Henrik Westerlin is a Danish National team runner with ultra-distances and trail running being his forte. He has competed in various top level ultra-marathons such as the coveted Western States Endurance Run, the 246km Spartathlon, and IAU World Trail championships, to name a few. Here is a little bit about his journey through his eyes:
My journey began on a bicycle alongside my dad until I was old enough to run with him. To this date, my dad is my main encouragement to be active.
As for my daily motivation in training I am blessed with unconditional love and support (and sometimes a kind but firm kick out the door) from my wife. Running would not be the same without the understanding and support from family and friends. I enjoy the running communities around the globe where running war stories and exploits are an endless source of inspiration. Each one of us has our own exciting journey to tell about.
With this perspective I manage the daily “obstacles” that makes training and resting challenging. As most people (except maybe full-time professional elite athletes) I struggle to find time for training and to get sufficient rest. A full time job, a long commute, weekly travels, chores and commitments make it important to prioritize. Luckily prioritizing becomes easy with the support of my wife and with inspiration from the running community.
My overarching approach to running is sustainability. I believe this is best explained by my long-term goal: I wish to set a Marathon Distance World-Record in the age-group 100+.
I dream of staying healthy for the rest of my life and of continuing to have great experiences in the mountains. In this process I hope to inspire others to be active and for as many as possible to have the same chance to enjoy the nature and the freedom that comes with the sport.
Up Close and Personal
To me, sport stands for
Healthy living, Community, Friendships, Freedom, Achievements, Introspection
On a typical training day,
I do:A wide range of workouts on road, track, trail and treadmill. I head out the door with a purpose. Each and every single run is a component in the big picture of balancing hard workouts and race specific workouts with regenerating recovery runs. Maybe more importantly, beyond my target and race focused approach to training I always go out to have fun and enjoy the flow of running.
For specific workouts, Strava tells the full story: https://www.strava.com/athletes/7343974
I eat:A plant-based diet ensuring right timing, quantity and quality of macro- and micronutrients. I contribute my ability to staying healthy while increasing my training load with having quit animal products and minimized dairy intake.
I wear:Whatever product or brand that fits the terrain, climate and event.
I listen to:Podcasts on the dreadful long runs on the treadmill and PODRUNNER that makes cadence-specific BPM mixes. The 180BPM is perfect for tempo runs or on days where the legs are not really moving.
I recover by:Massage/physio approximately once a month, slow regenerating runs, timely carbohydrate and protein intake, a generally healthy diet and most importantly I prioritize sleep.
I cross-train by:Gentle yoga. Viparita karani (modified) and Shavasana are my go-to cross-training exercises on a daily basis. Part joke – part fact. I do a few core workouts, balancing & joint strengthening exercises and specific asanas when my body requests me to do so. Otherwise, I’m a proponent for doing what is most specific for the sport and make sure the attention is on recovery between my runs. A hard cross-training session between runs will leave me fatigued and lifting weights or riding a bicycle will not make me run faster.
My idea of an effective weight training session is
“Don’t…” except if you need to condition your body to chop wood or move the neighbour’s new piano 5 floors up the stairs.
The moment when I discovered my athletic potential was
I’m in a continuous process of discovering. This is one of the main reasons why running attracts. We have endless potential to improve.
I always believed I could “do better” but it was not until I got a coach and I changed my diet that I started seeing the type of progress that is possible (for all). The structured approach to training, resting and diet made the difference of running a marathon in 2h46 instead of 3h30.
The three biggest lessons I have learnt so far in my athletic career
1. There are only the limits we impose on ourselves.
2. Variation of #1, through hard work, passion and faith we can achieve whatever we set our minds to.
3. Running is a coping mechanism. On a run I can solve and digest issues or I can choose to de-stress by zoning in on the flow and just fully enjoy the moment.
Before a big race, I tell myself
Have fun, enjoy the ride and prepare to deal with the unexpected.
The toughest race of my life was
At some point in most races (sometimes many times) it feels like it’s the toughest I’ve experienced. However, I’ve yet to have a race I would call the toughest.
I guess it is relative to the expectations we set up for an event. If our expectations are too high it feels tougher when we don’t perform. When we exceed our expectations it rarely feels too tough… Running ultra-distances is an excellent way of learning how to deal with tough times. I always try to be as prepared as possible to minimize the number of surprises and hurdles. At the same time I know there will be challenges. Running has taught me to remain calm when the legs protest, the stomach makes havoc, I start doubting ‘the purpose’, the gear fails, I lose my way, the weather tries to freeze me to ice or tries to burn me to the ground, when batteries in my headlamp runs low on a mountain side… the list goes on. There are always numerous hurdles in running and in life. The solution is never to panic… the solution is always there and is best found when keeping the head cool.
The most memorable moment of my sporting career so far
I will never forget standing at the start line of my first 100 miler, Western States 100 miles, with my wife wishing me a good race. It was the culmination of a long journey and when they played Viva La Vida which is the background music to one of the best YouTube trail running videos out there… what I felt is indescribable. The start of Comrades was also magical with 20.000 people singing Shosholoza before embarking on the 90km journey down to Durban. Quite a few guys suddenly had some dust to remove from their eyes.
The many scenic panorama views on runs around the World and experiences of being “in flow” are often what motivates me to go out on the early 5am training runs when I’d rather sleep an hour more.
My training sanctuary is
The Nandi Hills north of Bangalore is providing the right mix of elevation gain, technicality and green nature that makes it perfect for the long trail mountain races.
My dream starting line is
The next one. Any race out there offers a chance to meet people, go for that Personal Best, explore nature and provide an honest feedback on the training. Having said that… I would really love to finish Ultra-Trail Mt Fuji where I DNF’ed with an ankle injury in 2014. Other dream races include Badwater, Tor des Géants, The Grand Raid de la Réunion, Comrades (up to Maritzburg) and Hardrock 100.
I nourish my soul with
… good food, travelling, reading, photography and spending time with my wife, family and friends.
Unived helps me by
Ensuring access to scientifically based vegan certified drinks and gels that prepare me for my hard training sessions and races, take me through the long training days and races, as well as setting me up for the next workout with the recovery products that helps me to regenerate.