We had the chance to catch up to 36 year old Ultra runner Mario “Majo” Srnik and here’s what he had to say about all things Ultra.
TGN: Majo, first off let us just say thank you for stepping into the spotlight and sharing your journey with us. Our readers would love to know what your main discipline is or sport that you participate in?
TGN: Hundos huh? That’s impressive. For those readers who don’t know exactly what an “Ultra” is, it’s anything over 26.2 but usually refers to 50K- 100 mile events. Majo, so where are you located, where do you call home?
Majo: I was born in Europe – Slovakia but for the last 13 years I’ve lived in Calgary, Canada.
TGN: That’s some beautiful country up there, must be amazing to train in that setting. When you’re running in a race, what class do you compete at?
Majo: It’s kind of hard to say really, since Ultra Running isn’t a very popular sport, there are not many professionals in the sport so I’m going to put myself somewhere between amateur to semi-pro level.
TGN: There aren’t many professionals yet, but everyday the sport grows a little more, am I right? Keep grinding away and you’ll hold that title soon enough.
TGN: So Majo, for our readers that don’t exactly know much about your sport, please explain to them what it’s like to compete as an Ultra Runner at the semi-pro level?
Majo: Lots of hours spent running and training, pushing yourself to the limit. Training and running to your maximum capacity and your only reward is “rock” or best case a “belt buckle”. That is why they call Ultra Runners crazy.
TGN: We agree you all seem a little crazy but we get the same thing in adventure racing so we can relate. So what made you decide to be an Ultra-Runner and how has it affected your life?
Majo: Well, for over 30 years I was a rock climber and that affected my life growing up. I always loved nature, mountains, living out of my comfort zone and pushing the limits of what I could accomplish. Only the last 2.5 years have I started focusing on Ultra Running, with this year being really my first serious year competing.
TGN: Wow, two and a half years is pretty impressive. It’ll be exciting to see your progress when you have some more experience under your belt. What are your biggest goals and aspirations for this season? Any long term goals?
Majo: I started Ultra-Running 2 years ago, spending the first year training and more or less enjoying running the trails in the mountains and seeing where my limit was when it came to how far I was capable of running. This year I have picked only a hand full of really tough Ultra competitions and really focused my training on getting strong results and seeing where I compare to other athletes. I have learned from my mistakes along the way and fine tuned my racing strategy to get ready for the season. I also wanted to be able to have enough strong results to become visible for sponsors.
TGN: Mission accomplished! It seems like you have a great game plan and the attention of the Ultra community. Do you follow any strict training plans to help you perform at peak level on race day?
Majo: Living in Alberta, where we have 9 months of snow and winter, I spend most of my winter months running on a treadmill doing heart rate runs, tempo runs, and really working on my pace. Usually the first race is within a month after the snow melts so I have to be ready. I do as much as I can I to run trails, even in the winter. I am fortunate enough to live within a 30 min drive to the Rocky Mountains so I do run there a lot, really focusing on training and getting used to running hills and gaining elevation, as most Ultra Running competitions in Canada are focused on elevation gain. As a recovery I’m involved with road biking and swimming to keep the legs strong.
TGN: It sounds like you stay very active and in great shape even though the elements are against you. We have to ask, what is your biggest accomplishment as an Ultra Runner?
Majo: Definitely finishing 5th place in the Jungle Ultra in Peru. That race is such a different experience from what most regular running competition are and definitely a once in a lifetime adventure. Secondly, last week I placed 2nd in the Lost Soul Ultra Marathon which is a 100 mile Canadian championship race, I placed 1st in the Moose Marathon just couple weeks prior to that and placed 4th at the 85km Iron Legs race.
TGN: Beast mode! Wow, congratulations on all your amazing achievements. That’s quite a tick list you’re creating!
TGN: Often as endurance athletes we find ourselves relying on a vast array of gear, in Ultra Running what are some of the necessities to compete at your level?
Majo: Ultra Running is very simple but at the same time a complex sport, there are many things that can make or break you on race day. Simple things like socks can make your day a heaven or hell. I run in ZeroPoint socks and they’ve never disappointed me. You also need really good shoes and nutrition to get strong results.
TGN: When you rely on your gear so often for results you tend to become partial to certain brands or styles of gear. What are some of your favorites and why?
Majo: Vivobarefoot are ultimately the best shoes, most comfortable, durable, maximizing the body’s ability to run, extra sense of feel with your feet. Also Vitargo Race Fuel, without nutrition there is no race. Zero Point Compression are absolutely the best socks out there. I have survived 5 days in a jungle running marathon a day, and running in mountains for days with no blisters whatsoever. INKnBURN makes great looking and very comfortable running apparel, making you noticeable and standing you out from the crowd with their designs
TGN: Wow, sounds like you have a lot of great people and products backing your adventures. You must feel very fortunate. If you had to pick just one piece of gear, your one go-to item to have with you on race day, what would it be and why?
Majo: Shoes, for sure. When you have to run 160km in one shot, great running shoes are the most important thing. I have gone through many different styles of shoes in the last 2 years and each affected my racing. This last year I have started running in Vivobarefoot shoes, the Trailfreaks. They’re the most minimalistic shoes and I owe all my success to these shoes. I believe that our human foot is designed to be able to handle Ultra Running and we don’t need any extra support, or certain style of shoe to help us run better.
TGN: Awesome, we’ll have to check out those Trailfreaks and see why you love them. Now, we know nutrition is a very important factor when it comes to performance, what types of nutritional products do use regularly?
Majo: I have just recently became an ambassador for Vitargo. Their products like Vitargo Race Fuel and Vitargo Post Race Recovery were a game changer in my racing and training. I completely stop using solid foods on race day and only drink their race fuel which gives me hydration and nutrition in one pack.
Majo: Sounds like you have your nutrition locked in and know whats best for you to perform. If you could have a Majo pro model and design your own product what piece of gear would you choose?
Majo: I am currently working very closely with Vivobarefoot and testing their products. Hoping my experiences and feedback are valuable to help them improve their shoes. I would definitely want to design my own style of shoe one day. I am happy to be part of the minimalist barefoot movement in running shoes.
TGN: Well, if you get a signature model we want to be the first to test it, I’m sure it’d be a great shoe.
TGN: Majo, our readers are curious. Are you planning on attending any other races this season?
Majo: This season is pretty much over for me. I might try to fit in a few more 85 to 100 milers before the end of the year but I am already focusing on training for next season and making a schedule for 2015. Hoping to do the Ice Ultra in Finland among many more.
TGN: Ice? Your braver than we are that’s for sure. Are there any races that are above your radar that you’d like to compete in?
Majo: Western States 100 for sure, Leadville 100, Bad Water Ultra and if everything goes well the entire series of Beyond Ultimate races that includes Mountain Ultra in Himalayas and the Desert Ultra in Africa.
TGN: That’s a loaded schedule with some brutal races stacked in there. We want to be the first to wish you the best of luck, we know you’ll do well.
TGN: Now that you’re in the spotlight, what words of advice do you have for our readers?
Majo: Try to keep your life simple and only focus on the right gear and tools to make your racing and running efficient and the best you can be. Listen to your body and keep your mind strong as well.
TGN: Those are some great words of wisdom Majo, for not only runners but all athletes. Thank you for sharing your story with our us. We wish you the best of luck in all your endeavors this season and the next. Cheers!
If you’d like to learn more about Ultra Running or Majo’s running career you can follow him by “Liking’ his Facebook page or following him on Twitter or Instagram. We hope this inspires you to get outside to enjoy nature and running in it’s purest form.
See you on the trails!