The enthusiasm we encounter every day in Trail Running is one of the greatest pleasures of the sport. But if one looks for an athlete who would best illustrate this value, Anna Frost immediately comes to mind. It's enough to just see her sparkling smile that never completely disappears and to be caught by her contagious dynamism – she is the sport's enthusiasm personified. Anna is one of those people who emits so much vitality that as soon as she enters a room, the atmosphere is transformed, as if the light has intensified and the air begins to vibrate. Anna has this life force and by attending, observing and crossing many phases of her life as a sportswoman alongside her, that she gives us a unique opportunity to understand the recipe for enthusiasm.
For Anna, the basis of her passion for the Trail dates back to her childhood spent in Dunedin, New Zealand. A house perched on top of a hill. Stunning views from all windows. We had the chance to visit with a few athletes from the team some years ago. Anna allowed us to discover her "home", which is not just a house, but a world where the air seems purer and more welcoming than elsewhere. We understood – by discovering these perfect landscapes – that one can imagine they've been transported to a children's illustrated book. You understand where the unique light in her eyes come from. It is the light of her home – intense, vibrant and so colorful. Whenever the family went for walks – all backpacks and smiles – in no time they would crisscross the ridges and meet exceptional images of natural beauty, ocean on one side and wild peaks on the other. By surveying all these lands from an early age, she has developed an exceptional physical strength and endurance ability, which she tested during her adolescence by participating in many sports that included running. As a little girl this was the beginning of her discovery of the wider world. It is easy to understand her energy and her desire to spend the rest of her life exploring the whole planet, to measure up to these first memories of grandiose nature, never frightening but always magical and attractive.
To retrace her background with Salomon and get an idea of her motives, she told us the story of her career – this clear voice that gives confidence without ever getting lost in arrogance. Even when she speaks, this girl doesn't drag, she is concise and she stays in the positive.
"My initial motivation to enter with Salomon in 2009 was the trip to Nepal. Who could resist that? It was an incredible chance, to go running in the Himalayas, I did not think any further than that! I think the plans are not my thing. And besides, when we lock ourselves into plans that are too well thought out, I'm sure we're missing out on many beautiful adventures. Instead, you have to be open to everything and seize opportunities when they arise. I talk a lot, I connect with people and it triggers new adventures. It is the wealth of encounters that most influence my career. To join Salomon was an unexpected door that opened. I just chose to cross it and move on to a new stage. Nothing more complicated. That's how I move in life. There was really no fear, just great excitement! You know, this career, I have not really dreamed or prepared. It happened by chance, a good coincidence. I was just lucky to have doors that opened. And I knew each time to cross the threshold. Yes, I took risks, but I have always been happy to take them.”
We understood from her that beyond this mixture of curiosity and daring, enthusiasm goes hand in hand with courage. Anna is not afraid to take risks, to leave herself exposed, or to go after the exploration of her passion. She moves forward, without a precise plan and without apprehension. For her it's enough that the spark of desire is present to illuminate her path. It was with time that Anna offered us the hints of the following ingredients. Yes, it's great to evolve in life with such an open and positive mind, taking chances. But inevitably at one time or another, everyone gets knocked back. How do you keep the flame of enthusiasm alive when you take away the ability to fully live your passion? How do you keep smiling when obstacles pile up and the energy to overcome them is lacking?
In 2012 Anna developed a hormonal imbalance that led to a complex set of physical problems, including stress fractures. The shock was deep. Her body had never failed, on the contrary, it had always been her great ally, paving the way for so many adventures. For a long time she refused to admit that it was necessary to slow down. Every year, when we agreed on her race schedule, she built her life around that, she determined where she'd put her bag and for how long, in whatever country, according to her varied goals. She usually settled for a while in a place, to discover the environment, with a race to conclude the experience. She had been living this way for so long, that it was difficult for her to consider a more relaxed lifestyle. So for a year she fought. Her body was no longer an ally, it had become the enemy that had to be conquered. As soon as she felt a small improvement, she returned to running and her body made her pay again. Her nomadic lifestyle did not help her recovery. Rest demands calmness – an opportunity to find new ways to relax the body and mind. Anna's bag contained only sports gear, more or less, and she had no fixed address. It made it impossible for her to retreat into a cocoon to recover. Her cocoon has always been very far away, at home in New Zealand. Between 2012 and 2013 she faced a lot of questions – about her lifestyle, about her physical abilities, about her future. We spent a lot of time talking about it together – painful, difficult conversations. When I saw her determination at each new race registration, when I saw the momentum that gave each goal, I didn't want to stop it – I could not stop it. As soon as she climbed the slope, she surprised us again. Her victories were so beautiful, made even more inspiring by the words she put in, the emotions she delivered. When she won the 2012 Transvulcania, her race report posted on irunfar.com was an ode, not to victory, but to her love of the mountain. She recounted her race as one tells an intimate story, with all the feelings, by paying homage to this magnificent volcanic island on which she had just lived a small parenthesis of happiness. But with each relapse, her suffering was as contagious as the joy she knows so well. To see Anna cry, it's an aberration, it's against nature, it makes you want to hunt, by whatever means, every tear so that the smile comes back. During this whole roller coaster phase, there was a certainty - we were not going to let go. She had a place among us and with her solar charm, dynamism and outspokenness, she had achieved enviable notoriety in the community. She had become a model for women trailers. However, what she was experiencing personally was so destabilizing that her enthusiasm was severely tested and her own certainties were turned upside down. After a new fall and the requirement for a new rest period at the end of 2012, it hit rock bottom.
"I do not really know who I am," she told me during one of our conversations at the Annecy office, where we were trying to set goals for the new season. "I spent those years building myself as a sportswoman. Today, I am a professional runner. But a runner who can not run anymore ... What am I supposed to do? I do not know where to live anymore. For once, I have no plan and it scares me ... " The tears flowed. She wiped them with the back of the hand, apologized, forced herself to smile, did everything possible not to crack. "I never knew that, a phase so dark. I do not know how to get out.”
I made her talk about something other than running, I asked her about the dreams she had outside of sport. I knew she was very creative. She always brings back as a souvenir the little things she finds during her shopping or her travels, shiny pebbles, shells, pearls or ribbons. She had started making jewelry and her collection was growing, she was proud to show it to us. Each element had a story. When she spoke about it, her eyes sparkled again, "Why don't you sell your creations? It would be easy to make you a website. You are lucky enough to have a good number of followers, your clientele is ready! And then, it would be an opportunity for you to show another aspect of what your passion brings you. Your inspiration comes from all that you experience and see during the trips that the Trail brings. Just because you're not running right now, doesn't mean you have nothing to say, nothing to deliver."
True to her whole character, to her mania for doing things thoroughly, when Anna finally agreed to give herself the rest her body so badly needed, she did it well and positively. She was involved in other projects, while continuing to be part of the team during this long phase of injury. She accompanied other athletes to the races, offered them her support, her smile, her friendship. She continued to express herself through social networks. She launched her website and her jewelry collections were sold as soon as she posted them online. Her creativity inspired us internally and Salomon offered to design a limited edition collection of trailwear for women, on the theme of New Zealand. During the summer of 2013, she shut herself up in a small room here in Annecy and made it a haven of inspiration. She covered the walls with postcards, photos, images in which she found the colors, emotions and brightness of her home. She worked with designers, she accompanied buyers to choose the fabrics, she spent time with seamstresses. By rubbing shoulders with all these people, she absorbed everything she could from their knowledge and, in return, gave them a maximum amount of her enthusiasm. Anna got so excited about the project that she did not stop at a collection of Trail-running technical gear. She is unable to contain herself, she always goes very far in what she does. In a burst of creativity, she gave free rein to her imagination and even designed a party dress! She initially showed it to the seamstress team only, thinking that the idea would not go further, because it was outside the prescribed range. But they were so happy to have the opportunity to make a fashion garment that they decided to make the prototype. Anna accompanied them in the choice of the fabric, without imagining that the dress would become reality. What mattered most to her during this time was simply the momentum that the project brought her. The entire team was proud and moved to see this 'limited edition, designed by Anna Frost'. The day all the prototypes were ready, we invited Anna to a party to celebrate the event, with all those who had participated. She radiated joy and emotion. All the clothes were presented, and then the team of seamstresses unveiled the surprise element - the evening dress – unique, made to measure. Anna soon put it on. The long white and mauve black cloth enveloped her perfectly, teasing her bare feet which appeared and disappeared, in a small reminder of her nature side. What an effect it was to see her like that, as if a fairy had given a magic wand to turn her into a princess. I was speechless! She was already the star of the evening, but dressed like that and with her permanent smile on her face, no one could eclipse it.
"Thank you for this beautiful project, I learned a lot, it was fantastic. And during this difficult time, I mostly learned about myself. It took me through a dark tunnel and I accept to change the entire structure of my life, I had a lot of trouble. But I learned to slow down, to breathe, to walk instead of running, to sit in a cafe to watch people passing by, to think about who I am. I come out stronger and you helped me, you all helped me,”.
In front of me I saw the Anna we knew and loved and this victory seemed to me much more important than any other. What I also noticed was a more relaxed, more serene side.
"All that matters is that your smile is back. You've always been strong Anna, it's obvious to everyone who knows you. That you know yourself more clearly today is surely the best thing that can come out of this ordeal. You look more serene."
"That's for sure! And you know what was the most important conclusion is? I know now that my passion for the Trail does not have to be everything. This is not the foundation of my identity. I had to understand that. It was painful because I thought, wrongly, that I had nothing else. I made myself run, it's the worst mistake. I sank into pain and almost killed the passion. Through projects like this, I realized that I'm not defined just by being a runner. I may have other desires, there is no reason for my life to be paused when I am hurt. Whatever happens, I am a person who runs sometimes (often!), But has many other passions to explore. I still don’t have a definite plan, no! Soon, I would like to put my bag somewhere, to consider a family. To stop my nomadic life, with a fixed shelf for my toothbrush. There are plenty of races I enjoyed at all distances. I'm ready to go!" And talking, she vibrated with energy again, she did not need to express it, it radiated from her. "The desire is back! And I will be able to live this passion differently. Today, I have nothing to prove, it feels good. After what I've lived, I feel lucky. I recognize this chance, I savor it. It's a new consciousness, and I'm trying to apply it to everything I do. I tell everyone now, be mindful."
By having the courage to tackle darker themes during her career, Anna attracted even more followers, because she spoke in articles or on her blog on behalf of all the women who sometimes fight with their bodies, without a good understanding of what can cause phases of fragility and imbalance. The subject is complex, she strives to make it less taboo. She also had the courage to engage in a video for Salomonrunning TV, shot at her home in Dunedin (http://tv.salomon.com/channel/running#overlay/Home). It was late 2013 and she had come a long way. Between tears and joy, she sent a strong message. She said that the desire to practice a sport thoroughly is a thread that can break, which leads to a lack of self-confidence and certainty. She said that in order to preserve the passion, one must first of all accept oneself. She said that to have the strength to do what you love, you must first love yourself, as you are.
Finally, while trying to trace the ingredients of enthusiasm through Anna, what emerges is perhaps simply the portrait of a young woman strong and vulnerable, frank and generous, who illuminates all the trails on which she passes. Surely the ingredients she revealed about enthusiasm are important - the foundation at a young age, this mixture of curiosity and daring, this openness to others that creates so many opportunities to explore every facet of life. A passion, and this ability to appreciate the small details, this hyper consciousness. She made me understand that enthusiasm is the ability to give 100% of yourself.Thanks Anna for all you bring to the sport, for the happiness you were able to share during all those years with Salomon. We are all happy to have been able to spend time with you. You will always stay in our hearts and be part of the Salomon family, because you helped write the pages of our story.
We wish you all the happiness in the world for the future and will be happy to see you again on the trails.
Greg & The Salomon Family.