With his 2016 victory, Miguel Heras is now a three-time Ultra Pirineu champion. In this interview, Miguel talks about running with other competitors early in the race, why he preferred to run alone in the event’s second half, and what he thought of the scenery and spectators around the course.
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Miguel Heras, 2016 Ultra Pirineu Champion, Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Meghan Hicks of iRunFar, and it’s Sunday after the 2016 Ultra Pirineu. I’m with men’s champion, Miguel Heras.
Miguel Heras: Hola.
iRunFar: Hola. Whoa!
Heras: Como estas?
iRunFar: Estoy bien. Estoy cansada, but not as tired as you!
Heras: No, I’m fine.
iRunFar: A little bit tired?
Heras: Yes, it’s normal. 110k—it’s normal to have some tired.
iRunFar: It’s a very long way.
Heras: Yes, it’s a long ways.
iRunFar: You went into this race saying it’s among your favorite races and that you were very excited to be here. You have a long story with Ultra Pirineu. What keeps bringing you back here?
Heras: This is my seventh time. Bagà, Catalunya, and Ultra Pirineu are my second home. The first edition, I was here. The people like me; I like the people. I feel good here.
iRunFar: Talk about how the race went yesterday. When the race started and you funneled into that tiny little passage way, ran through the ancient streets of Bagà, and out into the mountains, what was that like? What was the early race like for you?
Heras: The first kilometers I was easy and calm. At 40k, I started to push but normal speed, not so fast. I kept calm all the race and at the same speed. I wanted to finish and cross the finish line. I could do it.
iRunFar: Over the first climb and down the long descent to Bellver de Cerdanya at 40k, it’s a very long climb. It goes on forever. You ran most of it with Remegio [Huaman]. How did that go? You guys were working together?
Heras: Yes, I was in the first position with Remegio behind me. At 10 or 11k, he started to push. The speed was so good for me, and I thought he would be a good partner. At 40k, I think he was having several problems with his food and shoes. I started to push my speed.
iRunFar: The refuge at the top of the first climb, Niu, it’s early in the morning, the sun is very bright, and you’re above the clouds. There are maybe 500 people there. What’s it like to run in the Pyrenees and have that experience of so many people on top of the clouds with you?
Heras: There are a lot of people there. The weather up there was amazing.
iRunFar: It was so good up there.
Heras: The clouds were down below us. The people are all important for the runner.
iRunFar: From 40k at Bellver, you do a lot of climbing. It’s many kilometers of up and a little bit of down and some flat, but all through that very, very long climb you felt good?
Heras: Yes, it’s a beautiful climb. The first climb the legs are full of energy, and it’s easy. The rest of the kilometers of the race we have 2,000 meters less of climbing. It’s important for the mind.
iRunFar: You were all by yourself at that point in the race. No runners were with you anymore. Is being alone and quiet and focusing, does that help you run fast, or would you like company?
Heras: I like to run alone, but sometimes it’s important to go with the other runners because the time passes faster. In the moment yesterday I was alone, I preferred to run alone because my objective and my focus was to race to the finish line. I preferred to run alone.
iRunFar: After about 70k, for the last 40k, we were watching your splits and seeing how close they were to record pace. When did you become aware that you were very close to the course record?
Heras: I thought about the record just at the last kilometer.
iRunFar: Just at the end.
Heras: Yes, on the last climb I thought about the record. On the last down, it was fast, but I was one minute more than Kilian [Jornet]. I was so happy.
iRunFar: Coming through the streets of Bagà, there’s a lot of fans who are running with you, specifically the little children. It’s a thing in Bagà that the kids finish the race with you.
Heras: It’s amazing.
iRunFar: Can you describe what that feels like? This is your third time winning at Ultra Pirineu.
Heras: I love children. It’s amazing. You feel the sensations of the children. It’s amazing.
iRunFar: When you crossed the line, you had a look of, I’m working so hard, and then you bent over. It took a minute, but then the Miguel smile came back. Were you just for a moment very, very tired?
Heras: No, I was thinking about my season. I like to recall. In 30 seconds, I was smiling.
iRunFar: You were back again. Another win at Ultra Pirineu. It’s September, but for you it’s kind of early season because you’re just coming off an injury and getting fit again. What now?
Heras: I don’t know. My winter was difficult for me. At this moment, I feel good. Now, I’m thinking about the next races. I am thinking of several races. It’s important for me to have a good mind and a good feeling.
iRunFar: Congratulations. You clearly had a good mind and a good physical feeling yesterday. Congratulations on your third Ultra Pirineu win.
Heras: Thank you so much. Thank you so much.