Dominika Stelmach will represent Poland at the 2022 Trail World Championships 80-kilometer race. In the following interview, our first with Dominika, we get to know her as a person and a runner, learn about her diverse background in various running niches, and hear about her build-up to this weekend’s race.
For more on who’s running this year’s Trail World Championships 80k, read our in-depth women’s and men’s previews.
Dominika Stelmach Pre-2022 Trail World Championships 80k Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here with Dominika Stelmach before the 2022 Trail World Championships. How are you?
Dominika Stelmach: Fine, thanks. [laughs]
iRunFar: It is a little warmer than Poland right now.
Stelmach: Not only a little!
iRunFar: How are you finding your time in Thailand so far?
Stelmach: Thailand is a really nice place to visit. I had some problems with my back. So, you know, I was trying to rescue myself with Thai massage. It’s really nice. It’s getting better. So, I have still like one and a half days to be prepared for the race. But I couldn’t run for a few days, and I don’t know if it’s good or not. Maybe it’s good for ultra! We’ll see, because you know, ultrarunners usually run too much. [laughs]
iRunFar: It’s a habit, yeah.
Stelmach: Yeah, so we’ll see. But yes, Thailand is very nice. People are very nice. And the street food is very nice.
iRunFar: It is indeed. So your back, that was just from the travel? It’s not a previous injury?
Stelmach: No, the travel was quite long because it was two planes, six hours and six hours. And six hours in the airport. And then early in the morning, I was running. And during the run, I was like, “Oh no. It was a mistake. It should be one recovery day.” But now it’s better.
iRunFar: Good. Good. Well, I always like to, the first time we talk to someone I like to find out your history with sports and running. How did you get into sports and running?
Stelmach: Well, the sports, I was a figure skater when I was a child. So yes, a few years. I mean, I was quite good in the sport part of running but you know, you also need to be a good dancer. And I was not. [laughs]
iRunFar: You were a good athlete.
Stelmach: So then during my studies, I started to run like, you know, why not? After some parties or stuff like this, I just find that the running is nice. And then, I ran the marathon, and then after two weeks, I ran 100 [kilometers]. Because I thought it’s so funny, and it’s not a big difference. But it was. So then for 10 years, I didn’t do any 100s. But I think my story of true running started after my second kid, because I’m a mom of two boys. And I didn’t have too much time, so I started to run faster. [laughs] Yeah, so I ran a marathon in 2:36. I hope I will run faster but…
iRunFar: It’s pretty fast.
Stelmach: I run too many races, you know, too many ultras. It’s a little bit difficult to speed up. But yes, so it is how it starts and now I like to run everywhere, even stairs, stairs running or whatever. So, you know, there are so many great races. And the choice is so difficult.
iRunFar: I was going to ask you about that. Like so you’ve had really good success on the roads at like Comrades Marathon, Two Oceans Marathon, some timed races, you’ve had good success at. And then you’ve been second at Black Canyon 100k on the trails this year. Do you have a favorite type of running?
Stelmach: I don’t know. I think I like easy trails. So, it’s the most comfortable for me because I’m not very fast for the flats. Totally flat and easy runs. So, for me, when the weather is like here it’s okay because you know, the worst weather for the others, the better for me. And also, I like some hills, but I live in a totally flat city in Warsaw. So, I have problems with downhills, especially when I’m not spending time in the mountains. So, for sure it will be, and it is, the worst part of my mountain running, the downhills.
iRunFar: The downhills.
iRunFar: You prepare well for the ups?
Stelmach: Yeah, prepare ups or you know, the road downhills, the easy ones. But the technical ones are usually very difficult. And when I see all the girls like especially Italian and French, they are like… For me it’s like, maybe I’m too old. And I think, Oh my God, what can happen? So yeah, easy trails are the best. Also, the races like Comrades are very nice for me. You know, Comrades. It’s a road race, but it is totally not flat. It’s all the time up and down. A lot of people dying, I mean, not really dying, but [laughs] it’s really easy to start too fast for Comrades, but it’s not so flat race as some people expect.
iRunFar: So how do you prepare for the different disciplines? Do you take some of your time for your year to focus on roads and other times to focus on trail? Or do you just mix it together?
Stelmach: Usually the first part of the year, I focus on the road because my kids are in school so I have to spend time in Warsaw. And then during the summer holidays, usually I spent like two months in mountains doing some mountain races. And then I’m quite good in the beginning of September in mountain running. [laughs] We’ll see if still in November.
iRunFar: See if you could hold that over.
iRunFar: Little challenging with your children back in school, back training in Warsaw.
iRunFar: So how did you, did you get any preparation for the mountains this time around?
Stelmach: Not too much. I mean, I spent July and August in mountains, then I did Comrades, which is not a mountain but it’s hilly. Then I did one race in the Alps, but it was a team race. So we did 100k but three girls. Doesn’t count.
iRunFar: That’s a good hard workout.
Stelmach: Yeah. But you know, two weeks after Comrades, it was tough for me. And then I was third on the European Championships 50k but the roads. Road race.
iRunFar: How long ago was that?
Stelmach: It was three weeks ago, something like that.
iRunFar: That’s a pretty quick transition from 50k on the roads to almost 5,000 meters of climbing.
Stelmach: Yeah. We’ll see if it was a good choice. But the roads in the 50k were like in Comrades. It was really, really hilly. So it was not for fast marathoners because, oh, the fast girls, they just finished very, very weak and with bad times.
iRunFar: But it’s better for somebody with your background.
Stelmach: Yeah. It was good. It was good for me. So yeah, and I’m really waiting for the start on Saturday, not Sunday. Saturday.
iRunFar: So, you’ve run for Poland at the 50k European Championships.
iRunFar: You’ve run the Trail World Championships a few times. What is it like running for your country?
Stelmach: I’m very happy that we have a team because it was really difficult to make it. You know, the association is not looking good for trails and ultras.
iRunFar: It’s common around the world.
Stelmach: Yes, yes. But yes, we are here, and I hope we’ll do very well. Because also the two other girls, Katarzyna [Solińska] and Katarzyna [Wilk], they are very good runners with very good ITRA scores.
iRunFar: And they’re both in the 80k as well?
Stelmach: Yeah, yes. So yeah. So, it is important to me that I can do it for my country. It is a little bit different because when you compete for your country, you really want to finish it. Even if something is going wrong on the route. It’s like yeah, you should finish it. But what’s not nice on this route is that it’s easy, you know, to just say to quit from the route. Because it’s like,
Stelmach: Yes, maybe not exactly the same but three times or four you are on the same point on the mountain. Yeah. But I hope everybody will finish and everybody will be healthy and smiling after the race.
iRunFar: Nice. So we haven’t interviewed a Polish trail runner/ultrarunner in a really long time. What is the trail scene and ultrarunning scene in Poland like these days?
Stelmach: I think it’s getting better and better. And now we have really nice and very good trail runners. The Covid[-19 pandemic] was a little bit problematic because the last two or three years, a lot of people stayed in Poland because they were afraid of traveling. I was not. [laughs] I hope that next year you will see more Polish athletes on the routes of famous and really nice races around the world.
iRunFar: And how about the races in Poland itself? Where would you recommend people check out?
Stelmach: There was a nice race, Chudy Wawrzyniec. [laughs]
iRunFar: We’ll write that out, don’t worry.
Stelmach: Very difficult, Chudy Wwrzyniec. Yeah, it’s a really great trail. It’s 80k. It’s, I think it’s almost 4,000 meters up but it’s like 95% runnable, so perfect for me. And so, you can enjoy all the beauty of Polish mountains.
iRunFar: Are there pierogies at the aid stations? [laughs]
iRunFar: There should be.
Stelmach: No, and you know there are only two aid stations. So, you have to,
Stelmach: Yeah, take everything with you. But if you are looking for pierogi there are some races where you can find them. [laughs]
iRunFar: Okay. I need to check out, you’ll have to tell me those later.
Stelmach: But here the pierogies and dumplings are also very good.
iRunFar: They are. All right. Let’s go get some. Good luck this week.
Stelmach: Thank you.