Living the Dream – What can Europe teach Mick Donges

Over the last couple of months those of us that know Blue Mountains athlete Mick Donges know that he has been living the dream based in the Alpine regions of Europe. He is one FaceBook runner’s status we look forward to reading.

I caught up with Mick after a solid effort at this weekends Skyrunning Race the famous Giir di Mont to see how he is tracking and what his chances for a quality performance at UTMB look like. Andrew also spent a week with Mick at the recent Kilian’s Classik where he was able to observe the growth of Mick as a runner and competitor.

Marcus: So Mick you have just run another of the Skyrunning series – the famous Giir di Mont, how are you feeling?

Mick: Things are going pretty good. Feeling fairly flat and beaten up after the race yesterday and it looks to be a little bit of a lazy day for me. I am looking forward to spending sometime with some Aussies again.

Marcus: Tell me more about the race ?

Mick: Giir Di Mont was a great experience. A tough run once again. I am feeling like any ability I have as a runner is just not enough for these races. There is also a great deal of skill and experience required in these races that I am in the process of developing. I feel like I am riding a road bike on a steep rocky mountain Bike path and slowly adjusting.
The skill is ‘letting go’ and losing your fear as you descend these steep, unstable technical trails. The Ascents are less about ‘uphill running’ but more ‘climbing’ as it is often steep & rocky or loose surface. Challenging for sure and a lot of fun.

Also the quality and high standard of competition here is mind-blowing. At each race I start I look around and see 700 runners looking as fit and fast as Brendan Davies raring to go, All experienced in the technical trails. I am having a lot of fun and it is such a good experience for me. I feel so blessed to be over here and racing experiencing the racing scene here.

Marcus: Are you still going to race Sierre-Zinal ?

Mick: Right now I am unsure about Sierre-Zinal. I need a few days to recover from my latest beating. I really would like an ideal lead-up to UTMB.

My sole focus is UTMB and all is leading to this. As my experience and training increases, my confidence is oddly decreasing. After being battered in a several races through July my confidence has slowly diminished and is now about the size of a small kernel. Still there, but I’m feeling very humbled right about now. I suppose I have a greater respect for the hard work and training put in by other runners and also acknowledging the years of experience they have.

Marcus: How has the last month gone training wise ?

Mick: July was a great month for me. Four hard technical Mountain races, two vertical kilometres, many hours of training in the Mountains and a training run around the UTMB. Makes one tired but an ideal training block leading up to UTMB.

Marcus: You have chosen to base yourself in Chamonix – good spot ?

Mick: I have been ridiculously well positioned actually. Spending much time in Chamonix in the French Alps, spending time with some of the best Ultra-runners in the world and learning from them. Asking lots of questions, training with them sharing the racing experience, staring at them eating their breakfast. I like to count my blessings and right now I have really lost count.

Marcus: So what time are you predicting for UTMB ?

Mick: Time prediction? Originally was looking at sub -24hrs. Now I just plan to not predict a time but enjoy the trail, take everything in and run with that freedom.

Marcus: The depth and maturity of the sport in Europe is deep – what are you learning from being there?

Mick: I am inspired by the enthusiasm that they have for running in the mountains here. It is akin to surfing culture in Australia. They just thrive off the mountains and it is a daily ritual for many of the runners to get out and spend time running or walking in the Mountains. Young or old. The races are on every weekend and are put on by the villages and communities. They love to have people come to their towns and they shower them with hospitality and gifts. The races are big festivals for the communities and they are just so chuffed to host these races. Great atmosphere. Music, stalls, buffets, kids races & entertainment. The Giir di Mont last weekend was shown live on Italian television. Big news over here!!

There is a lot of prize money too. Prizes down to 20th place. You could do very well if you raced well and went to races every weekend. Entry fees are minimal and you seem to get more back then what your entry fee costs. It is because the towns see the benefits of getting people to come and the tourism dollar and exposure the town gets. They trip over themselves to spoil the visitors.
Back home in Australia, there seems to be a separation between community and race events. Not always the case. Often the towns don’t even know there is a race on and will make complaints about traffic or disruption rather then getting involved in the festivities. I see some positive changes in Australia though. Good relationships getting started between race organisers and the local community.

Marcus: Thanks Mick and see you in a couple of weeks for the final build up to UTMB

Andrew also caught up with Mick Donges at the recent Kilian’s Classik where he shares even more insights into his dream come true lifestyle:

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