The Sunday Interview: Runner, Farmer and Mother Emelie Forsberg

För att komma till inlägget på svenska, klicka här: Söndagsintervjun: om löpning, odling och familjeliv med Emelie Forsberg

Where do you begin when your task is to introduce Emelie Forsberg? Our guess is that most of you already know who she is, but that doesn’t mean we’re not going to spell out for you exactly why Emelie is our greatest role model. It certainly feels like such an honor to have gotten a few minutes of her precious time, as the busy mother, elite athlete in multiple sports disciplines, author, small scale farmer, entrepreneur and mountain adventurer as she is. Wait, what? you might think. A mother, elite athlete, author, farmer, entrepreneur, mountain adventurer? Yep. And then we’ve only scratched the surface.

Swedish Emelie Forsberg was born in 1986, and began her professional sports career in 2012, when she accepted an invitation to join Salomon’s international running team. With a background in rock climbing, skiing and – of course – running, Emelie quickly rose to the sky (literally and figuratively) as she claimed victory upon victory in sky running, trail running and ultra running alike. She has a more impressive list of athletic accomplishments than most – including multiple World Championship and European Championship titles – yet manages to stay remarkably humble and oozes kindness wherever she goes and whatever she takes on. Oh, and did we mention she’s also an experienced mountaineer, a member of the Swedish national team in ski mountaineering and the record holder of several FKTs (Fastest Known Times)? That’s right. She currently holds the female record for ascent and descent of for example Mont Blanc, Matterhorn and the tallest mountain in Sweden, Kebnekaise – among many others.

Emelie, together with her husband, fellow runner and mountaineer Kilian Jornet, and their daughter Maj (1.5 years old) are settled down on a farm in Måndalen (Moonvalley), Norway, since a few years back, and from this picturesque and almost unbelievably beautiful location, she isn’t just continuously streamlining her athletic capabilities, but also giving space to her other passions. Vegetable growing is one of them, book writing another. Creating products for her sports energy brand Moonvalley (co-founded with Salomon running colleagues Ida Nilsson and Mimmi Kotka) a third. And so it continues. Through it all runs one common theme: a pure love for nature (in general) and the mountains (in particular).

We’ve been big fans of Emelie ever since we found her on Instagram way before we’d even thought of moving to Sweden (and running meant a 20k loop around Manhattan), and we owe her endlessly for all the inspiration she has provided us with over the years. There aren’t that many superstars out there that manage to be so wonderfully down to earth, and there aren’t that many world class elite athletes that also have a thing for growing their own vegetables either. Add to that a deep sense of environmental awareness, a desire to live close to nature and in tune with the seasons, and a joy-based approach to training, and one thing becomes clear: Emelie Forsberg is indeed a good choice for a role model.

In this interview, Mike and I got the chance to ask Emelie about some of the things we’ve been curious about for a while. A little parenthood, a little training, some ice cream talk… all the essentials, in other words. Without further ado: Emelie Forsberg.

Måndalen (Moonvalley), Norway. We’re yet to visit but it looks breathtakingly beautiful. You seem rooted?

Yes, we really like it here! We said from the beginning that we were going to give it a try, and that we can always sell the farm and go back to Chamonix – or someplace new – but it really does feel like we have a good base here, especially now with kids. 

Can you picture life 10 years from now?

Oh, in 10 years I’d say we’re living in much the same way as we are currently, but my guess is that we’re not active elite athletes in the same way as we are now any longer. Mountains and nature will still be in focus though, in one way or another.

Maj is now 1.5 years old. As the new parents as we are, we talk a lot about the things we look forward to coming. Mike can’t wait until he’s baking buns with Theo, for example. What are you most excited about sharing with your daughter?

Oh, it’s really such an exciting time from around one year! You start to see such an interaction and there’s a clear two way communication. We do most things together, actually, but I really look forward to her being completely aware of what we’re up to and involved in what we’re doing. You know, when she can whisk the pancake batter, add in some flour, fully understand that she actually just walked up a little mountain peak with us etc. Yeah, I guess everything!

Speaking of family and family life – what tools are you using to keep the everyday life running smoothly?

Well, we have access to each other’s calendars, so we can see what the other person has got going on, and if we have a particularly busy week ahead, we sit down and go through it day by day and plan when we’ll be training etc. We always do big grocery hauls and keep a well stocked pantry at home, with lentils, oats, flours etc, so if we don’t have the time for or prioritize other things than food shopping, there’s no stress. That’s even less of an issue now in the summer time, when we have the whole garden full of food too. Maj has also started going to daycare three days a week, so now it’s even easier to plan for training and what we need to do those days.

Emelie, Kilian and Maj. Photo by Philipp Reiter.

For those who don’t already know it, you live on a working farm with sheep, a dog and a big vegetable garden. What are the plans going forward? Continued expansion or perfect as it is?

Each year so far, I’ve extended the garden by adding one more patch, more garden boxes, fruit trees and berry bushes, but this year, I’ve actually decided I’ll be doing less next spring and summer. It takes a lot of time because I try to mulch, so I need to cover the ground with newspapers/cardboard/wool and then collect grass clippings, leaves and other garden waste to grow in etc. I haven’t decided yet exactly how much less I’ll be doing, but I need more time for training and recovery

It’s hard work indeed! We can both totally relate. But then harvest season rolls around and it feels worth it yet again. I love harvesting. Mike can get overwhelmed by the masses of food though – his favorite task is pollinating the tomatoes and peppers, ever since he found an old electric toothbrush to use for it, haha. What do you enjoy the most?

I really like seeing immediate result, so I enjoy scything grass for the sheep, clearing along the fences, doing hard core weeding when the patches look overgrown. But almost everything is fun, as long as you don’t have to stress when doing it!

Emelie working on the farm.

A friend of ours recently asked us what two crops we’d grow if we could only grow two. We thought that was a fun question and would like to ask you the same – what would you choose?

Tomatoes and potatoes!

Good ones. We actually said tomatoes and kale! So you share bits and pieces of both your athletic life and your everyday home at the farm on social media, where you have an enormous following (296.000 followers). Do you ever feel pressure to do so? And how do you handle the massive amount of comments etc. that you get?

When I feel particularly uninspired, I can definitely feel a little stressed about the fact that I “should” be sharing a picture, but most of the time I manage to think about it objectively and remember that no one actually expects anything. I do think it’s so much fun, though, to share snippets of what I think makes life special and beautiful. I would love to respond to all comments and messages, but I don’t have the time. I respond as much as I can! I think the two way communication is so much fun.  

As the public figures as both you and Kilian are, do you ever long for a life beyond the spotlight?

When we’re not at a big sports event, or in France/Spain/Italy or other places where Kilian is very well-known, we don’t really think about it too much. Meeting lots of people is a part of certain contexts and situations, and then it typically brings us both lots of joy.

Speaking of sports events – if you never “had” to compete again, with regards to prize money and sponsorships, would you keep toeing the line?

Oh yes! I love the atmosphere!

Emelie during her FKT on the Kungsleden Trail. Photo by Philipp Reiter.

That’s awesome to hear. If we look back at the past 10 or so years, we see the most remarkable athletic career with accomplishments that might be hard for the those not in the know to fully understand the scope of, but to us in the sport… I mean, it’s unbelievably impressive. Which performance, accomplishment or feat are you most proud of and why?

I’ve gotten better, throughout the years, at actually looking back at some of the races and performances that I’ve done and acknowledge that what I accomplished was really cool. When I was doing them and was in the midst of it all, I more just shrugged my shoulders at whatever I was doing. It feels great, actually, to be able to give myself that credit. I’m proud that I’ve been able to perform very well at both short races, such as Mount Marathon (5 km and 1,000 m of elevation gain) and verticals, and longer races, up to 13 hours or so, such as Ultra Pirineu (100 km and 4,500 m of elevation gain) and Glen Coe (50 km and 4,000 m of elevation gain).

It’s all insanely impressive. Do you enjoy having a training plan, or is it all based on feeling?

When I have a specific race that I’m training for, I usually have a plan that spans over a few months, but I always adjust week by week based on what else is going on in life. I like having a more concrete idea for each session nowadays, whereas before I both trained more, and also did so more based on what felt good in that moment. Joy is still a big part of my training of course, but now I really appreciate not having to think too much about what I should be doing every day.

And what do you do on a rest day, if you get to choose?

Oh, I love rest days! I love baking something, spending time with friends and lying down to read a book. With Maj though, there’s not as much actual rest happening…

Rest days are holy in this household. We like doing similar things to what you describe, even though we nowadays end up wondering where time went come nighttime. Having a baby changes things for sure! Anyway – have you had a mentor of some sorts this far in your sports career?

Sadly enough, I never have. Kilian is by far the person I’ve discussed training with the most over the years.

You and Kilian are married and active in the same type of sports. We are too, albeit not – eh – quite as good as you two 😉 What are the primary strengths in your relationship, would you say?

Kilian and I are very similar when it comes to a lot of things. The biggest thing is obviously our shared passion for the outdoors, nature, environment, mountains, expeditions, adventures etc, but we’re also different when it comes to certain aspects. He’s so much more into the technical aspects of gear and equipment and does things I really don’t enjoy at all, such as structuring and caring for all of our stuff. I happily leave that for him to deal with and go work in the garden or cook more food for us instead!

Two recipes from Emelie’s blog: Autumn Bread (left) and Kärlekmums (right).

Yes, let’s touch upon food – another one of your passions. What are you cooking a lot of at the moment and think everyone should try?

Right now, I’m all about simple soups with carrots, potatoes, cauliflower, onion, herbs and some red lentils to make it creamy. I just simmer everything in a pot, blend it smooth and thin it with water, if necessary, to get the desired consistency. You can also add a splash of oat cream or something similar for an even creamier soup. I also love different types of sprouts or roasted beans as topping.

Sounds delicious. We just have a few short questions left before we’ll let you go, alright? First: do you like it tidy or are you messy?

Haha, I love it when it’s neat and tidy on the surface, but I can definitely just shove clothes and all sorts of things into the cabinets just to get rid of the mess.

Haha. Next: are you always on time or do you usually arrive late?

I’m always on time!

Now a difficult one: if you could only do one thing for the rest of your life, do you go for running shoes or ski boots then?

Oh god, that’s so hard! I really can’t choose!

Fair enough. And last but not least: as the ice cream lovers as we are… what’s your favorite flavor?

I’m such a chocolate lover, even when it comes to ice cream. But you know, I tasted a vegan ice cream last time we were back home in Sweden and it was heavenly! The flavor was fudge and cookie dough, but unfortunately I can’t remember the brand.

Thank you so much, Emelie, for sharing some of your thoughts with us. We can’t even tell you how much we look up to you, Kilian and the extraordinary life you’ve created together, and wish you all the best in any and all future endeavors. If you don’t already, go follow Emelie on Instagram, where she’s called @tinaemelie, and don’t forget to check out her more farming focused account @moonvalley_smallfarming as well. She’s also the author of two beautiful books, Sky Runner and Moonvalley Diaries (the latter was co-authored with Ida Nilsson and Mimmi Kotka), which we can highly recommend. And lastly, if you’re interested in high quality fuel for your sporty adventures, head to Emelie’s, Ida’s and Mimmi’s sports energy brand Moonvalley. (No affiliations with any of the mentioned products or brands). We hope you enjoyed this Sunday interview – and stay tuned for upcoming ones this fall. Until then – take care and run safe!

This interview was originally conducted in Swedish.

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More posts in our interview series:

The Sunday Interview: Runner, Farmer and Mother Emelie Forsberg

On Gardening, Self-Sufficiency and Life Balance with Karoline Jönsson

On Parenthood, Countryside Dreams and Life as a Freelancer with Emma Sundh

On Running, Life and the Love for Nature with Erika Borgström

On Detours and Finding Your Way Home: An Interview with Live Slow Run Far’s Sophia

A Transplanted New Yorker in Sweden: An Interview with Live Slow Run Far’s Michael

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– Sophia & Michael


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