2012 Zegama-Aizkorri Marathon Preview

Zegama Aizkorri MarathonAnother weekend, another gathering of world-class athletes at a sweet international race venue!

This Sunday, May 20th, in the Basque Country of Spain, the Zegama-Aizkorri Maratoia, a Skyrunner World Series race, will pit fast guys and gals from the globe over against each other and the marathon distance in the Basque Mountains, an area of uplifted, tilted, rough limestone. In the 42.2-kilometer loop course, which starts and ends in the town of Zegama, runners will gain and lose more than 5,400 vertical meters of elevation. The route has four main high points, but it is fair to say that runners will be either gaining or losing elevation with every step. The race is also wildly popular in Basque Country, so runners will enjoy the cheering of thousands of spectators along the course.

Check out this video from The Lemur TV channel on YouTube to get a feel for what Zegama is all about:

If you’ve been following iRunFar’s coverage of the Transvulcania Ultramarathon here or on our Twitter feed, you’ll know that the International Skyrunning Federation organized a massive elite-runner presence there. The majority of those elite runners have now transferred to the starting line of Zegama for a second, shorter competition. In addition, a passel of other elites who didn’t compete at Transvulcania have also descended upon Zegama. On Sunday morning, all those men and women, some on legs that raced 50 miles a week ago and some with fresh-and-well-tapered bodies, will take to the hills. We know that tired legs will inevitably affect a few runners’ races, so we’re dividing our previews of the women’s and men’s fields into who is fresh and who isn’t.

Cash is doled out, too, like this:

  • 1st place female and male, €1200
  • 2nd place female and male, €600
  • 3rd place female and male, €300
  • 4th place female and male, €150
  • 5th place female and male, €100

The course records for Zegama are stout: 3:54:18 for the men (set in 2005 by Rob Jebb), and 4:38:19 for the women (set in 2009 by Emanuela Brizio). With the caliber of the field assembling this weekend, we can imagine one or both of these records going down.

We’ll be covering Zegama via our Twitter feed and, more important, with coordinated coverage with Ultra168.com and others via a Zegama Live Coverage page that will go live on Saturday with coverage starting Sunday morning local time.

Women’s Race

Running on Fresh Legs

  • [ADDED] Emanuela Brizio (Italy) – The International Skyrunning Federation (ISF) informed us over lunch that the women’s course record holder is supposed to run Zegama this year.
  • Oihana Kortazar (Salomon, Spain [Basque Country]) – Oihana is Zegama’s returning champion, and her finish was just four minutes off the record. She was also the 2011 champion of the Skyrunner World Series. The Basque Mountains are her training grounds.
  • Mireia Mirò (Salomon, Spain [Catalonia]) – Mireia is a young, standout trail runner and ski mountaineer (Sound familiar?). In 2011, she won every trail race she entered, including two of the Skyrunner World Series races. She’s a sub-ultramarathon-distance specialist and comfy on highly technical terrain. Update: Not running because of knee.
  • Émilie Forsberg (Salomon, Sweden [but living in Norway]) – Émilie recently placed second at the 3 Peaks Race in the UK.
  • Zhanna Vokueva (Salomon, Russia) – Zhanna placed 21st (and 90 minutes back of Oihana Kortazar) at Zegama last year. Zhanna has also shared that a few other quick Russians will be joining her in Zegama this year.
  • Nathalie White (Inov-8, Great Britain) – Natalie is best known for her fell running in the UK as well as her time spent on the Skyrunning race circuit.
  • Sarah Ridgeway (Inov-8, Great Britain) – Another fell runner, she recently finished third behind Émilie Forsberg at this year’s 3 Peaks Race.
  • Lauren Jeska (Arc’teryx, Great Britain) – Lauren is both a super-successful fell runner and a 2:48 marathoner.

Raced Last Weekend

  • Nikki Kimball (The North Face, United States) – Nikki raced to 3rd place an hour back of Anna Frost at Transvulcania. Among dozens of US victories, Nikki holds a fierce course record at the Bridger Ridge Run in Montana, which has similar terrain as Zegama.

Not Racing

Anna Frost and Maud Gobert will NOT be racing Zegama.

Men’s Race

Running on Fresh Legs

  • Max King (Montrail, United States) – Max is good at everything he does in running, but he’s a particularly awesome mountain runner. He was the 2011 World Mountain Running Champion. (Pre-Zegama video interview)
  • Tom Owens (Salomon, Great Britain) – Second and just 30 seconds behind winner Kilian Jornet last year at Zegama, Tom is a fell and mountain-running specialist.
  • [ADDED] Luis Hernando – The defending SkyRunning World Champion.
  • Nick Clark (Pearl Izumi, Great Britain [but living in the United States]) – 2011 was a great year for Nick, as he finished 3rd at the US’s Western States 100 and Hardrock 100.
  • Miguel Heras (Salomon, Spain) – Third and 5 minutes back of last year’s Zegama winner, Kilian Jornet, Heras is known for his mountain running abilities at various distances.
  • Michel Rabat (Salomon, France) – Michel was 6th last year at Zegama, and he won the 2011 Olympus Marathon in Greece.
  • [ADDED] Tofol Castañer (Salomon, Spain) – The ISF also informed us that the 2010 Skyrunning World Champ is racing.
  • Nicola Golinelli (Arc’teryx, Italy) – A mountain-running specialist with a shot for the top 5.
  • Dimitris Theodorakakos (Salomon, Greece)- Second last year at the Olympus Marathon behind Michel Rabat, Dimitris also ran a 2:19 marathon in 2011.
  • [ADDED] Oleg Chepelin (Scotland) – Young and wicked fast fell runner.

Raced Last Weekend

  • Dakota Jones (Montrail, United States) – Dakota just won and set a course record at Transvulcania. He’s had several years of great racing in mostly the US, but 2012 appears to be his international break-out year.
  • Kilian Jornet (Salomon, Spain [Catalonia]) – Kilian won Zegama last year (and 3 previous times, too). The running phenom, fresh off ski-mountaineering season with 6 total runs this year, placed 3rd at last weekend’s Transvulcania.
  • Francois d’Haene (Salomon, France) – Fourth and 24 minutes back from Jones last weekend at Transvulcania. UPDATE: Not running.
  • Ian Sharman (The North Face, Great Britain [but living in the United States]) – 16th at Transvulcania last weekend and a specialist of flat and fast courses.
  • Joe Grant (Arc’teryx, United States) – 12th at Transvulcania and a lover of mountain ultra-distance races.
  • Mike Wolfe (The North Face, United States) – 14th at Transvulcania last weekend, Mike won 2011 The North Face Endurance Challenge 50-Mile Championship and was second behind Kilian Jornet at the 2011 Western States 100.
  • [ADDED] Greg Vollet (Salomon, France) – Not a threat to win, but he did finish 7th at hte ISF’s Mt Kinabalu Climbathon last year and 5th at the Trail Du Ventoux 46 km in March. Given he just ran a 9.5 second 100 meters downhill, watch out for this former professional mountain biker on the downhill.

Not Racing

Marco De Gasperi, Rickey Gates, Geoff Roes, and Anton Krupicka are NOT racing Zegama.

Call for Comments

  • Can you help us learn a little more about the elite women’s and men’s fields? If you have info on any of these runners or others that we haven’t covered here, leave us a note in the comments section.
  • Did we get a fact wrong? Leave us a comment and let us know!
  • Are you racing at Zegama this weekend? If so, what’s on your mind in the last couple days before the race?
Meghan Hicks

is the Managing Editor of iRunFar and the author of 'Where the Road Ends: A Guide to Trail Running.' The converted road runner finished her first trail ultramarathon in 2006 and loves using running to visit the world's wildest places.