We interview Finland’s Henri Ansio for the first time ahead of Les Templiers 2021. In the following interview, Henri talks about his history with sports and running, how he became a trail runner, what he enjoys about running Les Templiers, and what trail running is like in Finland.
Henri Ansio Pre-2021 Les Templiers Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar, here with Henri Ansio before the 2021 Le Grand Trail des Templiers. How are you Henri?
Henri Ansio: I’m fine, thanks.
iRunFar: This is our first time interviewing you, so I’d love to know a little bit about your history with sports.
Ansio: Yeah, I started running 10 or 20 years ago for losing weight and then I started racing marathons many years ago. And then I start to be better and better for racing, so nowadays I’m more like a competition runner than a losing-weight runner. But not the background history from teenager about racing or running.
iRunFar: So it’s interesting, you’re not the only one who’s come to the very competitive end of ultrarunning from starting to run to lose weight and be more healthy.
Ansio: Yeah, realize that this is a fun way to be in shape and I like to run. Running is a good sport for me, I like to run. Starting from the marathons and then from ultrarunning and then from trail running, so all kinds of running.
iRunFar: How many years into your running did you make that transition from, maybe health and recreation to wanting to compete a little?
Ansio: Maybe it was something like almost seven or six years ago when I start to run ultramarathons and run sub three hours in the marathon.
iRunFar: How did you get into trail running? Because you said you were doing marathons so I would guess you were running on the roads, but how did you find trails?
Ansio: My background is from marathon running on flat sections, flat running, so from trail running in Finland we have this country marathon race in Lapland and I have been there for wintertime almost every year. And I was skiing there but I haven’t been running there anything before 2014. There was this running race in the trails first time, so then I loved it. I like to go to the trail race.
iRunFar: So you knew the area before?
Ansio: Yeah, but it was from the wintertime. I haven’t been there in summertime so it was a new experience. I have been running marathons in flat but like a first trail running marathon for me, and from the first time, from the first race I won and then I loved it. Maybe that’s helpful, yeah, yeah. I realized I’m very good at this.
iRunFar: Well you are really good at this, you’ve run Les Templiers two times, you’ve been fifth and third. Why does this race, why is it good for you?
Ansio: Because of my background in marathon running, because there is quite long gravel sections with flat sections where it’s very runnable and that suits me. And not big climbs, in southern Finland where I train, the biggest hill is 67 meters.
iRunFar: 67 meters?
Ansio: Yeah. So you know, I struggle with the 1,000-meter climbs, so these climbs that are just like 400, 500 meters are better for me. And then there’s flat runnable sections in between those so it’s a very good race for me, not too technical… except the last 10k. I like the first part because it’s runnable and good for me and a good combination of flat sections and technical sections.
iRunFar: How do you think you can improve? Do you think you can improve upon your third position in the past? And what would you need to do that?
Ansio: That would be hard. I had very good races two times in here, so it will be hard to improve from that. Maybe the last 10k, that’s hard for me, but that’s hard for everybody because everybody is so tired in that part. So at least last time I overtake a lot of people in the last 10k or 25k. I don’t know.
iRunFar: What’s harder? Because in that last 10k there’s a very hard climb and a very hard descent, which is more of a challenge for you?
Ansio: Maybe the descent because it goes after the long climb so you destroy your legs in the climb and then you struggle in the descent, it’s hard.
iRunFar: I think this is our first time interviewing a Finnish runner. Can you tell me a little bit about the trail running culture in Finland?
Ansio: It started like, first trail running, most famous in Finland is the Marathon of Dangers, it’s like 15 years ago and there was like three guys, five guys, below 10 guys. And then about 10 years ago, there started to be more trail running races. And nowadays the culture has grown very, very rapidly, the last five years. So there has been this kind that takes several big races in Finland. And then in Lapland there are very nice courses for trail running so it’s nice. And then people are loving to get to the new places.
iRunFar: And is it a mix, the new people in the sport, is it a mix of people coming from road marathons or 10ks and as well as people who just come from enjoying the forest?
Ansio: Yeah, probably both. Lots of people are coming from the road marathons to trail running, a new experience for them. The most popular races are sold out in one day even though those are like 1,000 people. So it’s very popular.
iRunFar: I think of Finland and I think of a very difficult winter, a lot of snow, cold. How do you train through the winter?
Ansio: In the south there is not so much snow nowadays. I like to ski a lot in the winters when it snows, but in the southern part there is, nowadays not so much. It’s like rainwater and cold and dark.
iRunFar: That’s not fun.
Ansio: That’s the hard part, to keep the motivation in the dark days, but in the summertime we have lots of sun so it’s good. Yeah, it’s hard to train uphills, at least in the south. But there is quite technical terrain in the trails in Finland, so it’s good training.
iRunFar: It will prepare you for the difficult sections here?
Ansio: Yeah, a similar type because in Finland there are lots of roots and stones you have to be very, very balanced and check where you land.
iRunFar: Thank you for sharing that. And best of luck this weekend.
Ansio: Thank you.