Fabien Antolinos: “Never stop and never give up."

We caught up with Mizuno athlete Fabien Antolinos to get an insight into his world and find out what inspires him on and off the trail.

Fabien, you began trail running relatively late. What did you do before then?

Yep, this year I turned 40 years old. I am married, a father of 2 children and I work as a physical education teacher in a middle school in Lyon, France.

I began trail running late. It actually wasn’t until the age of 31!

That’s not to say I wasn’t already an active person though. Before trail running, I played soccer and did a lot of mountain climbing – especially mountain ice climbing. I had also previously completed two marathons, achievements which really helped when I made the switch to the trail.

How did your first race go?

My first race was a revelation for me. It made me realise the depth of my potential in this field. I won a famous race of 70km in my region, between Saint Etienne and Lyon.

It’s the oldest natural race in France today, and I won it to the surprise of everyone.

But don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t easy! I was in pain with many cramps and took some really big risks during the race, running faster than I perhaps should’ve, ahead of all the other well-known, more experienced runners.

Where has been your favorite place to race?

Where to begin?

The Lavaredo Ultra-Trail (LUT) through the Dolomites is definitely one of the most beautiful memories from my time so far as a trail runner. The tour of Mont Blanc (UTMB) and the crossing of the island of Madeira (MIUT) are up there as well.

It’s difficult to choose between them!

If I had to recommend three races to other ultra athletes, it would be these three, for sure.

What is your biggest inspiration in the sport?

I like spending time in the mountains a lot.

The vast spaces are incredible and I find long, enduring efforts in these environments extremely fulfilling. I also get a lot of inspiration and satisfaction out of races. Putting myself to the test in competitions against other runners is always exciting to me.

I always try and get the best out of myself in every race. I want to push myself further and faster every time. There’s no point doing things by halves.

How do you fit your passion for trail running around your daily life?

My timetable is super tight and difficult to maintain when I’m working a lot. But I do my best to train as much as possible, while keeping a good life balance.

I love to spend time with my family, and that comes first. And like I say, I also teach at a middle school, and I coach as well. Every minute is precious and I try to squeeze everything I can out of my time. I am not often on my couch – let’s put it that way.

During the school holidays I have more time to train, but also to simply rest. Resting is obviously very important, but it’s not always what I want to be doing!

Tell us a bit about your training…

In terms of mental training, I make sure I am prepared for difficulties, for suffering, pain and fatigue on the trail. I know it’s a good thing to do, of course.

But in my mind, it’s simple: Never stop and never give up.

I consider myself a strong person in my mind, so don’t need to spend too much time on this as others maybe have to.

I average between 7-12 training sessions a week. During my working period, I train for about 12 hours a week. And during my holiday period and for big preparations it can rise to anywhere around 35 hours a week. Which is approximately 150km on foot at least.

A lot (maybe half) of all my training throughout the year is on foot. But I also spend time cycling, weight training and in the winter months I go skiing.

My gear is really important to my training as well. If it didn’t stand up to the test, I’d be buying running shoes every week! At the moment I go through about 10 pairs a year, which sounds a lot, but without the quality and durability of my Michelin soles it would definitely be higher.

You must have pretty high expectations from your technical equipment?

The races I compete in are very diverse.

Certain races are about speed, others are more about agility and balance. It all depends on the terrain and the weather conditions.

As a runner, above all, you have to look for dynamic and durable gear. But it also needs to be lightweight too. So there’s a lot to think about and a lot to live up to.

Shoes especially need to be solid and resilient on abrasive grounds.        

How have you been getting on with the Mizuno Wave Daichi? You ran 120 kilometers in them at Lavaredo Ultra-Trail 2017!

I’m very happy with my choice of shoes. The pair of Mizuno Wave Daichis we’re talking about now lasted for almost 400km in total. Not in easy conditions either.

I used them in competition and put them through difficult rounds like Madeira, the Lavaredo Ultra-Trail and also used them in the French Alps between April and the end of June this year. The drop shot and the grip is excellent, even on wet grounds.

They are really comfortable too!

During ultra races I used to have to change shoes at the halfway mark. But with the Daichi’s this isn’t something I need to worry about anymore.

Which is great.

Tell us a particular memory you have from the Lavaredo Ultra-Trail 2017?

On a long race you always have moments of discouragement and intense fatigue. But you also get times of clarity and renewed energy, where you feel stronger.

The objective when you feel bad is to convince yourself that you will feel better later on, and that particular key moment came for me in this race at the 113th kilometer.

I was 1 minute 30 behind first place, when I decided I wasn’t going to stop for the last provisioning so I could save as much time as possible. I was able to close the gap and the decision ultimately helped me to win the race on my own terms.

It’s exhilarating to be the best, as there are so many good runners. I was happy with the choices I made from the beginning to the end of the race.

What’s next?

I always hope to win with Mizuno, Michelin and Earth of Running, whatever the races are.

The next big event for me is in Norway. It’s a Sky Running running race to Tromso. Norway is an amazing place, with so unbelievable landscapes, so I’m really looking forward to it!

In the meantime, I’m going to climb Mont Blanc via the normal route, but I’ll be finishing the the ascent with crampons and ice axes.

You can stay up-to-date with Fabien’s progress here.