Running Ultra runner Kati Ahokas knows what it feels like to fall asleep accidentally in the middle of a race – but on the weekend she really hopes for it

Kati Ahokas chuckled as a teenager to sports enthusiasts. Now he is an ultra-runner who has experienced an identity crisis and will compete virtually against representatives of more than 20 countries on Saturday.

Helsinki ultrunner Kati Ahokas believes he knows what it feels like to fall asleep upright – in the middle of a race.

He has found himself in such a situation a couple of times, for example in the 160-kilometer-long Ylläs – Pallas trail run in Lapland.

“My eyes rolled over my head and I slapped myself on the cheek to stay awake. I had headphones in my ears and carried a small mp3 player in my hand. I was startled by the jerking in my ears because the player had fallen out of my hand. I probably took such micro naps from my stand, ”Ahokas tells HS.

On Saturday afternoon, Ahokas will start a race in Espoo, during which he really hopes to fall asleep, even though he only has a few minutes to snooze.

Ahokas, 42, describes himself as an East Helsinki warehouse runner who has experienced a small identity crisis.

He has been confused about how he has become an ultra-runner in adulthood.

According to his own account, Ahokas was sometimes a rebel at a young age, who was not interested in the exercise. Now he describes himself as an “annoyingly brisk” outdoor man.

“This was a surprisingly difficult thing at some point. It was confusing that I’m suddenly a person who is training regularly in sports and aims races, going to bed early, and everything else kind of strange. But yes, he is used to that idea, ”Ahokas says in his voice, a little irony.

How did this happen here?

“It never occurred to me to attend a running event.”

Kati Ahokas usually trains in her native landscapes in Eastern Helsinki, but she does the longest trail runs in Central Park.­

As a child and as a young man Ahokas did not play sports. The exercise was roughly limited to everyday cycling.

“As a teenager, I was a little amused and laughed at by people who exercised. Somehow there was such resistance because exercise didn’t feel like anything of its own. It took a really long time. ”

Ahokas took the first step towards his current running hobby about seven years ago. That’s when he went on an orienteering course because he enjoyed nature.

Orienteering itself didn’t take most of the spark. Partly because it was difficult to get to the gym without your own car.

Instead, the running associated with orienteering began to become attractive.

In the first years after that, running in Ahokka was very casual and focused on summers. He could run once a week or less.

“It never occurred to me to attend a running event.”

His longest runs were in the 20-mile range, roughly half the length of the marathon, but the idea of ​​running a marathon seemed foreign.

“I didn’t have any running friends before, so that sociality also brought enthusiasm.”

Kati Ahokas hopes to get further in the race starting on Saturday than in June, when her result was 32 laps that started every hour.­

Situation changed in 2017 when Ahokas spotted a Facebook group called Vegan Runners. It turned out that a small and homely running event, Island Ten, was to be held for the first time.

“I thought now or never. Maybe I would dare to go there, ”says Ahokas, who is also vegan and one of the organizers of the event today.

It was for that weekend that Ahokas had planned the only long link of the summer. So he asked the organizers if he could run ten times. That, too, agreed.

“It inspired me to move forward when I realized that events can be nice and there were nice people there. I didn’t have any running friends before, so that sociality also brought enthusiasm. ”

It started with a kind of drift towards ever longer distances. The organization of the race had already gained a reputation as a trail runner former youth national team and league footballer Juuso Simpanen, which encouraged Ahoka to try the marathon.

Samana In the autumn, Ahokas went to the Vantaa Marathon after first testing how the 30-kilometer run goes. The marathon folded at 3.59 and the tonsils.

Then Ahokas heard about the Karhunkierros trail running event in Kuusamo, which would be in the spring. There, he signed up “in the wake of others” for a distance of 55 kilometers, but later raised to 80 kilometers.

“Then I passed it, even though it didn’t go super well in any way. It was a really awesome feeling, though, when he got to the finish line. After the race, I started to think that it would be great if I could ever run that long distance of 160 kilometers. ”

The thought stuck, but Ahokas began to consider his own practice too junior. That is why in the autumn he asked Juuso Simpa about his coach.

“Juuso stated that yes, I will be in such a condition that I will be able to reach the finish line after a distance of 160 km.”

In 2019, Ahokas ran the 160-kilometer Karhunkierros and Ylläs-Pallas races, as well as the 130-kilometer Danger Marathon.

“I guess it’s somehow hit by good genes.”

Kati Ahokka thinks it’s great that she and other Finns can compete virtually against the runners of the Tarahumara tribe, who belong to the Mexican team, for example, over the weekend.­

Now Ahokas calculates that he has participated in about ten ultrasound races. Last February, she placed second in the women’s series as the second best Finn in the 24-hour run held in the hall in Espoo. As a result, he got 204.5 miles.

Ahokas trains an average of six days a week. He works part-time in a medical warehouse, so there is time left for training. The longest individual exercises are 8-10 hours long.

He can get to the jog from his back door in Myllypuro, but he does the longest trail running exercises in Central Park.

The program also includes muscle fitness training, which during the coronavirus pandemic has been mainly with handball disturbances at home.

“It’s a bit of a coercive bun, but you have to try to do it too.”

Ahokas doesn’t really know himself why he’s drifted into this situation and manages to go on ultrasounds.

“I guess it’s somehow hit by good genes. You can clearly see that my body is suitable for this. I am not a fast and meat-gathering person, but one who can go at a peaceful pace for a long time. It suits my physics, and I like it too. ”

Last June, for the first time, Ahokas participated in a slightly different sustainability challenge.

It was an event called Nuuksio Backyard Ultra, which is considered above all a toughness competition.

In this form of competition, a 6.7-kilometer run is started every hour. For example, if it runs in 50 minutes, there is ten minutes left for maintenance and rest before the next start.

It is, so to speak last man standing -minding relegation. The winner is the one who runs one round more than the others.

Ahokas finished second in the race after 32 laps. The completion of the 33rd loop was caught small. He won Juha Jumiskoevery three weeks had set a rare world record climbing 16,054 vertical meters a day on a ski slope in Tampere.

“The Nuuksio race was a really nice and different experience. There’s no reason to push ahead of another during the round. There were a few acquaintances involved. I was able to chat with guys who normally see nothing more in the race than the starting line of the back. ”

Ahokka had an average of eight minutes of rest during the hour.

“And then there’s the standard thing, the green balls.”

Saturday In Siikajärvi, Espoo, Ahokas is participating in a similar race. This time it is a virtual World Cup competition, where teams from more than 20 countries compete in the Corona era model with each other but in their own countries.

It was hot at the end of June, so it was important to try to cool the body in addition to eating and drinking during the break. Now, during the break, Ahokka has to pull the warm up on.

In the summer, Ahokas stayed in a sitting position during breaks and did not go far.

“Now I’m asking tips from more experienced. You also have to try that it goes a long way at times. In it, the body gets more rest, and it is possible to fall asleep a little. Small micronymes are reportedly very helpful in coping. I hope I can take a nap somewhere in between, even though the body goes through pretty hard laps, ”says Ahokas.

During the race, Ahokas plans to refuel with water, sports drinks, gels, blueberry soup, rice porridge and possibly donuts.

“And then there’s that standard thing, the green balls.”

Ahokas says he is especially looking forward to the team competition.

“That as a team we push as far as possible. I hope I can set my own record, that is, get further than in the summer. It’s a really great idea to be able to run against really tough guys, even if you’re not physically in the same place. ”

The Finnish team competes against, among others, the runners of the Tarahumara tribe

Espoo resident ultrunner Mikael Heerman is one of the few Finns to have participated in the grueling The Barkley Marathons In Tennessee, USA.

That race is a model for the Nuuksio Backyard Ultra race and now the World Cup.

Therefore, it is no coincidence that Heerman and his wife Sari Heerman responsible for organizing the Finnish Games.

Saturday The World Championships, which start at 3 pm, will be held in the vicinity of the couple’s home in Lake Siikajärvi, in the real backyard. When the rules of the race do not define the complexity of the route, the race director Mikael Heerman has chosen the easiest possible route to run on the road.

Heerman has invited 15 runners, three women and 12 men to the Finnish team based on previous merits. In a team competition, the distances run by each are added together.

According to Heerman, the selection criteria have been the potential to run more than 30 hours and experience in ultra runs longer than 100 miles (about 160 km).

With are Kati Ahokka in addition, the winner of the Nuuksio Backyard Ultra held in June, among others Juha Jumisko, the winner of the same race in 2019 and Jari Soikkeli, the holder of the Finnish record of one hour (254 km) as well as the one in August winner of wild wilderness navigation Juha Lehtonen.

In a team competition is involved in more than 20 countries.

“In the world, this type of racing has lasted at its best for almost three days, which means about 450 kilometers. It’s interesting to see how the Mexican team is doing because there are runners from the Tarahumara tribe who are known for their extreme endurance, ”Heerman says.

The length of the route running in the race (6.7 km) comes from the fact that according to the American calculation method, an even number of 100 miles is accumulated per day.

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