Skyrunner storyAna Čufer, record holder of the highest mountain in Slovenia
21 March 2021

Skyrunning is a challenge but also freedom.

Who is Ana Čufer?

People usually describe me as mountain runner from Slovenia who prefers to run downhill. I don’t really see myself as an athlete, but a person who can’t be still and needs to be outside a lot. I’m stubborn and try to be honest as much as possible. I can’t stand treachery. Besides being a runner I’m also doing a Masters in geography. I’m vegan and I love cooking delicious meals. Besides that I’m a big fan of coffee, music, watching movies/shows and hanging out with my friends.

What makes you want to be a skyrunner?

My goal is not to be a skyrunner. My goal is to be outside, moving quickly in mountains, being happy and having fun. And that leads to being a skyrunner.

What does being a skyrunner mean to you?

As I said I don’t see myself really as an athlete (yet). But if someone calls me a skyrunner, it makes me happy because that means others also see my passion and love for running in mountains. And with that I hope I can inspire other women to join me, doing what they love.

What inspires and motivates you to go skyrunning and be a part of the skyrunning community?

Skyrunning is a challenge but also freedom. I love to push my limits and feel free (besides the very objective fact that it’s the most awesome sport). The skyrunning community is so inspiring. I admire them not only because they are great athletes but mostly because they are such modest, wonderful, awesome and humble people.

Philipp Reiter photography

How do you feel before, during and after going on a run in the mountains?

It’s not always easy when you try to coordinate college and running into your day. So I’m not always motivated, that’s a fact. But when I’m tired and maybe a bit lazy and it’s hard to go on a run, I think how awesome it will be once I’m out there! During my run I feel free of everything. It doesn’t matter how slow, bad, hard, fast, easy my run is – I always feel happy doing it. And that’s why I’m doing what I do. It’s my meditation. After a run I get this superpower to confront the world. So maybe that’s the reason I can coordinate well with my studies. Running gives me power.

Away from the trails, tell us about your job?

Have you always done this job, or have you changed careers? I’m a student so besides that I manage to do only occasional jobs. Till now I have had many different jobs. I was a waiter, I worked with computers, in a kitchen, babysitting, a sport’s shop. I have one year of college left so I hope I will find a job related to my profession soon.

Are you involved in any projects or business to do with running?

I’m in Salomon and Suunto team.

What does a typical training week look like for you?

It varies so so much that it’s hard to tell. At the moment my week looks like this: one strength training, two interval trainings and other ones recovery in between = 110 km.

Do you usually go trail/skyrunning alone or with others?

It depends. But mostly alone because it’s hard to coordinate time. But on weekends I often have company and it’s the best!

Do you prefer to run in skyraces, or create and run your own running adventures?

Actually both. I love to race but if I do it too often it loses its charm. So in between I love having running adventures.

Have you always been fit and led an active lifestyle, or has this only started more recently?

I was always an outdoor person and I’ve been running since my childhood. But I never practiced running. This is my second year of training with a coach. At the beginning I knew I was good but I didn’t train a lot. I was afraid that if I started doing this too seriously it’s not gonna be fun anymore, it’s not gonna be my escape anymore. But then I’ve got in Salomon team and I said I need to try it. Little did I know I’d fall in love with running even more.

Martina Valmassoi photography

Have you experienced any hard period in your life that you’d like to share? How have these experiences affected your life? Did running help you get trough there periods? If so, how?

I was diagnosed with endometriosis 3 years ago and had surgery. Before that it was very difficult because I was in enormous pain. After the surgery I needed one year to feel myself again, because in that period I needed to be on pills. I didn’t really compete at that time, only some short races. It was harder for me because running didn’t help me, it just couldn’t. I had low blood pressure all the time and I was sleepy. Running didn’t wake me up so it was hard to do it. But after that period when I felt human again and started running with way more energy it was so liberating and I knew exactly what I was missing this whole time.

When things get though on the trails, what do you think of to keep you going?

It depends on the problem but usually I remind myself that I knew from the beginning it’s not always gonna be easy and that you are still outside, in nature, doing what you love even though it hurts. I remind myself that sometimes you need to get comfortable with being uncomfortable.

Marko Feist photography

Do you prefer to listen to music while you run, or listen to nature?

I rarely listen to music while I run, because on a lot of slow runs I need to clear my head for example because of college and all of the studying and my endless to-do list. On hard trainings I can’t listen to it. But when I do listen to my awesome playlist on slow runs…well it often gets out of control and my run evolves into a music video.

What are your favourite sky/trail races?

I can’t decide. There are so many awesome races. Just a few of them: Delicious trail Dolomiti, Transpelmo skyrace, UTVV, Skyrace Carnia, Dolomyths run skyrace.

What are your race plans for 2021/2022?

To compete in Golden trail world series and also do a few of my favourite races in my country.

Which races are on your bucket list?

I would love to be a part of Matterhorn ultraks, UTMB and Tromso skyrace one day.

Have you had any bad or scary moments in skyrunning? How did you deal with them?

I did. The scariest was the last race I had before my surgery, before I knew what was wrong with me. It was 30 km long race and I had diarrhea, vertigo, fatigue, my stomach hurt etc. I was very close to quitting the race but I just couldn’t because it was on my home turf. All my friends were there. I didn’t want to quit. It was devastating because I didn’t know why I was feeling this bad. I finished my race because my friends empowered me alongside the course. I recognized my pain and focused on my strong points. My upper body was dying, my mind was out of control, but my legs were fine. So I said to myself “Till you can move your legs you are gonna get to that finish line and then you can rest as long as you want.”

What has been your best moment in skyrunning and why?

Last year it was definitely my attempt for FKT up and down the highest Slovenian mountain Triglav. I did it because there were no races and it was my first year training with a coach. I wanted to know in what shape I was and also it was a big challenge. Triglav has a perfect downhill for me. I was a bit sad I couldn’t go faster at the top because there were a lot of people and I needed to be extra careful. But overall it was an amazing experience and my friends were there so it was a very wonderful day for me.

Gasper Knavs photography

What are your big dreams for the future, in skyrunning and in life?

Dreams for my future are simple. Being happy with what I do, learning, growing, enjoying running and also enjoying life.

Of course I want to get better as an athlete and having my personal projects and races that I want to be part of but my main goal is to love what I do no matter what happens.

What is your best piece of advice for other skyrunners?

It’s advice that’s not only useful in skyrunning but also in life in general: “Being negative only makes a difficult journey more difficult. You may be given a cactus, but you don’t have to sit on it.”

Thank you Ana for sharing your story with us!We wish you all the best!

/Snezana Djuric

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