TR speaks to one of Britain's top hopes at the upcoming World Trail Championships
For Katie Kaars Sijpesteijn, this year’s World Trail Championships won’t be a new experience, but she is nevertheless relatively new to the world of top-level trail running.
The 33-year-old from Leeds says it was at the trial for last year’s event - the Haworth Hobble, where she was third - that she realised she could become international level.
“I did (a bit of) city-level stuff at school, but I wasn't very fast - it was I guess when I went to the qualifying race for the World Champs last year and I just went along to see how I’d fare,” said Katie, who was 23rd at last year’s World Trail. “I think in 2016 I did a few races with some of the GB team and some of them I wasn’t far off them, so I thought I’d give it a go. But then I tried not to put any expectation on myself because I just love running and like to run as fast as I can for myself.”
At this year’s event in Penyagolosa, Spain, on May 12, Katie will be planning to focus on herself rather than over-committing herself to a race.
“I never go into a race thinking I want to get this position because that depends on what everyone else does whereas all I can do is (try and control) what I do,” she said.
“I don’t get carried away. I think some people might get a bit excited in a world championship race and set off really fast, whereas when you’re running 50 miles, running the first five miles really fast is not going to help you unless you can maintain that. I’m quite good at pacing myself. I got to the first checkpoint last year in 51st place and I actually finished 23rd so I’ll be applying the same strategy of doing my own thing - not worrying about what everyone else is doing.
“It’s important not to get caught up in everyone else’s plan because especially with ultras everyone has bits that they excel in. Some people might be better at going up, some people might be better descending and I’m certainly a better descender… It’s just recognising what you’re good at and managing that throughout the race.”
Katie will go into the race off the back of an excellent 2017 in which she set a course record of 8 hours 2 minutes 32 seconds at the Lakeland 50 - behind her husband, overall winner Kaars Sijpesteijn - and won the Hardmoors Roesedale Run.
She will find this year’s event more to her liking than the last World Trail. Not only is it over 50 miles rather than 50km, but she added: “I would take a technical kind of skyrun-type terrain any day over an undulating big (undulating) path. I think that’s where I excel, particularly on the descents. I’ve seen lots of photographs - it’s really rocky in places, which makes me happy because I like that kind of terrain. It’s not too high as well - I think us Brits can suffer if it goes to high altitude because we don’t have those hills here.”