From Finland to the World: The Trail Running Journey of Juho Ylinen

From Finland to the World: The Trail Running Journey of Juho Ylinen

Finn Juho Ylinen is a shining example of athletic excellence in trail running. We delve into his extraordinary story, dedication to the sport, and unwavering pursuit of success.

Finnish trail runner and Science-In-Sport Ambassador Juho Ylinen debuted on the international running stage in 2020. Following impressive performances in various races within Finland, he embarked on a journey to gain valuable experience in elite-level competitions. Notably, he represented his country at the 2023 World Mountain and Trail Running Championships. The pinnacle of his career materialized in February when he secured a remarkable third-place finish in the Transgrancanaria Marathon.

Drawing inspiration from trail running luminaries like two-time world champion Stian Angermund and 2023 UTMB winner Jim Walmsley, Juho Ylinen has steadily accumulated experience by taking on more challenging races against elite athletes. Aonach caught up with him shortly after his fourth-place finish in the Fýri Trail, the grand finale of the Salomon Golden Trail Nordic Series.

During our conversation, we explored his remarkable journey so far, sought insights on nutrition tips, explored how he strikes a running-life balance, and discussed his aspirations.


Evolution of a Runner

Sport was an important part of Juho’s childhood, with training sessions for ice hockey, football, or basketball filling his free time. When he was 12, he began to lose interest in team sports, but his parents wanted him to have a summer activity, so he took up orienteering.

“Over time, I started to take orienteering and running seriously, quitting ice hockey entirely when I was 16. By 2017, I was training twice a day, a few times a week, attended training camps in Spain during the winter and raced in the spring and autumn. But the emergence of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 led to all the orienteering races being canceled.”

Like everybody, he was unsure what would happen, so he turned his attention to training on flat ground and seeing how fast he could run 5k or 10k. “I took part in some trail marathon races in the autumn and did quite well. I’d run trail races in 2017 and 2019, but they were small races. I hadn’t taken them too seriously and had stomach problems because I hadn’t trained my gut.”


Additionally, he noticed that his performance levels in running far exceeded those in orienteering, mainly because he didn’t have to grapple with the challenging navigation aspect of the sport. He also began to focus on conditioning his gut for optimal race-day performance.

“You need to train your gut with whatever you use in races. If you want to use a particular sports drink, you must train with that. Proper preparation of your race-day nutrition and hydration is non-negotiable. I use every supplement to understand their effects thoroughly for lengthier or tougher training sessions. For example, if I plan to include caffeine in my race strategy, I must know the timing of its effects, so I don’t take it too early or too late, plus I understand the appropriate dosage for optimal performance.”

Furthermore, Juho Ylinen emphasizes never trying anything new during a race. “No new fueling, new equipment, or even new shoes. Any small thing can have a negative impact.”


Balancing Education, Training, and Life

Knowing that he will not be a professional or semi-professional runner all his life, Juho Ylinen is studying Information System Science at university. Most of the course is remote learning, allowing him to train whenever he wants. Additionally, he has developed a newfound interest in trail running with his girlfriend, who recently completed her first race, adding another enjoyable dimension to their relationship.

“We don’t go out often because we don’t enjoy that too much. Everyday life is normal. I don’t have any specific dietary plan and enjoy a lot of candy because you must get those calories in—eating a massive amount of pasta and rice isn’t easy. I don’t want to reach the point where I haven’t eaten enough, and my training and racing suffer.”

As a Nosht Ambassador, he points out that he avoids using gummies or chews in a race to conserve energy, especially during a demanding 25k trail race.

Instead, he offers an alternative approach: "Since Nosht doesn’t offer gels, you can create a similar blend by mixing a generous amount of sports drink powder with water in a bottle. I reserve this method for training sessions, but others use it in races. It’s convenient if you prefer not to chew Nosht products or carry excessive fluids while still needing a concentrated energy source."


Chasing Excellence and International Glory

Juho Ylinen generally can run at his desired pace during races in Finland. He doesn’t push himself to the limit when competing against fellow elite runners. If they are present, he often finds himself slightly ahead. He seeks races where he’s not the automatic favorite but rather someone challenging for a spot in the top 10. Many of these opportunities lie in mountain races, which pose a unique challenge, especially considering the scarcity of such terrain in Finland.

“I spent two beneficial months in Gran Canaria last winter where I could run long up and downhills. To further develop as a trail runner, I aim to gain more experience training and racing in Central Europe. My speed is already faster on flat terrain than many guys destroying me in mountain trail races, but I am working hard to change that.”

In terms of his trail-running aspirations, his goal is to become a formidable contender on the international stage. His target is the upcoming world championships in two years, where he aims to secure a top-10 finish in the marathon race. Beyond that, he has his sights on tackling longer races, even venturing into 100-mile distances.

Above all else, Juho Ylinen’s primary focus is on enjoying both training and racing. He believes it’s essential to prioritize activities that bring personal fulfillment and benefit his performance. “If you don’t want to do strength training, don’t. Find other physical activities to enjoy. Go for the races you enjoy. Trail running isn’t about amassing wealth but enjoying the journey.”


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