Peter Fraňo of Slovakia finished third in the 2023 Trail World Championships 80k in Innsbruck-Stubai, Austria. In this interview, conducted in writing the week after the race, he talks about how the day went, a little about the trail running scene in Slovakia, and what it meant to race as part of a team.
For more on what happened in the race, read our 2023 Trail World Championships 80k results article.
iRunFar: Congratulations on your great run. What’s your history with sports? How did you get into running?
Peter Fraňo: I played football until I was 18 and then I had plenty of time, nothing to do, and due to living close to the mountains I started to do ski mountaineering. In the summer when the snow melted running was a natural movement, so I started running.
iRunFar: What’s the trail running and ultrarunning scene like in Slovakia? Tell us about the community, the trails, the races.
Fraňo: The trail running community is growing really fast and we have a lot of local races every week in all distances. I think the trail running community is like everywhere, all know each other, and the atmosphere is very friendly. We have very beautiful trails, similar to Innsbruck. We are a small country but with the perfect conditions for training for trails. We have steep uphills, technical ridges… so I think it is the perfect place for running.
iRunFar: Of the men who ended up on the podium at this race, you went out the most aggressively on the first 18-kilometer loop. Was it your plan to run near the front early in the race?
Fraňo: I had no plan for the beginning. I just wanted to stay in my comfort zone, ideally close to the front of the race, but I was also prepared for the situation that I could be somewhere in the middle of the starting field. I was surprised that I was close to the front from the beginning so sometimes I had to calm down a little bit and slow down to stay in the group because I was close to the biggest favorites that have much more experience in ultra than me.
iRunFar: You fell back a few positions after the first loop. Were you worried that you were falling back in the race field, or were you simply relaxing into your own race?
Fraňo: I wanted to do my own race and after the 18k loop, I saw that the race started and runners started to push a little bit more. I tried to stay in my comfort zone for the first half of the race, so I didn’t care about my position.
iRunFar: By 50k, you had moved into third position. Did you make a strong move somewhere on the course?
Fraňo: The plan was to keep calm until aid station number three and from there start competing. I ran really well uphill around kilometer 45. I was able to run almost the whole uphill without walking, and there I passed Thibaut [Garrivier], Zach [Miller], and Aritz [Egea]. At that time, I felt really good.
iRunFar: What was it like running in third position for so long? Were you nervous? Excited?
Fraňo: It was nice, but I didn’t feel anything special. Sometimes I saw a cameraman run with me, but the feeling was the same as usual.
iRunFar: What’s your best memory from these world championships?
Fraňo: Probably when I saw the Slovak team at the finish line — they were really happy, maybe more than me. Usually I run alone, maybe with one person who provides support but here it was really nice that we were a team and we supported each other. And for a small moment I felt that it isn’t an individual sport, but I had a crew there.
iRunFar: What other race or races will be your focus for the rest of this year?
Fraňo: I want to qualify for the CCC so I will do Val d’Aran [by UTMB] and if I succeed, I will do CCC. Besides that, shorter races from the Skyrunner World Series.
iRunFar: Congratulations on your third-place finish!