For the latest instalment of The Checklist, we speak to ultrarunner and skyrunner Ragna Debats, one of a number of awe-inspiring women in the ultra-running world right now.
Ragna took some time to tell us about her forthcoming adventures, and a little about the kit she vouches for in some of the world's most extreme races, from UTMB and Marathon de Sables.
Iâm Ragna Debats, 40 years old, born in the Netherlands. I grew up in a village and soon developed a predilection for animals and nature. After finishing secondary school, I moved to Germany to become a professional horse trainer.
I was ambitious and wanted to compete in the Olympics, but the harsh training methods were against my nature and my dreams vanished. At the age of 28 I discovered trail running and started a running career. In ten years I became world champion in skyrunning, trail running and snowshoe running.
What projects are you currently working on?
I am on a world tour traveling to all the continents and racing a trail running or skyrunning event on each of them together with my partner Pere Aurell. We are traveling as a family with our daughter Onna and our dog Bru. We are joined by Julen, our cameraman who captures our experiences to produce a documentary of each continent and finally a complete film.
Rolling Mountains is the most complete challenge I have ever had. It combines competing in some of the worldâs toughest races, motherhood, traveling and producing inspiring documentaries!
What was the last thing you trained for?
Recently I ran 4 Refugioâs non-stop, one of the most technical and beautiful sky runs I have ever raced!
Together with my partner we prepare for one big race on each continent. Our next race will be the Volcano Ultra Marathon in Costa Rica.
This is a completely self-sufficient multistage race of 250km in 6 stages and with 12.000m positive altitude gain. Afterwards we will race a sky race in California and then weâll go to
Africa to race the highest race in the world (Kilimanjaro). In Summer we will race the queen of all European races: UTMB and then weâll fly to Oceania to explore New Zealand and run the Crater Rim Ultra. Finally, we will go to the Antarctic on an expedition ship and run the Last Desert.
How do you evaluate your performance of a training session? What does a successful one look like?
A successful training is a combination of effort, the feeling of strong and fast legs and beautiful mountains to run in. People have already started to look after their mental and physical health. This and strength training are a great formula for success.
I am a Merrell ambassador and use their footwear throughout my training sessions and races. For my dynamic training sessions and day to day life, I love Merrellâs Trail Gloves. This is a minimalist shoe with 0mm drop.
For more mountainous terrain I love to wear the Merrell MQM Flex2 GTX. Itâs a durable shoe which keeps my feet dry and protected, even in the most aggressive terrain.
Finally, for most of my races I use Merrellâs MTL Long Sky. This model is light and has a great grip!
I love my Cortex thermo shirts and Iâm keen on perfecting the gear we are developing with the new Catalan brand Santanderina.
Since this year I am an ambassador of Naked Running (race vests and bands) and I am really pleased with their products. I always wear either the vest or the bra whilst running.
Naked Hydration flask - (Naked)
Naked Running Vest (Naked)
Garmin Fenix 6 Sapphire GPS sports watch (Amazon)
Lurbel Remote Socks White (Amazon)
Leki Micro Trail Vario poles (Leki)
Julbo Aerolite sunglasses (Julbo)
Whereâs the best place you ever trained or competed?
I love to run in Italy, but recently I was in Argentina and ran an incredibly beautiful and technical race near Bariloche (4 Refugioâs non-stop). I also adore running in the Tierras del Ebro, Catalonia. This is where I started my running career. It has all types of terrain, is quiet and beautiful!
Whatâs the exercise you hate doing the most?
I donât hate any exercise, but I often need some extra motivation to get my core training done.
Whatâs your ultimate workout song?
I listen to the birds and other sounds of nature whilst running
How many push-ups can you do in one go?
Not many... maybe 20-30?
If you could compete/train anywhere in the world where would it be?
Whoâs your fitness/sporting hero?
Not sure. Iâve met so many admirable power women lately. I admire women who manage to combine an active lifestyle and motherhood in general. Also, I admire Paul Capell for his energy, motivation and determination
Is there any sport youâre really bad at?
Whatâs your favorite post-competition/challenge meal?
Recently I was served filled pumpkin, which was awesome.
On other occasions I eat the Catalan dishâ mel & matĂłâ which is great for recovery!