In this interview, he talks about his excitement to take on the 100-mile distance, how he built up to it in a logical way, and the summer he has spent in Chamonix, France, preparing for the race.
Petter Engdahl Pre-2023 UTMB Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Sarah Brady of iRunFar. I’m here just a few days before the 2023 UTMB, and I’m here with Petter Engdahl. Petter, how are you?
Petter Engdahl: I’m good. Thank you. How are you?
iRunFar: Good. So, I believe you’ve been in Chamonix for a good while. How’s your summer been here?
Engdahl: Yeah, I arrived in Chamonix just after the [Trail] World Championships [80k]. So, I’ve been here since the beginning of June. And yeah, it’s amazing to spend a summer here in Chamonix, be closer to races here in the Alps, and so on. And just be able to train on the trails here is really amazing. So, it’s been a good summer so far, for sure.
iRunFar: It really is the center of the trail running universe here.
iRunFar: And then, so in terms of your background, you obviously won CCC last year in a great course record, and you were third at OCC the year before that. And then you’ve got loads of experience in shorter distances, but this is your first 100 miler. So how do you feel about that, about stepping up to the distance?
iRunFar: Yeah, it is my first 100 mile, and it’s going to be a very cool experience. And I’m a little bit scared, to be honest. It’s going to be very interesting to see how the body and the mind will feel like after covering such a distance. So, at the moment I feel good, and I feel like I prepared as well as I can here. And so just going to go out and enjoy it. And this is a race I’ve been wanting to do for such a long time, and finally feeling like I’m in a good place to be able to do the distance. I very consciously worked up in distance, like starting with OCC, and then moving up to the 100k at CCC to see if I can handle that distance and if I like it, most importantly. I think it’s really important to really enjoy what you do, and enjoy the work for that. So, I just wanted to see like, do I want to do longer stuff? And obviously CCC went really, really well. And I felt like I don’t want to go back to CCC. It was a perfect day for me, so I want to move forward and to have some new goals to work towards. And I felt like UTMB is the obvious thing, you know. So, I’m really excited to be here and finally do this race.
iRunFar: For sure. And it’s a very sort of natural progression from CCC, then this is the next step.
iRunFar: So, you had a really good race last year. Is there anything in particular you learned from racing the back half of the course at CCC that you’ll apply to this?
Engdahl: Yes, I think for me, I have so many good memories from Refuge Bertone on to the finish in Chamonix. And I would just try to, when it feels bad things, think back to this moment. And yet after spending so much time here, I know a lot about the trails, and every rock, and every turn, and so on. So that will definitely be an advantage for me, for sure. But then it will be a new thing for me, it will be late into the race. So, never been running for that far. I will be surprised if I will have the same pace like I had back then. So, no, it would be a completely different experience. But I’m so looking forward to it.
iRunFar: Okay. And also last year, you seemed to run a very sort of confident race. And do you think that you’ll have to be a little bit more conservative with this one?
iRunFar: I feel really confident at the moment, and also with the terrain and the trails and with the background I have, so I feel confident in a way. Also very curious of how it will be. I’m quite an aggressive runner. I want to put on my show, and want to see how fast I can go. But also important to listen to the body and stay cool, stay calm. So, I will definitely try to do my best and to put myself in a position where I can be up and fight in the top in the end. But for me, the experience of UTMB is highest priority, and I want to have the experience. I want to from start to finish. So we will see how I plan it out and how the body responds. Yeah, we just have to wait and see.
iRunFar: I suppose it’s a balance to measure out for such a long distance, but also have that feeling that you’ve left it all out there.
iRunFar: So then in your training just in the last few weeks building up to this, have you done anything much different? Have you increased your volume? Has there been more hiking?
Engdahl: Yeah. Well, from my background, like two years ago, was definitely doing more cross training like roller skiing. And then the last two years I’ve been more focused on running and just been doing that. And like increase the volume a little bit from month to month. I will say it like this. I have done more mileage this summer than last year, because I have a little bit more experience and training in my body. But yeah, we did the course, me and Ruth [Croft] and Daniel Jones and Majell [Backhausen], some of the other Kiwis and Australian in the beginning of August or end of July. So that was like a really, really big week. And then I had to recover from that. I felt pretty tired, but it was nice to see the course and see the mountains, and do it with a lot of nice people. And then after that I started to get back in training again. I climbed the Mont Blanc a couple of times. So that was my longer days out. Not so much distance, but a lot of elevation. So, that was really nice to just move out and have a nice hike up in altitude and stuff like this.
iRunFar: Okay, yeah. It’s nice to get in some training that’s still worthwhile but to do more sort of relaxed pace.
iRunFar: And then you still had some really good shorter races this season. You were third I think at the Marathon du Mont Blanc, wasn’t it?
iRunFar: And how was that?
Engdahl: Yeah, I did. First in the season I tried the MIUT 115 [Madeira Island Ultra] Trail. I woke up, had a migraine attack before the trail, so it wasn’t ideal. And I ended up having to drop the race at 60k. And that was quite tough, and I needed to work back with my training and find balance again. And I managed to come back, and I wanted to do more shorter races to have more consistency in the training and in the racing. So, it was really cool to be third at Marathon du Mont Blanc. Like, super competitive marathon race, and probably one of the better races I ever done in that kind of field. So, then I felt like I was really back on track again. And then I ran the Eiger [Ultra Trail] by UTMB, which was also a really, really good run performance-wise also. Like, I felt I was in good place. So, for me it really fits to do with these kind of shorter races and really push it something different, and then I have the longer days out in the mountains where I get the longer endurance and be able to concentrate for a long time. So, for me, I don’t want to be an ultrarunner. [laughs] Even though I’m doing UTMB now and it’s a long ultra, I want to keep the balance between the shorter and longer races, and not getting to only doing ultras. I love the short stuff as well.
iRunFar: I think the two complement each other quite well.
iRunFar: And in terms of longevity, it seems to work well for people. So having been here for quite a while, and spent a good while on the course, what part are you most excited about?
Engdahl: Running through the night will be a very interesting experience. I’ve never done that before, so that would be really cool. That part is so beautiful, like the Pyramids, and Lac Combal. And the climbs there will be interesting to see how my pace will be compared to the more experienced in the longer distances. So, yeah, this I’m really looking forward to. And then of course getting into the more familiar parts of the course, like from Champex-Lac where I’ve done both OCC and CCC before. I’m looking forward to that. It will be a different experience from previous years, but still looking forward to it.
iRunFar: Brilliant. And then have you checked out the very last section then that’s rerouted, which will be slightly different from what you did in CCC?
Engdahl: Yeah, I checked it out. It’s the same finish as in Marathon du Mont Blanc. So, I’m quite familiar with it. And also a good experience and memories from that part, for sure. So yeah, it’s slightly different, and I don’t expect where it makes a big difference in time or the final positions of course. But I checked it out and I think, I hope there will be a lot of people in that climb cheering on for the last push.
iRunFar: For sure. And the crowds in Chamonix just make it all so much easier as well. Well thanks so much. It’s great to talk to you, and hope you have a fantastic race, and we’ll see you out there.
Engdahl: Thank you so much.