This weekend’s 110-kilometer Ultra Pirineu was Zaid Ait Malek’s longest race to date by at least 25 kilometers. He made the best of it, running near Kilian Jornet and Miguel Heras most of the day before finishing second to Jornet. In the following interview, Zaid talks about what it was like running longer than he ever has before, how he had fun running with the other leaders, and what sort of races he’ll aim for next year.
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Zaid Ait Malek Post-2015 Ultra Pirineu Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here with Zaid Ait Malek after his second-place finish at the 2015 Ultra Pirineu. Congratulations, Zaid.
Zaid Ait Malek: Thanks.
iRunFar: This was your longest race ever. How did it feel?
Malek: It was the first real ultra. It was as I expected. I’m so happy about that. It’s like a dream. I’m thinking to run more ultras.
iRunFar: It was a big surprise. You are very strong at short races like marathons and 50k. You were running with the leaders early. I kept wondering maybe you’ll get tired, but you seemed strong and happy all day. Is that true?
Malek: Yes. I arrived to this race really fresh. I had good feelings at 40-50k, so I was in the front pushing hard. My body language was good, so I looked all the time really strong.
iRunFar: Early, there were many runners together, but then it was you, Kilian [Jornet], and Miguel Heras together sometimes, separate sometimes. Did you guys talk? Did you enjoy company?
Malek: Yes, at the beginning, there were four and we talked about the race. At 60k, I tried to go alone but it was impossible. Then arrived Miguel and Kilian and Miguel Caballero. At 60k, they are three. Especially with Kilian, we are talking about the landscape, the place. Kilian said, “Now you understand why I am like that because I grew up here, so I enjoy the landscape.” We talked about our lives, so it was really nice and fun for me.
iRunFar: I’m sure you saw Kilian had his GoPro. Is that fun or are you like, I’m running as hard as I can, and Kilian is making videos. Is it fun or does it feel bad?
Malek: No, the feeling for me was really funny. We enjoyed so much. Always for a runner it’s a dream—1k with Kilian. I’m so happy because we made videos. Kilian was speaking and explaining about the mountains. We made videos like making selfies. For me, it was really, really funny.
iRunFar: Then El Grande Kilian decided to race after Vents del Cadí. In 4k he put six minutes on you. Is that amazing? What do you think of this?
Malek: For sure I know that when Kilian started to run, it’s impossible to follow him. Also, I don’t have the same power in the other kilometers. I started to have some muscle (quadriceps) problems, so I had to start the race to try to finish second.
iRunFar: There was a good battle, you and Miguel, a close battle.
Malek: Yes. I know I had to arrive at the end of the last climb in Vents del Cadí with Miguel because I think I’m stronger in the downhill than Miguel. At the end of the climb, I was surprised because I arrived before Miguel, so I did a really good downhill and at the end, I took same difference between Kilian and me and me to Miguel.
iRunFar: So you must be very happy with your performance. Does it have you dream about other races, longer races, in the future?
Malek: This race has been a really good lesson especially running with Kilian. I know already that also I need to change my training, but I’m so happy about this race. I learned so much.
iRunFar: Do you think next year you will race longer races or short races or some of both?
Malek: Maybe a bit of both.
iRunFar: Maybe like Luis Alberto Hernando?
Malek: Yes. Marathons and maybe some ultras.
iRunFar: Zegama maybe?
iRunFar: Congratulations and enjoy.
Malek: Thank you.