France’s Blandine L’hirondel was truly a force in her win of the 2019 Trail World Championships. In our first interview with Blandine, learn about her history with running and her quick upward trajectory to this victory, how the race played out from her point of view, her thoughts on France’s women’s team gold medal, and if this victory is encouraging her to dream big.
For more on what happened at the race, read our results article.
Blandine L’hirondel, 2019 Trail World Champion, Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Meghan Hicks of iRunFar and I’m with Blandine L’hirondel. You’re the 2019 Trail World Champion. Congratulations, Blandine.
L’hirondel: Thank you, thank you very much.
iRunFar: You had an incredible run today. How do you feel?
L’hirondel: Now I feel good, during the trail I feel good. I don’t understand how I did that, how I did for me a perfect run. I’m very proud of me because I didn’t feel before I could do that and I’m very fine.
iRunFar: Every woman I’ve talked to so far said you went out so fast. Did you feel like you went out fast at the start?
L’hirondel: Yes, I knew I was very fast but usually when I run, when I do trail, I usually begin very fast. I feel normally, the girls behind me go before me. But today they never passed me.
iRunFar: Nobody came.
L’hirondel: Nobody came, I don’t know but I know I was very fast in the beginning and some time I told myself, Was it a good idea to go so fast? I think yes.
iRunFar: Your lead just kept growing, checkpoint-to-checkpoint, moment-to-moment. The women just kept getting further behind you. Did you know that you were creating such a gap? Did you have any reports?
L’hirondel: No I didn’t know that. Because I don’t want to know about the other girls. I want to be in my bubble. And I didn’t know. Some people told me, “You’re ahead, very ahead.” I didn’t know exactly how much. When I arrived [at the finish] I was, “Where was the second woman? I don’t understand.” Eight minutes I am here. And it’s just incredible, for me it’s incredible, eight minutes ahead of Ruth Croft. Ruth Croft is a legend of the trail.
iRunFar: There’s a new legend of the trail now and her name is Blandine.
L’hirondel: I don’t know.
iRunFar: This is iRunFar’s first interview with you, so I would love to know a little bit more about you. How did you get into running and how did you find trail running? Your history with sport?
L’hirondel: I’m from Normandy. Normandy is on the northwest of France, where there are no mountains it is very flat. For my studies I went to Réunion Island now four years ago. Three years ago, a little bit more, I begin to run on the mountains in Réunion Island and I loved it. I discovered this passion and since this moment I began to run in the mountains. Now I’m here. When I came back to France for my studies and I began on the mountains, on the Pyrenees, and I can’t stop now. It’s my passion.
iRunFar: How did you decide that you wanted to qualify to be on Team Spain for the World Championships? How did you get that in your head? [Editor’s Note: iRunFar meant Team France.]
L’hirondel: No, never. Two months ago I did trail. It was my first trail with a high level.
iRunFar: Was that the Trail de la Drôme or Trail du Ventoux?
L’hirondel: Trail du Ventoux. And I was second behind Rachel Drake, an American. And the FFA [French Athletics Federation] team, Philippe Propage and Olivier Gui, recognized me and asked me to participate in the qualification course at Trail de la Drôme. At the beginning I didn’t want to because for me it was very new. I couldn’t believe I have my place in the best French runners. I needed one or two weeks to decide. I asked my husband, my family, and my friends [for advice]. They told me, “If you don’t do that now maybe you couldn’t do that ever.” So okay, “I will try the qualification.” And now I’m here.
iRunFar: And you’re the world champion. You’re not just here but you are the champion.
L’hirondel: Yeah, it’s incredible.
iRunFar: Today was a huge breakout for you, a huge jump in terms of performance. What’s in your head right now?
L’hirondel: I don’t believe it right now, I don’t believe. I always repeat that I am the same woman than yesterday. I didn’t change. Maybe when I go back tomorrow at home and I open the media and in the Facebook, maybe I will…
iRunFar: It will start to settle.
L’hirondel: Yes. I just want to be with my team because we win too with our team. Now I just want to celebrate it with my team and all the girls. I would like to thank them too because I always repeat in my head on the course today, It’s for the team, it’s for the team. Thank you.
iRunFar: Incredible performance by you and team France. And congratulations on becoming the 2019 Trail World Champion.
L’hirondel: Thank you, thank you very much.