If you saw Pau Capell’s name high in the results of many races last season, get to know him ahead of this weekend’s Transgrancanaria. In the following interview, Pau talks about why he started trail running, why he gravitates toward longer races, and how sitting on rock for a minute led him to his win at TDS last year.
Read our Transgrancanaria preview to find out who else is running this year’s race!
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Pau Capell Pre-2017 Transgrancanaria Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here with Pau Capell before the 2017 Transgrancanaria. How are you, Pau?
Pau Capell: Fine, thank you.
iRunFar: You ran this race last year, and you were third. Was that a particularly good performance for you?
Capell: Yeah, I ran so good in the last year. I finished third with Diego Pazos. I felt good. This year, I prepared, but I don’t know what will happen because it’s my first race, so I will try to do my best.
iRunFar: Really your strength on the ultrarunning circuit was shown starting in 2015 when you ran Transgrancanaria Advance, and I believe you won that? Then you ran the CCC, and you were sixth or fourth?
Capell: Yes. Yes, sixth.
iRunFar: Last year, you improved so much. What changed between 2015 and 2016?
Capell: I think the most important is the experience. When you run long distances and you have experience, you’re going to improve. I have trained maybe the same, maybe a little bit more, but with the same intensity, and I think I have improved a little bit. The last year, I tried to do my best, and I won the TDS and I finished a good year for me. This year I will try to do the same but step by step.
iRunFar: You had great results throughout the year. You ran well at Hong Kong 100k to begin last year and all the way through the World Championships in late October. How were you able to maintain your strength and energy all year?
Capell: I think the secret is that I love the trail running. For me, it’s not an effort. I train every day because I like it. I compete because I love the competition. If I couldn’t compete, maybe I wouldn’t run every day. For me, the start in Hong Kong was better because I could improve my feelings. I came to Grancanaria with one race—Hong Kong—and I was prepared. This year, for example, it’s my first race. I don’t know what will happen in the race, but I try to do my best in every race, so in this race I will do my best. I will try to do it.
iRunFar: You now have a lot more experience than you did coming to run this race last year.
Capell: Yeah, of course. This last year I think I ran eight races, so I learned a little bit more. This year, I don’t know what will happen.
iRunFar: Did you have one lesson or one thing you learned in particular last year that helped you?
Capell: In every race I have lessons. I don’t know. Maybe in the TDS I learned that when you are tired, you can stop. I decided to sit down on a rock. I looked at my clock and said, “Okay, I have 60 seconds to think about what I’m doing.” I was first with 20 minutes to second, but I was very tired. I decided to stop because I was tired. I said, “Okay, if I pass this 60 seconds and I like what I’m doing, I’m going to the finish line. If not, I’m going to call Martha, and say, ‘Martha, I’m here, and you can pick me up.’” I think this is the best lesson I learned last year. If you want to arrive at the finish, you have to push to the finish line. This is the most important.
iRunFar: That worked out well for you, having that one minute break and deciding to go. You ended up winning that race.
Capell: Yeah, when I passed the 60 seconds, I decided to run because I love the mountains of Mont Blanc. I said, “This is my dream. This is what I want to do. I’m tired, but when I finish the race, I will recover, and all will be good. I will be happy whatever the position. But if I do my best, maybe I can win the race.” Then I enjoyed a lot the last kilometers of the TDS.
iRunFar: So the beauty of the mountains around you kept you going.
Capell: Of course. If I enjoy, I can run. If not, it’s better to stop.
iRunFar: Did you participate in other sports before you were a runner?
Capell: Yeah, I was a football (soccer) player, but I had an injury and broke my ligaments and meniscus of my knee. When I recovered, I decided to run. My doctor said, “Pau, if you run mountains, you will recover better.” I’d never run then mountains. When I ran the mountains, I said, “Oh, shoot. What’s this? I love the mountains!” I started to run.
iRunFar: When was this?
iRunFar: So that’s when you started running, a little over four years ago?
Capell: Yeah, four years ago. I started the first year only for training and training and discovering what’s trail running. The last three years was one in Catalonia and one in Spain and one year of the World Tour. This year is the World Tour and ESF.
iRunFar: Could you ever have imagined going from an injury from football to traveling the world running?
Capell: No, I never imagined. I’d never imagine sitting here with you talking in English about trail running, but I think sometimes we have to choose what way you want to do. This time, I decided to run, and I think I did the best thing in the world.
iRunFar: You love trail running, but why have you chosen to run ultra distance races? There are a lot of great races that are short as well.
Capell: Maybe because my first race was an ultra trail and I didn’t have understanding that it was important for this distance. I don’t know. Always I have loved to run. More hours are better because I enjoy it more. When I run a short distance like a half marathon or marathon, I need to run very fast, and I don’t like it. I prefer to run and enjoy and take conversation with a colleague running and finish in 14 hours or 24 hours depending on the race.
iRunFar: The lower intensity is appealing to you?
Capell: Yeah, for me it’s perfect because you can talk. That, I like. You can eat. That, I like. You can enjoy the mountains. That, I love.
iRunFar: Where are you from originally?
Capell: I’m from Barcelona, a town near Barcelona—Sant Boi de Llobregat. I haven’t got mountains there. I have only one climb of 200 meters. I train in Sant Boi.
iRunFar: You still live there?
Capell: Yeah, of course. For me, it’s perfect. I have good weather. I like living in Sant Boi.
iRunFar: Do you end up traveling on the weekends to run in the mountains in the Pyrenees or Montserrat or…?
Capell: Yeah, of course. I train near Barcelona—Montserrat is one mountain that is perfect for training—Catalonia and also in the Pyrenees. When I have time, I also come here in Grancanaria for training on a weekend or other sites. It’s good. For trail running, you don’t need to live in the Pyrenees for ultra trail. Only you have to have discipline. To train every day or five days per week. Then choose your best mountain for the other training, and it’s enough.
iRunFar: Do you end up running on the roads a lot or are there trails nearby?
Capell: Always trail, but maybe for example, for 21k I get maybe 1,000 meters climbing, and this is enough in some way. Depending on the training, I have maybe a flat jaunt or a mountain jaunt. I choose the training, and try to do the best in every training.
iRunFar: Thank you, Pau.
Capell: Thank you very much.