Arnaud Lejeune’s, of France, second-place finish at the 2015 Ultra-Trail Mount Fuji was the weekend’s surprise performance. Though Arnaud finished in the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc top 10 twice in 2012 and 2013, he’s just recovered from a long injury. In the following interview, Arnaud talks about his history with trail running and the injury that took him out, how he felt during this weekend’s race, and if we’ll see him racing again soon.
Be sure to read our results article for the full race story.
[Click here if you can’t see the video above.]
Arnaud Lejeune Post-2015 Ultra-Trail Mount Fuji Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Meghan Hicks of iRunFar, and I’m here on the shores of Lake Kawaguchiko. I’m here with men’s second-place finisher from the 2015 Ultra-Trail Mount Fuji. I’m with Arnaud Lejeune. Congratulations.
Arnaud Lejeune: Thank you very much.
iRunFar: How are you feeling? It’s the morning after the race.
Lejeune: After the race, I’m very happy to finish second because it’s incredible for me for a little runner as me with my problem I faced earlier in the year. Now it’s okay. It’s very extraordinary for me.
iRunFar: Yeah, you were just saying that earlier this year you were told you had an injury to your hips so badly the doctors didn’t think you’d be able to do trail running again.
Lejeune: Yeah, in February, they told me trails were finished for me. I tried to keep my dream. I succeeded. I’m very, very happy.
iRunFar: You did succeed. I want to ask you a couple questions about your race yesterday. At the starting line, the gun goes off and, boom, you go.
Lejeune: Yeah, I have no tactic. I go when I want. After, I see. If it’s good, it’s good. If it’s bad, no problem. I’m going to see. The principle is to finish. The principle for all the runners is to finish the race. It’s my principal objective. If I finish with a good position, it’s extraordinary.
iRunFar: The goal is to finish, and if you can finish well it’s even better.
Lejeune: I finished very better. I’m very, very, very tired when I arrived at the line. I’m very happy to arrive.
iRunFar: I want to ask you in a few minutes about the end of your race, but I do want to ask you about the beginning of your race. At the first couple places, I saw you at 11k and 30k, and both of those places Arnaud comes by and then minutes until the next men. Were you just feeling super good at that point and just trying to push a little?
Lejeune: No, no question in my head. I did my race, and I don’t think about the other racers.
iRunFar: You just felt good and felt like you were running within yourself, and it didn’t matter that you were alone?
Lejeune: No matter. If the others come behind me or they pass me, no problem. I go at my rate and after I see.
iRunFar: You are a mountain athlete. You have run UTMB twice and finished in the top-10 twice. You’ve run Grand Raid Réunion and done quite well, finished on the podium there. You excel on mountain terrain. This race has a ton of pavement. How did that go for you?
Lejeune: This race is very different because a lot of road, a lot of long part flat. I’m a runner, but I like walking to go up and then steep down. The long part to run is difficult for me for the mental—you run, you run, you run, you have to run, you have to run. It’s very difficult.
iRunFar: In the Alps or in the mountains, often you do a steep up, you stay in the mountains, then a steep down. Then there are a few kilometers through a village, and then you go to the mountains again. It’s over quickly. Here, you hit the pavement and you know it’s 10k or 12k until the mountains again. How did you, as a mountain runner, how did you stay mentally focused to keep clicking off those kilometers?
Lejeune: In fact, I don’t understand you.
iRunFar: It’s long stretches of pavement. Normally in the Alps in UTMB, you come down and it’s short pavement of 2k and you go to the mountains again. Here, it’s 10k before the next. Here, how do you say to yourself, I’m going to be okay. I can do this whole thing?
Lejeune: Okay, you empty you spirit and you think that you like to run on this surface.
iRunFar: You think that the whole race is meaningful to you not just this moment. You just need to get past this moment.
Lejeune: Yes, you have to have a good feeling in your mental.
iRunFar: Stay positive?
Lejeune: Yes, stay positive.
iRunFar: In the first part of the race, you were all by yourself in the front. In the middle of the race, you had some more men around you. The eventual winner, Gediminas Grinius, he passed you. Then there were a few other men behind you. Even still, you were by yourself. You weren’t running with a group of men or anything. What was it like to spend a whole race by yourself?
Lejeune: During the race, when the second passed me, I knew he’s a stronger runner than me. I knew since the start it’s impossible for me to win a race like UTMF because I already told I’m a little runner, I think. The other runners in the start are big runners with big experience and big performances; me—not the same performances or experiences. It’s really extraordinary to already finish second for me. For me, second or third or top 10 is already a victory for me.
iRunFar: I don’t think you’re a little runner anymore after finishing second.
Lejeune: I will be a little runner, I think. I don’t like you to tell me I am a big runner. I’m not a professional. If you put all best runners of the world at the same race, I’m very, very behind.
iRunFar: I don’t know. The end of the race, you were so tired you couldn’t run anymore. You walked the entire way in. You walked the last 100 meters. You walked across the finish line. How exhausted were you? Had you spent up all your energy?
Lejeune: I was so happy to finish. During the last two or three kilometers, I run 100 meters. I walk 100 meters. I tell myself, Run, run, run! I can’t. I can’t. 100, I run, I run. 100 I walking. It’s very difficult. It’s a good thing because if I don’t run a little, I finish third.
iRunFar: You were being caught at the end of the race. For a long time, you were very solidly in second. Gediminas was very far in front of you, and the other men were quite far behind you. At the end, third place, Jeff Browning, was gaining, gaining, gaining. Did you know that?
iRunFar: No, you didn’t know.
Lejeune: No, never. I didn’t want to know. My assistant to help me during the race tell me, “No problem, no problem. You’re okay.” But when I arrived, he told me, “Whew! It was short!”
iRunFar: It was close!
Lejeune: But during the end of the race, I looked behind me if I saw, and I didn’t see nobody. If I saw someone, I think I run.
iRunFar: You could find it a little bit more.
Lejeune: Sure, sure. I think I find another energy to finish second if I saw.
iRunFar: You’re back from a major injury, and now you’ve just taken second at UTMF. What’s next for you?
Lejeune: In fact, I don’t know. Before this race, I told my wife, “After, I finish.” I stop.
iRunFar: With the sport?
Lejeune: No, no stop sport, but stop with ultra distance and run-train-work-family, it’s very difficult. But this morning, I have already to run another race.
iRunFar: Does your wife know yet?
Lejeune: No, but without my wife and my two daughters, it’s impossible. They’re very, very important to me.
iRunFar: Their support is important.
Lejeune: They support me all the day and all the years. It’s very, very important for me. Without, it’s impossible to do that.
iRunFar: What race is that? Which race did you just enter?
Lejeune: I would like to do Ultra Mitic Andorra. I would like to do. I don’t know. I would like to do a race in the United States.
iRunFar: Which is that?
Lejeune: I don’t know—Hardrock, Western States, a mitic [mythic] race. It’s the same. I hope to try maybe.
iRunFar: We look forward to perhaps seeing you race in the United States. Congratulations to you on your second-place finish. Thanks for the interview.
Lejeune: Thank you very much.