Swedish ultrarunner Emelie Forsberg has made a name for herself by clinching fastest known times (FKT) across specific routes either supported or unsupported. “For me [fastest known times are] what I was drawn to when I started to run in the mountains,” Forsberg says. “I did not care about racing, I was curious to see what was behind that summit, or on top, and then to see how fast I could go.”
This sense of adventure is the reason Forsberg currently holds eight FKT records, according to FastestKnownTime.com. These records range from Grand Teton in Wyoming to Mont Blanc in France (both unsupported). Most recently, on July 7, 2018, she completed the 270-mile Kungsleden trail in northern Sweden in four days and 21 hours.
Forsberg, a Salomon athlete, stresses that planning is key to nabbing a FKT. “Get to know the mountain, the trail, study the conditions, follow the weather forecast, and if it’s a technical mountain, of course it’s important to have climbed or run it many times to feel comfortable,” she says. “And it’s so important to always feel comfortable; don’t take risks, don’t look to other people—what and how they did it—you need to know your own capacity.”
And at what point in a FKT attempt does Forsberg know she’s successful? “When I’m at the finish,” she says. In her new book, Sky Runner: Finding Strength, Happiness, and Balance in Your Running, Forsberg discusses an FKT attempt up 26,864-foot Cho Oyu in the Himalayas that was going well until the weather turned with only 1,316 feet of climbing to go. She ultimately decided to forgo the summit. “To work toward this goal has been rewarding, regardless of whether I reached the summit or not,” she wrote. “Success and failure are worth thinking about again and again. To learn something, to move on. To set new goals, goals that take us further.”
This mindset is at the heart of Sky Runner, which debuted in the U.S. on August 14 and encourages readers to be content before being competitive. Forsberg explains that her motivation to run is purely to enjoy running; the fact that she is among the best ultrarunners in the world is simply a result of that approach.
“If I manage to stay playful in what I do, then it feels like I have succeeded,” she says. “If I were to focus on accomplishment only, to plan every training session in detail, to run every mile in a certain time, then I would not be successful in my training. My training simply has to be joyful, something I want to return to, not something I time to exactly one hour and just want to complete so I can wait for the next training session.”
Sky Runner offers other insights into Forsberg’s success, such as staying positive through injury. “It’s important to see the bigger picture and how little the injury can be if we put it in that perspective,” she says, noting that injuries are a good opportunity for runners to “explore something else, or maybe just to really rest and recover.” In Forsberg’s case, when she was recovering from knee surgery in 2016, she began to learn about farming and eventually started her own in her adopted home country of Norway.
The farm, called Moon Valley, has taught Forsberg not only about cultivating a more self-sufficient lifestyle but also the importance of eating well. To fuel her athletic lifestyle, Forsberg eats “only natural energy.” An entire chapter of her book is filled with recipes that range from lentil stew and zucchini lasagna to cinnamon buns and Kilian’s Favorite Biscuits, named in honor of Forsberg’s running and life partner Kilian Jornet.
Jornet is also responsible for the book’s images. “[The photography] was very easy as we went out for runs, climbs; I worked in the garden, and he was just there taking photos,” Forsberg remembers. “Very authentic, very smooth!”
Forsberg says that she was initially approached about writing a memoir that detailed her career to date and included specific training tips. “But I feel like running is so much more than that, so I wanted to include a bit of everything,” she explains. To that end, the book almost feels like a textbook disguised as a gorgeous coffee table book that’s part memoir, part running manual, part cookbook, part yoga teacher and part cheerleader.
“I’ve always liked sharing the things I love—things that enhance my existence, things that matter,” she says of the book’s vast scope. “I have always liked to share good moments, nice trails, beautiful mountains and runs, and just those small moments that make life a little golden.”