It should come as little surprise at this point that Javier Dominguez took third at the 2016 Diagonale des Fous. He’s such a steady runner who won’t let the craziest of atmospheres alter his plans. In the following interview, Javi talks about what it’s like at the start of the race, why he was taking in the landscape, how his race played out, and what it’s like to finish the race.
For more on the race, check out our 2016 Diagonale des Fous results article.
[Click here if you can’t see the video above.]
Javier Dominguez Post-2016 Diagonale Des Fous Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Meghan Hicks of iRunFar, and I’m here on Réunion Island. It’s the day after the 2016 Diagonale des Fous. I’m with men’s third-place finisher, Javi Dominguez.
Javi Dominguez: Hi, Meghan.
iRunFar: ¡Hola! How are you doing?
Dominguez: ¡Hola! Well, I’m doing okay. I’m trying to digest the results of yesterday. I still don’t believe it.
iRunFar: It’s not so long after the race. You only finished late last night. We’re in the first-impressions stage. What’s your first impression of your experience this year?
Dominguez: My first impression is that everything aches.
iRunFar: It all hurts?
Dominguez: Yeah. It takes one day or a few days to think about the race and what you did good and what you did wrong. In this case, now I’m just enjoying the results. I’ll think about what I did wrong on the flight. I have an 11-hour flight, so I’ll have that time to think about it.
iRunFar: You said on the stage last night when you were being interviewed that for you, finishing third place was like winning the race because of all the other runners. Can you elaborate on what exactly you meant by that?
Dominguez: Well, this race had a lot of very good runners. I don’t see myself as a runner like the rest of the guys that are on the podium like François D’haene and Antoine Guillon. They are at another higher level than me. Being on the same podium with them, it’s a pleasure and it wasn’t expected for me.
iRunFar: I think maybe you need to reset your expectations perhaps?
Dominguez: No, no, no.
iRunFar: It’s a long race. The Diagonale des Fous traverses Réunion Island roughly from north to south. There’s a lot to talk about, but talk about the beginning part of the race. Talk about when the race started with its crazy frenetic start. Talk about the early part of the race for you.
Dominguez: The race starts before the race starts because you are just behind the line and the music that surrounds the place where we are waiting…
iRunFar: Yeah, there’s a rock concert happening; there’s a festival-type thing happening. Then there are 2,500 people who are about to go on a run. It’s quite a spectacle.
Dominguez: Yeah, because normally it’s not what we are used to at the Spanish races. Okay, it’s a race. It could be famous or not. There could be a lot of people watching you, but in this case, it’s one of the main events on the island. So, it’s like a festival with music. Before the race has started, it’s an incredible ambiance. Then you start the race. You see all these people making you a corridor. You can spend 15 or 20 minutes running very fast and with a lot of people. It is incredible.
iRunFar: The race begins with a few kilometers flat on a road and then almost immediately you begin climbing, climbing, climbing.
Dominguez: Not almost immediately. I think there are three or four kilometers, which is a long time.
iRunFar: Of flat road, you mean?
Dominguez: You forget that you are on a flat road because of the ambiance. I don’t mind.
iRunFar: You’re not thinking about the pavement?
iRunFar: What was it like? Down by the ocean on Thursday night it was still quite warm and fairly humid, but fairly quickly you’re going up to the highlands where it’s dark, there’s a moon up, and it’s getting cooler. What was the next portion of the race like for you?
Dominguez: After this madness of people that get you to the mountain, then you cross sort of a forest jungle. I don’t know how to describe it.
iRunFar: Like that.
Dominguez: Yes, it is. It’s close forest with a lot of vegetation and trees. Also, it’s very humid and very warm. Then you cross the whole forest and you get to another one. Then it was a very cold night, but there was no wind and no rain. It was very good because the sky had the stars. So I was trying to figure out which were the constellations of the stars.
iRunFar: You had time to look at the sky?
Dominguez: Yeah, and the moon. Since we were in the Southern Hemisphere, I’m not used to those stars that are here because they’re all so different than the Northern Hemisphere.
iRunFar: New stars and the moon is turned a different way… or I guess our perspective of the mood is turned.
Dominguez: We were upside down and it’s cool to see there. I like those nights, the chilly ones with gloves. So with the moonlight, you could see the mountains and the landscape. I really enjoyed the night.
iRunFar: It seems like one of the main cores of the race is the day that you spend running in the Cirque de Mafate. Sunrise comes, you pass through Cilaos, and then you climb up and drop into Mafate. You spend hours and hours making your way through that cirque. For me as an observer to the race, it seemed quite strange actually. It’s an incredibly remote place with extremely technical terrain, but there are people all over in there. There are the local villagers. There are helicopters that are just hounding you guys. For me it was really unique in that it wasn’t just an experience with nature. There’s this cultural experience happening. What was for you on the inside all of that like?
Dominguez: I was there, and I was thinking I haven’t seen Jurassic Park movies, but…
iRunFar: That’s really good.
Dominguez: I thought though I haven’t seen them I might be in that movie in that place. I could figure out the dinosaurs there because everything is so wild. Before getting to Cilaos, I could have views of the areas. I was completely absorbed in the landscape. I’d been here before two years ago. I don’t know why but yesterday was different. I looked around and I thought, This place is magnificent. I forgot that I was racing in a paradise.
iRunFar: As you’re running, you’re passing through these villages with people who live in this paradise in a place where there are no roads. What was it like running through the homes, too, because they were out cheering?
Dominguez: It was amazing because they were cheering all the way. I’ve done other races where you pass through small villages and there are people there, and they see you and they are like, “What the heck are you doing?” That place, in Mafate, was very hot. For one local guy who lives there who was a farmer, farmers don’t imagine themselves running at noon as it’s very hot. There’s no point in running, but we do it because it’s our hobby, but there is no point. But in this case, all of them cheer through, and they like it. They will do it.
iRunFar: Talk to me about the racing portion of Mafate because early in the race there were all kinds of guys at the beginning. Then people started to fall back, and the top-five men started to emerge to the front in the Cirque de Mafate. What was the actual racing like for you there?
Dominguez: At that place, I don’t know because I was on my own, so I don’t know what was going on or not. Actually, when I was in Mafate, I thought I was fifth. I was third, but I didn’t know until I got to Maïdo and learned that I was third. So for me, sometimes I see ahead, Nobody is there, and I look back, Nobody is there, just hikers and from time to time some bears. But no, in Mafate there were no persons because there’s people. Actually, I felt I was on my own and trying to do my race without thinking of where the others are.
iRunFar: So you were kind of just trying to stay internal and do your own thing internally.
Dominguez: Anyway, I cannot know anything because I didn’t know what was going on in the front or in the back of me.
iRunFar: Talk to me about the 2,000-meter climb to Maïdo. It’s 2,000 meters and it takes place after the 100k mark of a really tough race. How did you deal with that? How were you feeling during that?
Dominguez: I think what I do is try not to think about it. The uphill before that one I was walking up thinking, Oh, my gosh. After this hill, we have to go down and then climb the one to Maïdo. I was already tired. Once you get to the beginning of the uphill to Maïdo, it’s just one step and then another and then another. Then you reach the highest point. It’s better not to think about it because then you go mad. It’s like with the race—if you think at the beginning of the race what you are going to do then, you go home. I don’t know.
iRunFar: So Maïdo is the high point in the race. It happens at 105k, and you still have 50k to run. I’m going to be honest with you, when I saw you at Roche Plate which is half way up that long, long climb to Maïdo, you looked a little sore running down the stairs. After Maïdo, you have a ton of descent. How did your body feel on that long downhill?
Dominguez: The stairs? It wasn’t that bad. There aren’t a lot of races you have up, downs, up, downs. Climbing up Maïdo and that was down. I was thinking, I don’t want to go down. I want to go up. I thought I was fifth there, but when I got up to Maïdo and then they told me I was third, I felt much, much better. Good! So, I started running. Yeah, I felt better. That’s one of the things that you never know when you are going to hit the floor and when you’re going to rise.
iRunFar: Highs and lows. My last question for you. There is an incredible energy at the finish line of the Diagonale des Fous. There are a couple-thousand people there cheering you in. It’s a technical descent into town. Then you get to run a little bit on the roadway. Put us in your head for that last little bit of the race. What were you thinking there?
Dominguez: I knew the race… just two years ago I came here, so I knew how the last bit of the course is very technical. In this race…
iRunFar: And the whole time you’re looking at the stadium. It’s lit up, and it’s right there.
Dominguez: You can listen to it. It’s right there, and it takes ages to get there. All the downhills in this race are very, very uncomfortable to run. That is the best way I think a race can end, with a very technical slope down and then hit the civilization and you’re in the stadium. I think when you finish the downhill, you have one or two kilometers to the stadium. You don’t need to spend 5k or 20 minutes crossing a city. You’re right there.
iRunFar: Then how did you feel at the finish line when you’re on the track and crossing?
Dominguez: I felt, Ahhhhh. I don’t need to run anymore.
Dominguez: Emotions. Finishing like that with such a podium, with François D’haene and Antoine Guillon is very special. It’s very tough. It’s a very good finish for me. It was the best place I could finish.
iRunFar: Congratulations on your third-place finish at the 2016 Diagonale des Fous. Have a good off season, okay?
Dominguez: Thank you.
iRunFar: Oh, and back with a bonus question. I’ve been wanting to ask you this for years. In 2013 at the UTMB, an iRunFar reporter took a photo of you 5k from the finish. You were about to finish on the UTMB podium. You were running and chatting on your cell phone.
Dominguez: You mean in this race?
iRunFar: Yes, 5k from the finish of the 2013 UTMB, and you’re about to finish on the UTMB podium. You’re in the race, and you’re on your cell phone. Who were you talking to, and what were you doing?
Dominguez: The same person I was talking to, Ainhoa. You can run with a person and talk to them here, but you are running. If you’re on your own, the only way to talk to another person is on the phone. If it’s not very technical terrain, you can talk.
iRunFar: So you’re finishing UTMB and talking to Ainhoa on the telephone and just using that as a source of motivation and distraction?
Dominguez: In this case, “Oh, I’ll be there in a half an hour,” to know that she was there. I was very worried because she followed the race all night long without sleeping and she had to drive. So, I was happy to know she was still alive and no accident.
iRunFar: Fantastic. I’ve always wondered the backstory to that moment, so thanks.
Dominguez: There are more but I cannot tell them.
iRunFar: Okay, fair enough. Thanks.