SAS Talents: Iron Lady
Annika Åström has always been active and enjoyed training. When she was growing up in Jakobsberg outside of Stockholm, she swam with her local club and by the time she was a teenager, she had taken up running. But her active lifestyle had always been only for her own personal satisfaction until a chance meeting opened up a whole new world.
“I met another mom at the school who was also into training, so we started running together,” explains Åström. “She took me to the gym and it was fun to have a friend who liked to do these sorts of things.”
In 2006, the pair decided to start doing the Swedish Classics – the annual series of competitions that involve running, biking, swimming and the cross-country skiing race, Vasaloppet.
“I did the Classics seven years in a row,” explains Åström. “Then in 2011, I thought maybe it’s time to try the Kalmar Ironman. At that time, I was biking a lot because we did Vätternrunden, a 300km bike race, so I felt I was ready for a new challenge.”
The Ironman, which consists of a 2.4 mile (3.86km) swim, a 112 mile (180.25km) bike ride and a 26.22 mile (42.20km) marathon, takes around 11 hours to complete. Åström was 47 the first time she entered – and she won her age group.
Once she had won in Kalmar, Åström set her next goal – to qualify for Ironman in Hawaii, arguably the toughest competition in the world.
“I had to postpone my plans because I fell while I was riding my bike,” she says. “But the following year, in 2013, I went to the Ironman in Texas with my brother and won in my age group, which qualified me for my first Ironman World Championship in Hawaii.”
She’s now done eight Ironman events in total and hopes to do Kalmar and possibly Hawaii again this year.
In addition to the Ironman, Åström regularly runs marathons and one of her goals is to compete in a marathon in a new city every year.
“I love to train,” she says. “But having goals is a great way to keep motivated and keep things interesting.”
That motivation is impressive – Åström trains at least two sessions every day unless she’s up in the air. That involves running 10–12km on regular days and around 20–25km on weekends. She also cycles 3–4 hours on the weekends and swims regularly.
“The best way to get going is think ‘What can I do to start?’ and then set goals, even small ones.
“If you work towards the small goal, you’ll eventually reach it. Then set new ones and work towards those. It might feel hard to start, but once you get going, you’ll never want to stop.”
Published: November 7, 2019