Fu-Zhao Xiang Pre-2023 UTMB Interview

A video interview (with transcript) with Fu-Zhao Xiang before the 2023 UTMB with transcript.

By on August 28, 2023 | Comments

Fu-Zhao Xiang of China is running UTMB for the fourth time in 2023, and her performances so far keep getting better. Most recently, she placed seventh at last year’s event. In this interview, she talks about her time in Europe this summer in preparation for the event, what it is that draws her back year after year, and what improvement looks like to her on this course.

For more on who’s racing, check out our in-depth men’s and women’s previews. Follow along with our UTMB live race coverage from Friday.

[Editor’s Note: Thanks so much to JJ Zhang for the translation!]

Fu-Zhao Xiang Pre-2023 UTMB Interview Transcript

iRunFar: Meghan Hicks of iRunFar. I’m with Fu-Zhao Xiang. It’s a couple of days before the 2023 UTMB. Hi, Fu-Zhao.

Fu-Zhao Xiang: Hello.

iRunFar: UTMB is a race you have done many times before. What brings you back again and again to UTMB?

Xiang: [through translator] This is my fourth time here in UTMB. And for me, UTMB is the most important race every year, and I want to improve every year.

iRunFar: And every year you have improved. Your first year, you finished a bit back. Your second year, just outside the top 10. And last year, seventh place. What do you think is your maximum potential at UTMB?

Xiang: Every athlete here wants to be the champion, and for the all the athletes, they are their own champion. They have, everybody win a lot of races already. So, I want to have no targets, and I think I will be the champion one day, but for now I just try to be better every year.

iRunFar: So, your goal when you come back is to improve by some amount each year?

Xiang: If there’s not any accident this year, I think I can improve. Yes.

iRunFar: Yes, very good. This is a race that really rewards a person who can execute well on race day. It’s a very complicated race. The weather, the mountains, the nighttime, the daytime, maybe the heat. What do you think about when it comes to race day execution and being your best self that day?

Xiang: I ran a lot of races before, and it’s like training. But UTMB is the finals and I executed already trying different races. So, I will put my best in the UTMB.

iRunFar: All of the things that you’ve learned from other races come to this one.

Xiang: I got a lot of experience with all the races before, including all the three UTMB races before. All the three races at UTMB, I felt very sleepy in the nighttime.

iRunFar: Oh, okay.

Xiang: And so this time I am trying to not sleep in the night.

iRunFar: Not to feel sleepy, yeah, in those early, early morning hours before the sun comes up.

Xiang: Every time before at UTMB, I feel very sleepy after Courmayeur.

iRunFar: After?

Xiang: After Courmayeur. And last year after the mountain, after Courmayeur, I slept at the top for 30 minutes. And others are all very surprised that an athlete would sleep in the race for so much time.

iRunFar: That will definitely be a challenge to try to overcome this year.

Xiang: I already found a nutrition plan to get over it. Yes.

iRunFar: Maybe a little bit of sugar and a little bit of caffeine?

Xiang: Caffeine is very important.

iRunFar: Okay, so you are a very international runner at this point, both before COVID-19 and after COVID-19. You’ve traveled to races all around the world, but you keep coming back to UTMB. Is there something about Chamonix and about these mountains that particularly draws you, or are you here for the competition, that it’s a competitive final?

Xiang: The first reason is the view in Chamonix is very beautiful. And the second reason is my first time in Chamonix in 2018, I ran UTMB and I feel the culture here. And that’s the reason, that’s why I decided to be a professional runner.

iRunFar: Okay.

Xiang: So, the third reason is the UTMB is already in fact the UTMB World Series finals. And also UTMB is sponsored by Hoka now, and I’m also sponsored by Hoka, and that’s also the reason. Yeah.

iRunFar: Yeah, awesome. My last question for you. It’s a little bit different here in France than it is at home for you in China. What’s been your favorite thing to eat or do or experience in French culture?

Xiang: It’s the sports atmosphere and the view here.

iRunFar: Yeah. Awesome. Well, I hope you have a great UTMB race, and I hope you enjoy the sports atmosphere, and those incredible views around the course. Good luck to you.

Xiang: Thank you. And I also want to say that Bryon [Powell], because I had a lot of interviews with Bryon and iRunFar, gets all the runners from all over the world to know Fu-Zhao. So, I want to thank you, Bryon, and I hope he can come back next year, maybe.

iRunFar: I think no doubt Bryon will be back. Best of luck to you on Friday and Saturday.

Xiang: Thank you.

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Meghan Hicks

Meghan Hicks is the Editor-in-Chief of iRunFar. She’s been running since she was 13 years old, and writing and editing about the sport for around 15 years. She served as iRunFar’s Managing Editor from 2013 through mid-2023, when she stepped into the role of Editor-in-Chief. Aside from iRunFar, Meghan has worked in communications and education in several of America’s national parks, was a contributing editor for Trail Runner magazine, and served as a columnist at Marathon & Beyond. She’s the co-author of Where the Road Ends: A Guide to Trail Running with Bryon Powell. She won the 2013 Marathon des Sables, finished on the podium of the Hardrock 100 Mile in 2021, and has previously set fastest known times on the Nolan’s 14 mountain running route in 2016 and 2020. Based part-time in Moab, Utah and Silverton, Colorado, Meghan also enjoys reading, biking, backpacking, and watching sunsets.