The Finnish long-distance runner, former classic bodybuilder and Aonach athlete Diana Wikblom wholeheartedly commits to anything she focuses upon. Whether training, pumping iron or running intervals, it is a lifestyle that makes her feel alive.
However, her childhood self wouldn’t recognise the adult she has become. “When I was a kid, I didn’t do any sports. I was flat-footed, overweight, overate chocolate and ice cream, and just watched television.”
So how did Diana transform herself into the ultra-fit competitor she is today?
Going from strength to strength
Despite half-hearted attempts to get fit in her 20s, it wasn’t until Diana turned 29 that things started to get serious.
“I’d started going to the gym and marvelled at the physiques in the bodybuilding magazines there. At that time, my brother had begun to compete in classic bodybuilding competitions and needed my help because he didn’t speak Finnish. I began to train with him and was soon hooked.”
Her next step was to reach out for help, so she wrote to Salla Kauranen, one of the most successful amateur female bodybuilders in Europe, who unexpectedly answered yes. Diana began to travel to Helsinki for training sessions regularly with her, and the result was winning a classic bodybuilding gold medal in 2007.
“It was awesome but tough to lose every bit of body fat. Only people who have done it can fully understand the difficulty. After the competition, I was eager to continue, but six months later, my body and mind said stop.”
It would be three years before Diana was mentally prepared to get fit again. She resumed her fitness regime with cycling, which led to an interest in the triathlon, bringing swimming and running into the mix.
“I was competing in local triathlon competitions but became more hooked on the running. In 2013, I competed in the , one of Sweden’s hardest one-day mountain marathons. My goal was to complete it, which I did—much to my husband’s surprise.”
Her determination pushed her to go faster and faster, so she hit the track and ran at heavy intervals until injury inevitably struck.
Up and running
After a few months of recuperation, Diana tentatively returned to the gym, where all the old feelings returned.
“I forgot about running and wanted to get my muscles back for competition. However, after a few years, I noticed that the sport had changed, and I didn’t want to be a part of it, which left me feeling confused.
Diana emphasises that she grew a lot as a person within the bodybuilding system, learning about discipline, hard training and the importance of eating the right food at the right time.
In 2018, she moved to Ylläs in Lapland to work for the winter season and be outside among nature, from which she draws energy. Once a week, she’d drive to a gym and start to run, but it was tough.
“I wasn’t in the proper condition because I had built many muscles. My goal was to run four kilometres without stopping, which took a while. I also worked very hard on foot strength by doing different exercises and running barefoot for a bit almost daily.”
Diana returned to Ylläs for two more winters, continuing to run ever further on the soft snow until she was ready to compete in the 32-kilometre in 2019, which she completed in just over five hours.
“I have now competed in masters, 50k ultra-trail running, track and marathons. I love doing long intervals and many kilometres because I’m a little like a diesel: running fast and short is a significant injury risk for me, and my body doesn’t handle it well.”
Going forward, she has a long list of marathons on her bucket list, trail running in the Alps and the early stages of a plan to run and raise money in Africa.
“I dream of achieving a personal best in different age groups. There’s no limit because there is a record to be broken in every age group. I follow many people still running fast in their 80s and 90s, so I want to be that person.”
Since Diana puts 100% of her heart and soul into everything she does, there’s no doubt she’ll accomplish all those dreams.