[Editor’s Note: This article is the first in our newly revived top runners column. Once a month, we talk with some of the top runners in the mountain running, trail running, and ultramarathon world, getting to know them in their running careers and who they are beyond their finish-line accomplishments.]
Stian Angermund has had an exciting couple years. While surviving the COVID-19 shutdown, he met his partner Katrine Villumsen, got a dog, had a baby, and cartwheeled across the finish line for a win at the 2021 Dolomyths Run. While he did DNF at the 2021 CCC recently, his first attempt at the 100-kilometer distance, Stian is happy with this year, and excited to spend time in the outdoors with his family. Calling from the small ski town of Avoriaz in France where he and his family are currently living, Stian spoke with iRunFar from his car, to keep the house quiet for his six-week-old daughter Ingrid.
The Norwegian mountain runner is known for his technical prowess and multiple wins in the Golden Trail World Series, but wasn’t a technical runner from a young age. While he claims he didn’t come from a sporting family, the outdoors was important growing up, and he was a competitive biathlon athlete.
“As a small kid, we did short hikes on Sundays. I could play outside for hours after that. I also did biathlon as a kid: running was something we did to train for this, and biathlon was such an awesome sport.”
Growing up outside Oslo, Norway gave Stian ample opportunity to play in the snow, and he stuck with the biathlon combination of skiing and shooting until one September, his cousin from Bergen, Norway enticed him to enter a fast and furious uphill race: the Stolzekleiven Opp. The race is only 900 meters (a little over half a mile) long but has 300 meters (almost 1,000 feet) of elevation gain! Finishing in about 10 minutes, and reciting the requisite “I’m never doing that again,” Stian fell in love with the race and the mountains.
Though I was personally impressed by photos of Stian bombing down technical slopes at the Dolomyths and other races this year, he originally didn’t like running downhill at all! After moving to Bergen from Oslo 11 years ago, Stian took even more of a liking to nature, the mountains, and the trail running world.
“I got so excited to be in nature and running in nature. I think the two are connected — it’s something so special. [Running] helps me enjoy everything: the sunset, the flowers, stopping to talk to people.”
He eventually began in vertical kilometer-style races, sticking almost exclusively with uphill-only endeavors. While he was uncomfortable with running downhill at first, it was the Dolomyths Run that first began his love for mountain running and skyrunning, in which he has improved immensely throughout the years: his first Dolomyths he placed 14th, and topped the podium in 2018 and 2021. But Stian isn’t so concerned with winning.
“My favorite races, the ones I have enjoyed most, have nothing to do with the result. My favorite ones aren’t so big and have a relaxed atmosphere. Like the Zegama Marathon… there are only 500 runners but maybe 10,000 people cheering you on, really engaged. I almost end up crying in the middle of the race because people are so supportive. The community in trail running is very unique.”
In his new family, he has expanded on that community. His partner, Katrine Villumsen, who is originally from Denmark, is a great trail running leader in her own right, and the president of the Nordic Skyrunning Federation – she is currently working with the youth skyrunning teams in Denmark, Sweden, and Norway. Stian and Katrine knew each other for years before having a child, even running in many of the same races as they both loved the technical mountain trails.
After years of vertical Ks and technical mountain marathons, Stian decided it was time for something new. With many people pushing him to run longer distances and to see how far he could go, Stian began training for the 2021 CCC, the 100-kilometer little sister of UTMB. But the race couldn’t have come at a busier time: with a baby born two weeks late, difficult travels due to COVID-19 restrictions, and everything that goes along with a new family, he arrived to the starting line emotionally and physically exhausted.
“I had no idea it would be so hard, to be so absorbed with the feeling of having a new baby. I started missing them even before I left the apartment! Early on in CCC I was mentally tired and ready to travel home… while the first 50k of the race went okay, eventually I got a pain in my knee that was just [too much,] so I dropped out. I felt so bad, because I had three people crewing me, and I feel like I let them down. But they let me know this is normal in these longer races.”
Despite dropping from CCC, Stian was glad for the experience, and is excited for the rest of the year. He has a few more races coming up before the Golden Trail World Series final The One Race El Hierro in the Canary Islands next month, but for now, is enjoying time in France with his new family. When asked what they do together, Stian recounted daily hikes and slow mornings listening to jazz music.
“While we don’t have time for many other hobbies because running takes so much time, we like to listen to a Danish radio station over breakfast. The name means something like “snooze.” We like to eat good food, hang out, and listen to jazz. I like the melody and story part of jazz, not so much the experimental part. We really like the song ‘Just the Two of Us’ by Bill Withers.”
Because Katrine was pregnant all spring and early summer, she and Stian spent much of their time outside hiking, enjoying nature, and working on Stian’s new coaching business, which he picked up last winter, and recently went full time after quitting his job at a shoe store.
“Katrine has supported me with coaching and helped me believe in myself. We are planning on running a race together as a team, the  Monte Rosa SkyMarathon. It should be really fun because it’s up high over glaciers, you have to run tethered together because it’s so steep.”
Until the Golden Trail World Series final, Stian and Katrine will spend some time in France, hiking, training, and enjoying the cheese.
“I don’t really have a favorite food, but over here the cheese is so good. It’s amazing. We go to a restaurant and they say, ‘Oh the cheese is that way.’ So we can enjoy some really delicious local cheese.”
As he continues his successful foray among the uppermost echelons of trail running, Stian always comes back to the community and the people who make up the mountain, trail, and ultramarathon world as the thing he most enjoys about the sport.
“This is such a unique sport. You can have some people who are rockstars, and other people who just show up to run. Whether you took two hours or 10 hours to finish the race, it doesn’t really matter. We all just enjoy it, and can gather to talk about the awesome race and the experience.”
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