When Johanna Åström stood behind the starting line of her first-ever Skyrace just one month ago, no one knew who she was or what she was capable of. Today, after breaking the course record for the most technical skyrace of the series, Tromsø Skyrace, Johanna has become a strong contender to win the overall ranking and is now the woman on everyone’s radar.
Here, the Sweden-born skyrunner gives us an insight into who she is, how she trains, what she eats and life before her skyrunner status.
I’m 24 years old and although I originally come from Sundsvall, Sweden, I’ve been living in the Norwegian mountains in Åndalsnes for the past year. The reason I moved to the mountains in Norway was because I wanted to get good training opportunities for the sports I practice, skyrunning and ski mountaineering. Most of my time is spent running and skiing but I also work in a sports shop and in a café here in Åndalsnes. I like the combination of training and work.
Mountains have always been a part of my life
I have always loved the mountains. My family has a cabin in the Swedish mountains, where I spent a lot of my time during the summer and winter holidays since I was a little kid. We went skiing, hiking and picking berries. Being out in the mountains has always been a natural part of my life.
When I was a kid I did a lot of cross-country skiing, orienteering and I also played football. It wasn’t on any really serious level, mostly for fun. I was not very good at either orientation or football. I couldn’t really read the map when I oriented and I don’t think I scored a single goal during my football career! I have always liked to run though, so I thought it was more fun to just run in the woods – without reading a map.
When I was 19 years old, I moved to Funäsdalen (Swedish mountains) to work. That was when I started training more seriously. It was also when I lived in Funäsdalen that I discovered mountain running. I ran my first race in the mountains in the summer of 2016. It was an uphill race on Storsylen (a mountain in Norway). I remember it was a wonderful feeling when I finished on top. I thought “this is what I want to do”. After that, I did many races in the Norwegian and Swedish mountains.
I heard about the Migu Run Skyrunner World Series a while ago and was always really interested. I like the combination of competing and at the same time experiencing the fantastic nature. It is a challenging sport where both the head and the body must work together. You must be focused when running on exposed terrain. I also like the sense of freedom you get from running in the mountains. Last year, I finally decided that I would take part in the series this year.
Learning from the best
I live in the same area as Emelie Forsberg and Ida Nilsson, and Ida and I are actually roomies here in Åndalsnes so they gave me some good advice and guidance. It’s very fun to train with such talented runners such as Ida and Emelie. They are happy to share their experiences, which is good because I ask a lot of questions!
When I arrived at my first race of the circuit, BUFF Epic trail, I didn’t really have any expectations. There were so many good runners at the starting line so I was just focused on my own race and doing the best I could. After such a great race a BUFF, I took some days off and rested. Then I went back to Åndalsnes for work and training to prepare for Tromsø. I had heard a lot about Tromsø before and always thought it would be cool to run at some point. The terrain is quite similar to here in Åndalsnes so I am used to the rocky environments. I think this helped me in the race.
The greatest achievement of my life
Winning Tromsø Skyrace has been the greatest achievement of my life. That was a big challenge for me. I had never ran a race as far or as technical or with so much vertical gain before. I wasn’t sure if I was able to make it so it was an amazing feeling to run across the finish line and realize that I had won and also broken the course record.
My training and nutrition
Running is the main part of my training at the moment. I also do a lot of roller skiing and strength. Training varies from low intensity, long workouts in the mountains and fast, intense interval sessions. In one week, I train around 20-30 hours. During racing season, this is a lot less.
I love to cook and bake, that’s one of my favourite hobbies! I like all kinds of food – pasta, rice, potatoes, pizza, fish, vegetables, tacos, wild meat, beans, burgers. When I moved to Norway, I discovered brown cheese (a Norwegian goat cheese) and now I am addicted. When I’m away on longer trips I have to bring brown cheese with me. The best I know is sourdough bread with brown cheese and raspberry jam.
I still have some races left in the series. Next week, I’ll do the Matterhorn Ultraks Extreme, then Zacup Skyrace and Sky Pirineu. I didn’t get to do it this year but I would love to do Livigno Skyrace next year. It looks so beautiful. I’m really looking forward to the SkyMasters too. Limone seems like a nice place and the course looks spectacular. I’m sure it will be a great race to end the season.