Ana Cufer is recognised as a world class runner in one of the most demanding of disciplines – mountain running.
The Slovenian is established member of the national team and has represented her country in international events. In 2016 she began to make a significant impression on the sport with three course records among 12 wins. 2017 saw her taking two more course records and competing in international events such as the Wings for Life world run in Chile. In 2018 she took three more course records among seven race wins, and 2019 saw this pattern continue as she also took on some challenging international races including Ultra Trail Hungary (which she won) and the Marathon du Mont-Blanc.
Ana has also competed in Radio Orienteering, a sport which involves navigating varied terrain to search for radio transmitters. The sport is popular in Eastern Europe and there is established international competition; this accounts for some of her successes.
The spread of the COVID19 virus meant that she could not compete in early 2020, so she made a successful attempt at the record for the ascent and descent of Triglav, Slovenia’s highest mountain at 2864 metres. She completed the feat in 2 hours 52 minutes.
“My biggest achievements last year  are winning the nationals and I was 18th in a world champs” Ana tells Great Vegan Athletes. “This year I didn’t have any competitions due to Covid-19 but I tried to set FKT [Fastest Known Time] to the highest Slovenian mountain Triglav and I succeeded. “
Ana gave up eating meat in 2008 and in 2015, she went vegan aged 19 years.
“It was a transition from vegetarism to veganism that lasted for almost a year! “ Ana explains. “I wasn’t strong enough to be able to watch all the real videos about how vegetarianism is not enough and how animals really suffer and are exploited.
“My transition was also long because no one in my family approved it. Thanks to my cousin Sara (she is vegan too and she exposed me to more information about how awful the situation is regarding the rights of other animals), I had the courage to stand up to my parents and do what I thought was right.”
This is now something she sticks to, and the challenges of travelling are never enough to divert her from a vegan diet. Despite a rigorous training regime, she has no issues.
“Every morning I eat my homemade peanut butter and jelly” she says. “Besides that I eat a lot of pasta, bread, potatoes, rice, salad, fruits, beans and ice cream.”
The training regime is as demanding as you may expect for an elite regime, and since the start of 2020 this has become more focussed, with different sessions at different paces.
“My running trainings also vary a lot, from short recovery runs (30 – 60 minutes) to long runs (2 – 5 hours) to interval trainings. I have one rest day per week and on other days I can do one training per day or 2. I usually do around 9 trainings per week. “
Ana does a lot of her training alone, although she does sometimes train with others and sometimes gets some teasing.
“But not so much as they did before because now I’m in better shape than I was before and I’m very healthy so when we are out running they don’t really want to talk about it anymore” she says.
“I also think that veganism is now so common and some people are aware how animals are suffering but don’t want to accept that fact. So they are rather quiet. Neither of my coaches see it as an issue. My runner coach is even ‘mostly’ vegan so she really supports that kind of lifestyle. “
More is to come!
Ana has already achieved a lot at a young age, although she looks forward to more experiences and achievements. “My main goal is to have fun running in the mountains and staying injury-free” she says.
“When we talk about races, my favorite are longer mountain distances (around 30 – 50 km). I hope this year  I will compete in the Golden Trail Championships in Azores (unless Covid-19 shows up again). For my personal project (in the next 5 years) I want to run the Slovenian mountain hiking way. It’s 600 km long with 49 000 m elevation.”
She will be following these dreams as a vegan.
“I think the main problem about people is that we just care too little and think only for ourselves. It’s not just veganism, it’s also everything else. We are so difficult to change but when you pause a little, you see that nothing stays the same.
“Everyone should find someting that brings them peace and then you can conquer anything. May it be meditation, yoga, running, walking, playing the piano, cooking – anything. Just don’t give up. That’s the last thing you should do. I’m tired of seeing unsatisfied people just because it’s hard to change something. If you do what you think is right and don’t forget about yourself, amazing things can happen and the world would be a better place.
“In my case I go up on that mountain, feel good, get a different perspective on things, feel proud of myself, of how I live my life, how no one has to suffer for my choices, and I try to not to take too much from this beautiful world.
“That’s why I’m happy. Because I have found my peace in what I do. “