Basque runner Uxue Fraile is one of the top women running this weekend’s Zegama-Aizkorri Marathon. In the following interview, she talks about why the race is so special for the Basque people, her background with running, as well as her quick transition from taking third at the Transvulcania Ultramarathon just two weekends ago.
Be sure to check out our detailed preview of the women’s and men’s fields at the Zegama Marathon to see who else is running this weekend.
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Uxue Fraile Pre-2014 Zegama Marathon Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here with Uxue Fraile before the 2014 Zegama-Aizkorri Marathon. How are you?
Uxue Fraile: I’m fine, thanks.
iRunFar: How do I actually say the name of this race?
Fraile: In Basque, Zegama-Aizkorri Mendi Maratoia.
iRunFar: Yeah. It seems like this race has a very special meaning to Basque runners.
Fraile: Yes, I was born in San Sebastián, about 40 minutes from here, and for us it’s the same culture. So for us going to Aizkorri when I was a child was very typical for families or something. When I stopped running in track 10 years ago, how much? I don’t know, it’s one—it’s this one. Well, Zegama was the first trail running that I knew. The environment and all the places it goes—it’s incredible and it’s amazing. Basque people, we like sport and we like competition. It’s incredible to run here.
iRunFar: Just two weeks, you were in La Palma, also in Spain, but you finished third there. Does it feel different to come here and race in front of the rest of the Basque people?
Fraile: It’s really different. I like both races, but they’re really different. In La Palma, the weather is really hot. Hopefully we don’t have any tomorrow. It’s completely different. The race distance is different, too. Running in Zegama, I think that we have all of the things here. It’s not so much long of a race, but you run 42k but in a lot of time, not very quickly. So I think Zegama is special. Running in Basque Country is special because of the spectators. The track of Zegama’s race is very worthy. You have every steep parts up and down, too. There are some technical in the top of Aizkorri to Aitxuri. It’s a course typical, so it’s special running here.
iRunFar: I’m always amazed, a lot of good runners come to Zegama from around the world, but the Basque runners do so well here in comparison to when they race elsewhere.
Fraile: Okay, I understand you. For Basque runners, I think this is our race. There are tough races in Basque Country that are very important and I like them. But this is one of the most important ones. All the Basque people who run in trail want to run here. It’s not so easy to run here because of the bibs. “I would like to run in Zegama sometimes. Maybe I could have a bib in the future…” I don’t know how to say. Lucky?
iRunFar: Yeah, you have to be lucky in a lottery, yeah.
Fraile: Yeah, in a lottery. When we come here, we prepare specifically for this race. People in Basque Country, it’s very… it’s easier for us to run in this type of terrain. So maybe next Sunday is going to be with this weather, not today’s weather, but on Sunday it’s going to rain and maybe snow.
iRunFar: It’s Zegama.
Fraile: It’s Zegama, so I think maybe for us it’s better. It’s better…
iRunFar: For the Basque runners, it’s better.
Fraile: It’s true that some of Basque like good weather, not hot.
iRunFar: So ‘good’ weather is raining…
Fraile: Yeah, helps the forest to already breathe which is good for us. It’s very beautiful to see that. For me, I prefer La Palma’s weather to this one.
iRunFar: So you do like good weather?
Fraile: Yeah, but, well, on Sunday we are going to run with rainy weather or sunny weather. We are going to run and it’s going to be a good race.
iRunFar: Why do you think the Basque runners are able to descend or go down so quickly on terrain that is very steep with lots of rocks and roots and mud? It’s incredible.
Fraile: Well, I’m one of them and I’m not very quick. You know, we train here and we train in this kind of terrain. So it’s very… you’re very prepared. It’s normal to run fast. But, well, some of us have to improve.
iRunFar: So some of it is practice. Is some also in the head?
Fraile: Yeah, you know, a lot of people like to go down very quickly. So, I think that it’s what part is important for them, because if they want to go quickly and they are not afraid for the fall down, I think because of that they go quickly.
iRunFar: But you prefer to climb?
Fraile: Well, yeah, I prefer climbing, but climbing you can go very… you’re tired, so I prefer going down. But I know that when I go down, I’m so nervous, so then I prefer climbing.
iRunFar: How long have you been running?
Fraile: I’ve been running for all my life. I started in athletics in track when I was nine years old. So I’m 40 years old here. Then I started doing adventure races for five years more or less in 2007 until 2012. Last year I only ran one adventure race. So I have been running all my life more or less.
iRunFar: When did you… was it 10 to 12 years ago that you started running on the trails?
Fraile: No, not so much. My last race in track and field was 15,000…
Fraile: 1,500 meters. It was in 2007 here in San Sebastián at the Spanish Championship. Then I started to practicing with map and orienteering races and adventure races. I ran the first time at La Palma in 2012.
iRunFar: So two years ago.
Fraile: Three years ago. But you know, in adventure races you run in trails, so I don’t know when exactly. But more or less on trails, this is my third year.
iRunFar: You have found success very quickly because the last two years you were seventh here?
iRunFar: And third this year at La Palma? So you’re comfortable on the trails.
Fraile: I haven’t been doing anything else since I was nine. So I was training for 25 years, not especially for trail, but I was running and I was biking or kayaking. So I think that I can tell that this is my third year. “Oh, you have only three years in trail.” But no…
iRunFar: You have experience.
Fraile: Yeah, I have experience, not only in trails, but it’s not my first third year.
iRunFar: Just so people know, how fast did you run 1,500 meters? What was your best time?
Fraile: 4:27. It was not very good in the world, only in Spain. But for me, it was okay.
iRunFar: Do you miss running on the track?
Fraile: Yeah, I miss the track because I think I have been running for 25 years, so it’s a part of me. I like the track. That’s still true running. I like here, I like running in the mountains. It’s beautiful. But for me, running on the track, that’s the meaning of the runner… I don’t know how to say it in English. If you’re running 4:30 or if you’re running 4:15, that’s all. That’s good for me. My… I can’t realize in height or meters, but I realize in time and concrete distance.
iRunFar: So you… it’s pure running and you know exactly how you do if you’re on the track. Here, your times could be 15 minutes difference because of the weather.
Fraile: The weather, the track… Yeah, it’s different. In the track, you know exactly what or how much time can you do? Not how much cold can you do. It’s different. You have to do that. I think that for me it’s really important.
iRunFar: Good luck this weekend, whatever the conditions. Enjoy!
Fraile: Thank you. Okay. Thank you. That’s the most important thing—enjoying running.
iRunFar: Thank you.