Photo: Bryon Powell (iRunFar)

NIKOLINA ŠUSTIĆ

I win 100km races, but enjoying the run is more important to me

Nikolina Šustić is probably the fastest female electrical engineer in the world. This 32-year-old comes from Split and was, until recently, the 100km world champion, with the running time of seven hours and twenty minutes.

That she does not only have the stamina for long-distance running but is also a fast runner is shown by a long list of world marathons she regularly wins.

Šustić is an unusual athlete, although she – as her results show – doesn’t lack competitiveness; she pointed out several times during the interview that the only reason she runs is – her own pleasure. She doesn’t run for a living, but, she says, running improves the quality of her life and makes her happier.

In athletic circles she is known not only for her gold medals but also for a character trait that winners don’t usually possess: she seems not to care much about winning.

Winning gives her pleasure, of course, but it is not what makes her get up in the morning, put her running shoes on and run uphill above Split, accumulating kilometres, before going to work.

In all these years, she has managed to combine rigorous training with being a part of the expert team in Ericsson Nikola Tesla in Split: she trains in the early morning and in the late afternoon, and the eight to nine hours in between she spends testing software for various Ericsson platforms all over the world

What important things have you learned about running over the years and what has it taught you about life?

I played basketball for a long time; it’s a team sport, completely different. Basketball is more of a play, really. And, although I wanted to carry this over to running as well, understanding running through play isn’t easy because I see that almost everyone around me is racing, focused only on improving their results.

Basketball is also about results, but it’s more like a play. And runners literally race; there is no play in that sport. They take it too seriously. And playing is what I miss.

I prefer the way in which recreational runners experience running.

They really take pleasure in it. Professional runners don’t have this sense of joy over the kilometres they have run. If running is just about work and numbers, it doesn’t make much sense to me.

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