ask what the flight path would look like and shoots it down too. “Three flights, not very easy.” Nilsson is just back from her home country though, and did a 10-day self-isolation upon her return. The timing of her visit roughly coincided with the seven-year anniversary of her younger sister’s death, though that wasn’t the reason for her trip. It’s a sensitive subject under any circumstances, let alone a Skype call, but I’m hitting the same nine-year anniversary with my younger brother and ask. “I try to think about the good times, and her birthday is more emotional for me,” Nilsson says a bit somberly. “We spread her ashes in the ocean,” and Nilsson frequents that spot when returning to Sweden. Seven, or nine, years later, I know it’s hard to talk about and don’t ask her more and she does the same.
Nilsson craves the outdoors and stays active as much as she can, despite the injury. That’s meant a lot of road biking, yoga, and even aqua running. “I’ve got to put a wetsuit on, it’s too cold with just the floating device, but still better than in a swimming pool,” Nilsson said of the extreme outdoor aqua jog. Likewise, Nilsson favors the road bike over anything in the local gym. “I’ve got to get away from the house, it’s easy to get distracted at home.”
Gardening is one of those at-home distractions and though Nilsson insists she’s an amateur, her Instagram shows some real prowess. “It’s just for us,” she says of the vegetable haul for herself, roommate, and neighbors. “We wanted to see if we could get enough potatoes for a full year, and beetroots and carrots for a half year.” Nilsson guesses she’s 95% vegetarian. It’s just a hobby, but Nilsson does hold a passion for sustainability and a long-time interest in berries and wild plants. Snow into May delayed the harvest this year, and then June’s been surprisingly dry, but the southern Norway climate is generally productive.
Nilsson’s Wikipedia page reveals herself as a Jill-of-all-trades. Chef, massage therapist, and wilderness guide–and Nilsson confirms that it’s all true. “I’ve got things to fall back on, my [university] degree is in anthropology,” conceding that the career prospects in that field are limited. “I don’t know what you can do with that unless you go farther [academically].”
More recently though, Nilsson’s a business owner. She teamed with Mimmi Kotka and Emelie Forsberg to launch Moonvalley, a sports-nutrition company built on organic ingredients. Most sales happen online, but the products are in a few groceries and some mountain huts too. Nilsson says it’s small–she answers all emails–but there’s a few others and it’s all made and shipped from Gothenburg, Sweden. The trio just published Moonvalley Diaries too, a book about running, cooking, and general well-being.
Ida Nilsson’s injured and her running’s limited, but dang, she’s still got a lot going on, and surgery or no, hopefully she’ll be back running full-time soon.
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