Following on from her fourth-place finish at last year’s CCC, Hungary’s Eszter Csillag placed fifth in the 2022 UTMB. Here she talks about her build-up, including racing Transgrancanaria earlier this year, and how the day unfolded for her.
For more on how this year’s UTMB unfolded, read our 2022 UTMB results article.
Eszter Csillag Post-2022 UTMB Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Sarah Brady of iRunFar, I’m here with Eszter Csillag, who placed fifth at the 2022 UTMB. Eszter, how are you?
Eszter Csillag: Fine, thank you. I’m very happy.
iRunFar: Congratulations, you look really fresh. So you’re no stranger to the UTMB podium. You were fourth here at CCC [100k] last year. How does this feel by comparison?
Csillag: Now I had the one-year extra to prepare because last year I was just four months after giving birth. So I guess for a 100 miler, one year proper training, it really helps. And this was also my first 100 miler. I’m very happy how it went, it was a great race, yeah.
iRunFar: That’s great. You’ve done some other pretty tough races. So, you had a good run at Transgrancanaria [126km] earlier this year as well, do you want to tell us about that a little?
Csillag: Yes, so yeah, depends from which point of view we look at it, but yes, I arrived fifth at Transgrancanaria, honestly there I felt so strong at the start. But I had stomach issues from 30 to 90 kilometers. So about 40k I was almost not eating and drinking. And then when I managed to eat something again, I got back my pace. So from a personal perspective I think there was a lot of things I learned from that race. My coach always says that actually, I have to be happy that I don’t DNF, I could finish the race. Yeah, and also that race was a kind of preparation for UTMB because it was 126k so it was a bit closer to the 100 mile. And to see how I am going on that distance, so yeah.
iRunFar: Okay, great. And so you are based in Hong Kong most of the time, isn’t it?
Csillag: Yes. I live in Hong Kong but now, since March I have been in Europe because of the COVID restrictions, I managed to stay in Europe for a little longer, and my daughter goes to kindergarten here. And we go back in October.
iRunFar: Okay, so you’ve done most of your training for this UTMB, in Hungary, in the mountains there?
Csillag: Yes. The highest mountain in Hungary is 1,014 meters elevation, but yeah, I think any hill or mountain makes for training. And then I was in the Alps during summer, a few times. I was here for Marathon du Mont Blanc [90k], which got canceled but actually, that was kind of two weeks of a bit of training. And then from Hungary, it’s like two hours to go to the Alps in Austria so we went there, with some friends. And so I think some of the characteristics of the Alps, what you need for UTMB, I got from those little extras, which was yeah, not in Hungary.
iRunFar: Okay, great. And you did the Eiger Ultra Trail then, the 50k was it?
iRunFar: 51 of course. And how is that?
Csillag: Yeah, that was really, really nice. I was a bit upset from the Mont Blanc got canceled, so I think I was very hungry to the race. Yeah, I arrived the day before and I think how it evolved, it was just a really good race, the 50km I think is a distance which I prepare for well. That was also the place and the route, the scenery, it was so, so beautiful.
And I like that in the first 25k, you do most of the elevation. Which is 3,000, altogether. And then basically, you have a very long downhill; it’s a great route. I’m really interested to try the 100k though. Because when our routes separated, I was a bit jealous that they have another 50k of that beauty.
iRunFar: You are like, I want to go that way!
Csillag: I know.
iRunFar: Okay, well that’s one for next year. So just in terms of your day yesterday, it looks like you were just really comfortable the whole way. Did you have any low points at all?
Csillag: No, I didn’t. I contacted a few people who are really expert, and I trust them. John Ellis, the founder of T8, the team I run with, and also the Hong Kong Ultra Challenge founder, Andre Blumberg. And they were both suggesting that I run a slow pace at the beginning, and then just to catch up after.
So to Courmayeur, basically I was not racing. I was just enjoying and going slow and keeping myself for the second half. I never did that, so that was like really tough to play patient. But on the other hand, it was super nice to do a race and just enjoying it. And then from Courmayeur, yeah, the race started and I was lucky because I arrived to Courmayeur in good shape. So, the strategy then could work.
iRunFar: And did you have a target in terms of like position or time going into this race or were you just really going to see what happens?
Csillag: Not in position, I think UTMB, I checked the various times from the last years and it varies a lot. Probably weather conditions and also, I mean, there are a lot of variations in time. My original time target was 27. I went below that. Yeah.
iRunFar: Brilliant, great. So yeah, just finally, what’s next? Any ideas?
Csillag: For sure I will go to the World Mountain and Trail Running Championships in Thailand, the 80k distance. So that’s the next big one, that’s early November so I have time.
iRunFar: And that will be easy after this?
Csillag: Let’s see how is the weather in Thailand. It can be very wet yeah, jungle-ish.
iRunFar: Yeah, okay, well good luck with that anyway, and congratulations again. Thank you.
Csillag: Thank you, Sarah, thank you.