Trailblazing Motherhood: Kaisa Tanskanen's Journey to UTTF Champion

Trailblazing Motherhood: Kaisa Tanskanen's Journey to UTTF Champion

Kaisa Tanskanen's journey from marathons to motherhood and her triumphant return to the Ultra Trail Tour Finland (UTTF) is a story of resilience, unexpected victories, and rewriting the script of competitive trail running post-childbirth.

Winning each of the three ultra-distance trail runs that make up the Bridgedale Ultra Trail Tour Finland (UTTF) is a remarkable achievement for any athlete within a single season. Elevating this accomplishment further is the story of Kaisa Tanskanen, who, after a four-year hiatus following childbirth, not only made a triumphant return but also won the coveted title of UTTF Tour champion on her first attempt in 2023.

Throughout her pregnancy and postpartum period, Kaisa committed less time to training than her pre-motherhood routine, challenging prevailing assumptions about returning to competitive running after childbirth. In this interview with Aonach, she reflects on her achievement and shares insights into how she conquered the daunting 456 km of the UTTF with resounding success.


From Marathons to Motherhood

“I wanted to do a marathon once in my lifetime, and then I did it. Yet, it wasn't enough. My husband, Tuukka Tanskanen, also an ultra-runner, introduced me to trail running, which has now become a lifestyle. I was going to do the UTTF in 2020, but the pandemic led to the tour being canceled that year. But I don’t like unfinished business,” laughs Kaisa.

In early 2022, she had a baby boy, and a year later, she began discussing with her husband the possibility of taking on the UTTF. “My son was old enough to manage without me as much, and it had been a few years since my last race, which was Kullamannen 100 miles in 2019. I was scared that I couldn’t do it anymore, so I went to the Nuuksio Classic in 2022 to see how it felt to race again, and it felt good.”

After placing fifth in the Women’s 70 km, she began training for NUTS Karhunkierros 166 km with help from coach and friend Teemu Saranpää, who had created a training schedule for her initial UTTF attempt. “The plan was to do things properly because I'm more about quantity over quality. My average weekly running total this year was 55 km, which sounds low for an ultra-runner, but it worked well for me.”

Initially, the strategy began and ended with competing in Karhunkierros because failure would mean a change of plan. “We did not think about the other races. However, the eventual outcome was unexpected when I decided to do the tour last autumn.”

Photo Simo Vilhunen


Triumph Over Trials

Being a parent with a child in daycare means illness is common, and it was no different for Kaisa. “I was sick almost every month this year. I had a cold, stomach flu, and everything in between. In the summer, I was healthy, but the week before Karhunkierros, my son had a fever and an ear inflammation. The day before the race, I wondered whether I would even compete. When I won, it was surreal.”

After such a difficult race week, she felt all the obstacles had been overcome, learning the importance of “aina kannattaa yrittää”—you always need to try. For weeks following the race, I felt I could do anything and became a little emotional when thinking about how it went. I also had to reduce and modify the training plan because of a few early signs of stress injuries.”

Six weeks later, armed with some hill training, she stood at the starting line for NUTS Ylläs-Pallas 160 km, her favorite place in Finland to run. “It was my biggest race because I love that place so much. I have been there many times just running alone or with my husband. During the race, I led from the start and just had to maintain the pace.”

About 25 km from the finish, there were a few hours between her and the next runner, but she resisted premature celebrations. “Anything can happen. You shouldn't congratulate yourself too early. When I cross the finish line, I'm a winner in my achievements, not just the competition.”

Following a family trip to the Alps in August, where Kaisa took turns with her husband to run and spend quality time with their son, she returned to prepare for the Vaarojen Maraton 130 km. “I had unfinished business in Koli because I DNF’d in 2020 after suffering an ankle injury. There was additional pressure because I didn’t want to undertake the UTTF Tour again next year.”

Despite concerns about the slippery and technical nature of the terrain, she began to think success was possible about 30 km from the finish line. “When I was at Kiviniemi the second time taking water, there were men in second to fourth places, which gave me energy. I came first in the women’s race and third overall. After Koli, I had an empty feeling, a little like the post-marathon blues.”

While the Ultra Trail Tour Finisher vest is on the way, she admits to being shy about her remarkable success this year. “I'm a Finn and don't want to discuss my achievements. When a friend visits, my husband mentions that I have won this prize, but I get embarrassed. I'm learning to celebrate my success, though.”

Photo Rami Valonen


Balancing Motherhood and Running

Reflecting on her year of running while embracing the challenges of motherhood, Kaisa can't help but share her experiences and insights with anybody considering or currently experiencing pregnancy.

“During my pregnancy, I was determined to stay active, incorporating swimming, biking, and long walks into my routine. As the due date approached, I adjusted my running distances, considering the discomfort of a growing belly and added weight. Fortunately, I could train until labor, focusing on swimming even the day before giving birth.”

Post-delivery, she continued with biking and skiing before gradually returning to running. “Around 2-3 months after labor, I joined CrossFit workouts for new moms, incorporating my baby into the routine. It wasn't without challenges, but having a supportive partner was crucial. My husband took on parenting responsibilities and was present at every race, cheering me on.”

Photo Rami Valonen

They organized their schedules utilized nap times for workouts, and her husband even took parental leave during the summer to support her training and pursuit of becoming a Pilates teacher. “It was a puzzle to solve, but teamwork made it possible. Even with a busy schedule, incorporating training into daily life is achievable, whether running to work, using jogging strollers, or taking advantage of a home gym.”

Her advice for female runners navigating pregnancy or postpartum is to listen to your body. “Train according to what feels good during pregnancy, acknowledging that it's a temporary phase. After childbirth, gradually reintroduce running, trying to enjoy the process without rushing.”


Whether you're a seasoned trail runner, a new parent navigating the challenges of postpartum fitness, or someone seeking inspiration, take a step forward. The adventure awaits – contact Aonach Sports Nutrition Coach for advice on how to begin.
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