“I love running… Because to me running is freedom.”

Ula has 32 hours to complete a 221-k distance. And when she does, she’ll go up a level and aim for 248 km.

First one on the list is Ultrabalaton, a 221 km race around the Lake Balaton, Hungary. Second one is the holy grail of ultraraces – a 248 km Sparathlon (hints: Battle of Marathon,  Pheidippides and 490 BC).

“Feeling the burn in the lungs and muscles; it makes me feel alive.”

Ula Kupec, 21 yrs, Slovenia

Finishing those two races would make her the youngest female ever to run, and complete, a 221 and 248 km distance.

“This could take female ultrarunning to a whole new level.”

She is a student at Faculty for Sports who’s literally in love with ultrarunning (and a runner as well). “Mentally, this kind of a distance is a struggle. I know I will have to face the pain and exhaustion but I can take them very well… Knowing this, I am at peace.”


The average speed Ula plans to keep for Ulatrabalaton is 9-10 km/h.

“I want to finish those two races to kind of ‘find out what I’m made of’. To test my body and mind.”

Right now she is working on every detail of the race with a goal of having a plan for whatever could go wrong. That means plan A, B, C, D… Because those runs get tough. Actually they get tough pretty often and having a coping strategy to face the pain and run alongside it is necessary.

“When it knocks me down I try to take it as it is. Similar to life, you have good days, you have bad days and nothing is wrong with that.”


She finished her first 10k at age of 14. The year after? 21k. Two years after she completed her first marathon. Aged 18, she raised the bar to 73-km trail between Celje and Logarska dolina, Slovenia. The longest race she has run so far is a 110 km race in Istria with an elevation of 4700m+/4700m-.

“I finished this race when I was just 19. It was a breakthrough for me because I ended up on 9th place among women.”

When she’s not running, she’s cycling, ski touring or “anything” in nature. 


Training for 221 km demands a huge weekly mileage and whole lot of time.

“I do more than 100 km every week.”

Once a week shea also does speed training, a trail run with elevation, some strength training and a night run: “You have to watch every step of the way and be careful. And this burns a lot of energy. You also get sleepy, because you are not used to that kind of a rhythm.”


If I stopped running I would just exist. But sports, and love, make me really live. I think everybody needs something to make them feel more alive.

Ula is running Ulatrabalaton on May 28. She’ll be escorted by her boyfriend and the parents – the reason to fell in love with (ultra)running in the first place: “When I was a child we were hiking and skiing and I was training athletics – the sprint.”

Later, her father became her mirror: “I’m so grateful he introduced me to ultrarunning.”


She runs, and will also attempt Ultrabalaton, in Saucony Kinvara shoes.

“They fit perfectly to my feet.”

What do you think about when you 32 hours to run?

“Actually my best runs are the ones when I don’t think much.“

Ula is also vegan. But that’s the topic for part 2.

Follow her on the blog: ULTRA Ula Kupec

Photos: personal archive