Our outstanding ultramarathon runner Nikolina Šustić Stanković won't forget 2018, since this year she won her first world title. She was faster than the Croatian official men's record for a 100 km run, and she won the Wings for Life World Run. It is hard to excel these achievements, but she is certain that her best running days are yet to come, if she doesn’t get sidelined by injuries.
Croatia has another athlete World Champion. After many years at the very top of her favorite discipline, at the Ultramarathon World Championship, held on September 8 at St. Martin on the River Mura, Nikolina Šustić Stanković came in as the winner. It took her seven exhausting hours, 20 minutes and 34 seconds of running to leave 100 km behind her and to make out running history, and with Veronika Jurišić and Antonia Orlić she also won the team bronze for Croatia.
"It sounds nice to be a World Champion, especially since it is a home ground victory, and my motivation was higher than for the other championships. I guess I didn't disappoint anyone, at the finish line I was overwhelmed and extremely happy, first of all because of my twin sister Nataša who encouraged me along the track, and my family who were in Split,'' Nikolina describes the biggest victory of her career. On a demanding wavy track, she achieved the unimaginable by finishing the 100 km run four minutes faster than the Croatian official men's record (7:24:35).
"I did not expect that, I was surprised when they told me. This is another proof that women are more comfortable running ultras than men, because some Italian runners who run 25 minutes faster marathon than me always stay behind me at Del Passatore race which I love," Šustić Stanković said and revealed to us another interesting fact: although she got married four years ago and changed her last name, the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) still has her registered under her maiden name, Nikolina Šustić.
But formalities can’t stop this lovable Split native on her way to victories, and sometimes even injuries can't. This year serious knee pains followed her to her fourth victory in a row at the aforementioned ultramarathon Del Passatore.
"This knee injury was exacerbated during that race, I run limping for 70km, but during the ultramarathon you have to have a strong mind. I was in pain, but I kept a trace record pace and I didn’t slow down until the very end," unstoppable athlete recalls. Despite all, that weekend in Italy she won more than half an hour ahead of the second-placed colleague from the Croatian team Marija Vrajić.
A global victory at the Wings for Life World Run was also at her reach in Zug in Switzerland where she came in second in the whole world, with a result of 53.73 km, only 50 meters behind the winner Vera Nunes. Of course, after Zadar, Stavanger and Cambridge, it was Nikolina's fourth local Wings for Life World Run victory.
"Switzerland is a beautiful country, Zug is a charming town, the highlands and the nature are beautiful. The day before the race we went on a big bike tour in the area, and enjoyed a traditional Croatian grill with our friends. Nataša was also great on that trail, she run 36 km and finished eighth, and at the ceremony held at the central town square I was given a big bell, the most beautiful cup for the Wings for Life World Run victory I got so far." Nikolina has already started thinking about the next issue of the Croatian racers' favorite race that we are running for those who can’t, which will start at the same time, on May 5, 2019, in Zadar and many cities around six different continents.
"Of course, I intend to run, but I haven't chosen the location yet. Wings for Life World Run is a great opportunity for me to spend some time and travel with my sister and she always wants to go somewhere far away, to Australia, America or Japan. I don't like traveling so far and I would have to take a lot of vacation days which I don't have many. I'll have to think about it, maybe I'll let her talk me into it, but I'd rather go back to Zadar, and let Nataša go somewhere else and run with somebody else," the Croatian ultramarathoner says in jest knowing that if she doesn’t get sidelined by injuries she will be at the peak in her thirties that are yet to come.
"I don’t think I've run the best race of my life. That one is yet to come," says Nikolina Šustić Stanković. Without doubt, Wings for Life World Run will see her best performances for years to come…
Kenny Belaey, Ieper, Belgium
Melina Magulas, Norway
Natalie Hilton, participant 2015