Kilian Jornet, 2014 Zegama Marathon Champion, Interview
While it might be true that “Zegama is Zegama,” it’s equally true that the Zegama-Aizkorri Marathon is also Kilian Jornet’s race. This year he set a course record in winning the race for the fifth-straight year and seventh time in eight years. In the following interview, Kilian talks about how his race went, how the other runners pushed him to the course record, what his impending trip to Mount McKinley looks like, and whether he’s excited for the Hardrock 100.
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Kilian Jornet, Zegama Marathon Champion, Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here with Kilian Jornet after his win at the 2014 Zegama-Aizkorri Marathon. Congratulations, Kilian.
Kilian Jornet: Thank you very much.
iRunFar: This is five straight wins at this race and seven total?
Jornet: Yeah, I’m really happy. It’s the race I’ve been racing more times. I feel comfortable here with the ambiance and all the people around. It’s an incredible race. I always want to come back.
iRunFar: What does bring you back? What is so special about Zegama?
Jornet: It’s not the trail. It can be—it’s not spectacular. It’s a nice trail, but it’s not really technical. But it’s the ambiance that surrounds. It’s thousands of persons in the mountain cheering for the runners. It’s always a big level. It’s always a big field. It’s always nice to come back here and see Zegama.
iRunFar: So, it’s so many things that surround this race.
Jornet: Yeah. It’s everything—the people, the runners, being here, the party afterwards. It’s everything.
iRunFar: Zegama is Zegama.
Jornet: Yeah, absolutely.
iRunFar: You didn’t just win today. You set a course record by six minutes. How did that feel?
Jornet: Yeah, I’m really happy for that because it was some years we were getting close to that. Last year we were a few seconds. This was the year because the temperature was pretty cold so we could run fast and it was a big field at the start line. It was impossible to say who would be in the top 10 because it was so many people. So we started really fast with Marco [De Gasperi] and Luis [Alberto Hernando] and in the middle of the race we knew we were under the record.
iRunFar: Did it help having someone like Marco who goes out very hard?
Jornet: Yeah, sure. It’s always good to have people that go super hard like Ionut [Zinca], like Marco, like Luis, and all the Basques. So it was—he keeps a lot with Marco this year. He keeps it there. I’m so happy for him because normally in this distance it’s too long for him but he’s finished just a few minutes behind me. It’s so great for him.
iRunFar: When did you know you had the race won?
Jornet: I was feeling really good all day. On the way, I think we were with Marco and I think it was at the hill of Aizkorri that I keep some minutes. After that I was feeling pretty confident, so I was never pushing everything but just to control the race.
iRunFar: You have just finished a few minutes ago. At three in the morning you’re going to Bilbao [Airport] and going to Alaska.
Jornet: Yeah, it’s never stopping. Just last night I was preparing my backpack for Alaska. So I was preparing Zegama but at the same time preparing for McKinley. We go tomorrow. We have a long flight to Anchorage and then to McKinley.
iRunFar: You were even training on skis between Transvulcania and Zegama.
Jornet: Yes. It feels good. For races like that that are fast and technical and it’s not warm, I can still ski and feel so it’s good. I keep the strength. I maybe lose a little speed but keep the strength.
iRunFar: On the downhill, everyone talks about the descent here at Zegama, do you feel that your skiing helps you?
Jornet: Yeah, maybe today. It was a lot of mud which was a lot like powder snow. Yeah.
iRunFar: Taking good turns?
Jornet: Yeah, it was actually in the uphills maybe you lose a little time, but on the downhills, it was so easy just going. It was good.
iRunFar: Going back to Alaska, it’s sort of a different expedition. Mont Blanc, you know very well. Zermatt, you’ve been there. McKinley is a whole different universe.
Jornet: Yeah, completely. I’ve never been there, but all the persons that have been send me about the conditions. It’s a Polar mountain, so it’s very cold. The biggest thing is the weather. So it’s really windy and really cold and not many good weather windows. So we need to stay there for long, we will stay there for one month and try to have good windows. Then the altitude—to be acclimatized for good days.
iRunFar: How soon in your stay there if the weather was good would you try to go for the record?
Jornet: It’s a lot about, not about the weather, but when we go there we will arrive maybe in two days. It’s try to go and we want to stay at maybe 4,000 meters, at 14,000 feet. So camp and just stay there some time and when it’s good, whenever it seems possible, to try to do the attempt at the record because the more time you stay, the more energy you lose. After that we want to go and do some steep skiing.
iRunFar: So you’ll go for the speed attempt, and then you’ll go for some fun skiing?
Jornet: Yeah, I don’t know if it’s fun skiing if you’re skiing in a place you can die, but…
Jornet: Yeah, challenging.
iRunFar: Not just about the speed but about the challenge, about pushing your limits?
Jornet: Yeah, it’s about more technical and about more to find some nice technical lines to ski down.
iRunFar: So you’ve had a week of training for Transvulcania. You’ve done a little running training between Transvulcania and Zegama. Now you’re going to McKinley for a month. Then you have Mont Blanc Marathon followed quickly by Hardrock. How are you going to be prepared for a 100-mile race?
Jornet: Yeah, but still I think the preparation if you are strong is just the legs. I don’t know how it will be being at Hardrock with three or four weeks of running in the system, but I’m feeling well and I will see. I will see in every moment thinking about McKinley now. Then I will see Mont Blanc Marathon will be tough because it’s two days after. But for Hardrock, I think I have enough kilometers now.
iRunFar: That’s been a race you’ve tried to get in for years. Obviously you have to think about McKinley, but are you excited for Hardrock?
Jornet: Yeah, I’m really excited because it’s been three years of time in the lottery. Everybody who has been racing has told me about the beauty of the race. We were this December skiing in San Juan Mountains. It’s beautiful. I think it’s one of the most beautiful places in North America to practice the sport. Yeah, it’s a really beautiful area.
iRunFar: So you’ll have two weeks there.
Jornet: Yes, I will stay there for at least 10 days or two weeks to check the course and to acclimate, too.
iRunFar: Congratulations on your continued domination of Zegama. Good luck in America.
Jornet: They are pushing harder, so it’s good.
iRunFar: Yeah, and then the race is so dynamic. Because Marco was there, but Luis Alberto was far back for awhile and then he was third.
Jornet: Yeah, and so many people in a few seconds. It’s good.
iRunFar: It’s a rush. Congratulations.
Jornet: Thank you.
iRunFar: Bonus question for you, Kilian. Are you excited about the party?
Jornet: Yes, actually this will be my seventh year in Zegama, and this year I will not be able to go to the party because of the flight to McKinley. I’m so sad about that. I missed the second time of Zegama because it’s the race in the morning but the other race starts now and finished normally at seven in the morning, so…
iRunFar: Maybe you have a little enjoyment between packing your suitcase?
Jornet: Yeah, yeah. I need to just leave at seven in the evening, so we can party before.
iRunFar: Alright, let’s go find some cava.