We talk to Kasia Solińska, the fifth competitor in this year’s CCC race
During the Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc, one of the largest running festivals in the world, we can see the best athletes competing on one of several routes on the demanding trails at the foot of the White Mountain: UTMB (170 km), TDS (145 km), CCC (100 km), OCC (53 km) and PTL (300 km). A high position on any of the distances is a huge success – the strongest ultras from all over the world descend on UTMB. We talk about the excitement of debuting at the UTMB festival with Kasia Solińska, Who took 5th. place on the CCC route (time: 13:49).
Michal Gurgul: Your list of wins in various ultra mountain marathons looks impressive. However, the CCC is probably a different caliber?
Kasia Solińska: I won’t lie when I say that the Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc is the most anticipated festival among the mountain running community. I was able to convince myself of the uniqueness of this event this year on my own, and I definitely have to emphasize that this is the most beautiful event in the world of trialling that I have participated in so far, and something feels that it will remain so. The emotions experienced for almost a week cannot be described, they simply have to be experienced. Joy mixes with emotion, smiles with tears, a sense of happiness goes hand in hand with gratitude – and all this occurs whether you are a participant in the race or a supporter, these emotions seem to hang in the air and are waiting to be multiplied and shared among everyone nearby.
You have always stressed that the excitement, atmosphere and relationships with other runners are very important to you. UTMB is an arena of competition for the best ultras, especially at the crown distance of 170 km, but also at the other runs, CCC, TDS, OCC or PTL. What attracts you there?
That’s right, on all routes we will see the most famous names in the world of mountain running. What attracts us here? Beautiful and challenging routes, an exceptional finish line, the scale of the event, the crowds of fans – probably a little bit of everything, but most of all this magical atmosphere (laughs).
Kasia Solińska runs into the finish line as the fifth competitor of the CCC run (photo. Manuel Uribe)
What awaits the athletes at the finish line in Chamonix? What the end of the race looks like from the perspective of the fifth runner running into the CCC finish line?
The leading competitors are greeted by the sublime melody of “Conquest of Paradise – Vangelis”, which reverberates throughout the city, joined by the applause and cheers of a whole mass of people, squeezed in the narrow streets of the city, as well as the voice of the commentators, who engage to actively participate in this important moment. All this makes tears of happiness flow down more than one cheek, people on both sides of the barrier. Every runner can feel special here, whether they are labeled elite or not, here everyone writes their story and each of these stories is important. Everyone receives a mass of applause and is greeted at the finish line like a hero. It is worth every step, every kilometer run, every crisis overcome…
Kasia Solińska the finish line of the CCC run (photo. Manuel Uribe)
You went to UTMB for the first time. There were concerns?
I was going to Chamonix with a lot of excitement, because after all it would be my first 100, my first visit to Chamonix, my first presence at the UTMB festival and my first look at Mont Blanc. What I have watched millions of times on a computer screen, I could now experience first-hand. And it was a thousand times more beautiful than I could have imagined. Yes, I was also going there with a slight apprehension after a two-week illness – whether the body had recovered, but whether I would carry the weight of its remains for the entire 100 kilometers? Despite this, or perhaps partly because of it, I stood on the starting line with calmness, with a lot of gratitude and joy, because, after all, the moment had just come to fulfill my dream – on my terms, without undue pressure.
Tell us please about the race itself.
The route of the run was absolutely beautiful. From the very beginning, it emphasized its character, and while the trails were rather straightforward technically, the length of the uphill and downhill runs significantly turned up the overall difficulty. The nutrition points were huge and well-equipped, and the volunteers were very helpful, but the ones I looked forward to the most were those points where my Maciek was waiting, as well as Kamil and Matusz (from 55 km). It is a great happiness when you are supported by a close and beloved person at the competition, motivation increases, and the way of experiencing the run, is much more intense. Throughout, I stayed focused, concentrated on how I was feeling, kept an eye on nutrition and hydration, didn’t overdo my running pace, and didn’t take any chances as fatigue built up with each passing hour. I gave myself space to smile, and enjoy, each stage of the race, and believe me, those views, those mountains, those fantastic Italian, Swiss, French supporters did not let the smile disappear even for a moment.
But there was also a fight? Fighting for a place on the podium?
The fifth position I held for most of the time gave me wings and I really wanted to keep it until the end of the race. The last approach and the run to the finish line, I already overcame after dark. The sight of the lights of Chamonix, totally touched me, and I already knew I had the energy to run to the finish line, just as I had dreamed of doing. Despite the later time, there were still many people who shared my excitement. When I saw the illuminated finish line with the UTMB sign on it, I totally beamed. I did it, I ran my first 100 km at such an important festival and took my place in the TOP5 of women! Taking my place on the expanded podium was a unique experience for me and at the same time a motivation for further development, in a sport I totally love.
Decoration of the best competitors of this year’s CCC (photo. Manuel Uribe)
You’ll be back at UTMB? If so, for which distance?
Yes, it’s a sure thing now. Coming back next year, also on CCC. This time perhaps with more boldness.
In this case, I keep my fingers crossed, good luck!
Romantic runners: Maciek Dombrowski and Kasia Solińska (photo. Manuel Uribe)
We recently spoke with Kasia and Maciek about their move from Krakow to the countryside, to Draganowa in the Low Beskid Mountains. You can read about how the change has affected the life of this sporty-romantic pair in the 14th. issue of OM: