Trailblazing Resilience: Nina Repo’s UTTF Journey and Beyond

Trailblazing Resilience: Nina Repo’s UTTF Journey and Beyond

Nina Repo’s success in the 2022 Ultra Trail Tour Finland series is a testament to the power of nature. Her story is one of triumphs, personal growth, and the unyielding spirit of a dreamer.

Trail running is often characterized by its enthusiasts as an exhilarating journey, immersing them in the beauty of nature while simultaneously testing each runner's physical and mental limits. For Nina Repo, the 2022 Ultra Trail Tour Finland (UTTF) series champion, the sport has profoundly helped her psychologically with navigating life’s unexpected challenges. 

Known familiarly as Ninni, she describes herself as a ‘dreamer,’ explaining that dreams are fundamental to setting goals in life and sports. As a well-being coach and graphic designer, she wants to inspire and encourage others to fulfill their ambitions by taking that daunting first step—something she knows from personal experience.



Discovering Strength in Nature

In 2014, Ninni felt lost. “I wasn’t feeling well and forgot to take care of myself. I was burnt out and had panic attacks. I had to take a long sick leave from work. I hit rock bottom. I began to recover and realized I couldn’t return to how I was living before.”

Her first step was to start going for walks on the forest trails nearby and then sign up for an orienteering course with her daughter. “Slowly, I became more confident in the forest, which somehow led me to want to run."

Initially, Ninni struggled to run more than a few kilometers, but that gradually changed. She was soon exploring the trails in Vuokatti, a municipality in northeast Finland and a mecca for endurance sports in the country. “I’m honored to live there. Nature inspires me daily, and its vast trail network always provides something new to find.”

As her fitness grew, she began competing and found the distances increasing with each new race. In early 2021, she prepared to attempt NUTS Karhunkierros 166 km, but that ended with a DNF in Oulanka after about 100 kilometers.

“I was in good shape in the autumn and felt ready to try the Vaarojen Maraton 130 km in October. I succeeded there, which gave me a lot of confidence, so I thought if I could have a good winter, I would try again for the whole UTTF series.” The winter was good enough to set the stage for a memorable 2022.



Balancing Success and Self-Care

During her running career, Ninni has always been about the experience. However, during the first UTTF race at Karhunkierros, she unlocked a previously unknown competitive edge. “I heard on route that I was third and couldn’t believe it, but I was suddenly determined to keep it.” And she did, following it up with another third at the NUTS Ylläs-Pallas 160 km.

Before the last race of the UTTF series, the Vaarojen Maraton, a friend told her to ‘go and take the whole thing’ just as she headed to the starting line, but she didn’t realize what they meant. “Even now, I don’t understand how the points are counted, but some people said I could win. After finishing second, I was eating when I was told that I had won overall; it still feels absurd. I never dreamed that I would win the tour.”

Looking back, Ninni describes 2022 as the culmination of a journey. “I learned a lot about myself; I’m proud of my resilience and bravery facing the unknown.” Following the success, she rested and waited for inspiration to strike and guide her towards the next challenge. But it didn’t come.

“At the beginning of last year, I was ready to develop myself further and be even better in the summer, but difficult events demanded a lot of energy. I had to focus on the upkeep of my well-being. I listened to myself and resisted pushing myself to new limits.”

Even though it was a year off from racing, Ninni did compete in a few shorter races. “They were fun. Being in the top three or improving my times aren’t things that motivate me. It is about the journey, feelings, and places people can see and experience.” As such, inspiration finally did strike in the form of TDS.



Power Restored

Ninni felt like her power had returned in the autumn, and life had a better balance. “My mind began to wander towards new adventures; I was hungry again. I had wondered for a couple of years about going abroad to experience a race, but it was impossible for a few reasons.”

While there are still obstacles she is working to overcome, her eyes settled on the Ultra-Trail Mont Blanc TDS race in Italy. It is a 146 km race on the mountainous trails around Mont Blanc, with an ascent of 9,100 meters. “I don’t know if I’m going to get through it or even get there, but I’m interested in seeing what this big event is all about.”

Success in the UTMB TDS would open the door to competing in the main event, giving her a long-term vision for next year. “I don’t have a Plan B, but my health and everyday life situation will guide me. I’m ready to make other plans.”

As she stands at the threshold of a new trail-running adventure, her journey epitomizes the connection between nature, personal growth, and a dreamer's spirit. Ninni ends by imparting a reminder that it’s not just about reaching the finish line but the resilience to adapt and savor each step.


Whether you're an avid trail runner or a dreamer seeking inspiration, embrace the adventure with Ninni. Stay tuned on Aonach for updates and be part of the community that celebrates every step towards new horizons. Will you join the journey?

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