After 12 hours, 128 kilometers, and numerous attacks by both runners, Pablo Villa and Pau Capell finished the 2020 Transgrancanaria together as co-champions. In the following interview, Pablo and Pau talk about how their races played out, how and when they decided to finish together, what that means, and where they’ll race each other again.
Read our results article to find out what else happened at the front of the race.
Pablo Villa and Pau Capell, 2020 Transgrancanaria Co-Champions, Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here with Pau Capell and Pablo Villa after their co-championship of this year’s Transgrancanaria. Congratulations to both of you.
Pau Capell: Thank you.
Pablo Villa: Thank you very much.
iRunFar: Let’s get right to it. When did you two start running together during the race? When were you first together?
Capell: We run together when we start the race. We did all the race together, to the finish line, so it was an amazing race.
iRunFar: So you’re friends. You know each other, yes?
iRunFar: When did, were there times in the race where you were fighting each other, pushing each other?
Capell: Oh, well we were running in the start together so we were fighting for win the race. And we decided to finish together when, I don’t know, 10 kilometers left to finish line, so. It was a fighting [for] 12 hours, 15 minutes.
Villa: It was enough.
Capell: It was enough. And the last 15 minutes of the race we were running more relaxed.
iRunFar: I mean, I don’t know how to say it en castellano but were there times when one would push or surge or try to go in front of the other? Were there times when you would make a few minutes of very hard to try to,
Capell: Yes. When he passed me in Roque Nublo.
Capell: Yeah, he was in front of me, maybe three minutes there. And it was the worst part for me in the race. I needed to catch him because if not I couldn’t finish first and win the race, so after Garañón I catch him and we run together.
iRunFar: And Pablo were there times when Pau was in front of you?
Villa: I was in a way very concentrate in the race and I only think in my performance. But in the uphill to Roque Nublo, I feel really, really strong, and I put all my effort in this uphill, but Pau is a really strong guy and he run, he run very fast. After Garañón he take me, we were very exhausted and we chat about the situation and for us it was a battle.
iRunFar: And you were already nine, 10 hours together.
iRunFar: And I saw at one aid station, at Artenara, you left the aid station a few seconds, you came together…
iRunFar: You left first but you were like, just said, well what did you say?
Capell: I said Pablo, come on! Stand up because Jared [Hazen] is close to us and we need to run to Roque Noble to the Tejada first. The strategy was, in the race, for me, for example my race, for Pablo to do his race, and then I knew that Jared is one of the best American athletes. He is really fast.
Capell: Okay so in the race we were together in Artenara. We arrive together, but when I left the checkpoint I told Pablo, Pablo come on and we need to leave here because Jared is coming and he’s really fast. So I wanted to get to the climb of Artenara together because I think we could do our best work together in the uphills. And that’s why I told him “Come on. We need to leave.”
iRunFar: And you were not like standing there for five minutes. It was five seconds.
iRunFar: You were running. You went. But…
Capell: Yeah but in ultra trails we can lost a lot of times in the checkpoints, so if you do a good job there you can win minutes at the end of the race.
iRunFar: So you were not only together, you were working together.
Capell: Yeah, because we were running four people in the race but then after kilometer 60 I think it was when we were together.
Villa: Yes. I think the first part of the race, we run four athletes together.
iRunFar: You two, and Jared, and Peiquan You of China.
Capell: Yeah. And we were leading the race, one time Pablo, one time Jared, one time me, one time Peiquan You, and all the time that the attacks were constantly. So we finished very exhausted after kilometer 60 so we were exhausted because the first part of the race, it was really hard for us.
iRunFar: So it’s not, you two were not there jogging in the front together, it was, the four of you were, [laughs]
Villa: No, no. [laughs]
Capell: Yeah, more boxing than jogging.
Villa: It was a real battle.
Capell: It was, I think it was a good race for a spectator because we were doing a big battle with Jared and Peiquan You and that’s why I think that finally we decided to finish together because after 13 hours we were running together.
Capell: Two kilometers before the finish so it was stupid to do the last battle in the finish line.
iRunFar: During the race, did it seem that one of you has strength in certain areas and the other have other strengths or is it just you know, maybe you’re stronger on the uphills and you’re better at downhills or the other way or was it just time at time? Like sometimes you feel better and sometimes Pablo.
Capell: I think it’s the second option. Depending on timing of the race, one of us it was better and one of us was worst. And in my case for example, like I told you, it’s in Roque Nublo, I remember I start the uphills to Roque Nublo first. Maybe five minutes in front of him, but in the last part of the uphill he catch me and he passed me running and I couldn’t run and it was like you need to run, because if not I will not catch Pablo.
iRunFar: So in that time did you think maybe, maybe I will win now?
Villa: No, no. It’s very, how you say…
Capell: Very far.
Villa: Very far of the finish line, so I feel good. I go fast. But for example…
[Cats run by fighting]
Villa: Oh my god, another fight.
Villa: But for example in the night, the Chinese athlete [Peiquan You] in the uphills he go really fast, but when it started downhills for example to Presa de Perez, we run fast in the downhill. So it was a constant battle.
iRunFar: And who made the last attack?
Capell: I think in Hierbahuerto maybe.
Capell: In checkpoint of Heirbahuerto we run together but I left the checkpoint first because he was eating. And I started to go down first. But it was not an attack. I was thinking we are going to run and I will see if Pablo is coming or not, and Pablo came, and it was stupid. It was stupid, do more speed on this downhill because it was a technical downhill and it was dangerous for the ankles and I prefer to run normal and finally we finish.
Villa: Yes, and the problem in the downhill to Ayaguares, the people from the other…
iRunFar: The maratón, the 50k?
Villa: It was very dangerous, the situation because the people in the other races, downhill really slow, and it’s very danger for us and for them.
Capell: Yes, we need to pass the people there and it was complicated because it was singletrack, and very technical singletrack.
Capell: Yes, cactus.
Capell: And we prefer to do a normal downhill and try to finish.
iRunFar: Not slow, but…
Capell: Not slow, but normal.
iRunFar: Not attack.
Capell: Not attack.
iRunFar: So I would think that at some time you talked about, okay, okay. Together. When, how did you do this conversation? Who said let’s maybe do this?
Capell: In Ayaguares I think we talked about this.
Villa: We ask if, how are you, how are you. We were exhausted and…
Capell: In Ayaguares we talked about where is the third. If it’s far, we can finish normal, not more attacks. If the third, I think a moment, was close, of here, of us, we need to finish with attacks so we will push more, but in Ayaguares we decided to run normal and finish with security.
Villa: Because Dylan [Bowman] was 35 minutes [behind us].
iRunFar: But if you attack, maybe you don’t finish or have a disaster.
Capell: Yeah, sure. Because the problem was if we did more attacks in the last 15ks then maybe muscles can explode and you don’t finish. So we prefer to finish good, finish in front.
Villa: No injuries.
Capell: Yeah, not injuries, and together, so.
iRunFar: So do you, you both feel good about the results?
Villa: Of course.
Capell: Yeah. For me it was perfect. We don’t live together in the same town. He lives in León, [Spain,] I live in Barcelona, so we can’t train together but I follow him in Instagram for example, and I know the trainings, I write him when he’s training, “You are very strong, Pablo. Please do not train more.”
Capell: And it was really good to finish with him and I’m really happy with this finish line.
iRunFar: And you?
Villa: Yes, of course. For me Pau Capell is the best runner in this type of distance so I arrive at the finish line with him is incredible for me, so I’m really happy. I think in all of the media we were the favorites.
iRunFar: Favorites, yeah.
Capell: To win, so…
iRunFar: I mean, some people say after the finish, when you finish together they’re very happy. They’re, you know, this is a good spirit. And a small number say this is sport. You must fight to the last moment, to the last meter. What do you say to those people?
Villa: These people don’t understand this sport. Ultrarunning is completely different from a marathon or Skyrunning races. Put your body at 100% of sport during 13 hours, you can do this to understand this situation.
Capell: Yeah. And you need to live these kind of situations in a race. And you need to live one race like the race we did to decide these kinds of decisions to finish with people, with one other athlete so I think that the people that say no, it’s a competition. You need to fight to the finish line, I invite them to Transgrancanaria in front 13 hours and then you know I will ask him how the decision, that he handle it.
iRunFar: For me, I’m thinking about it, we all have not just one motivation, we have a lot of motivations for why we compete at Transgrancaria or any ultra.
iRunFar: So does it change during the race, what your main motivation is?
Capell: The main motivation is always to try to do the best and try to win the race. And when you’re in the race and you’re competing and fighting, then during the race the motivations can change. And this is thing that Pablo told happens only in ultra trails, because we run out of time and in a marathon for example you know that you need to follow your timing, I don’t know, three minutes kilometer, and you need to run in three minutes kilometer and then the motivation is do this time. But in ultra trails you can’t do this, so sometimes the life is changing during the race, so that’s why we finish together I think.
Villa: I think that if we started slow I think the situation was completely different, but we start really fast. Fast during all the race. So we are exhausted, the body and the mind.
iRunFar: And so then does it become, to win is special. You’ve won here many times. But is it also special to fight fight fight, and then see you’re the same at the end. You’re equal.
Capell: Yeah. This is nice because the good thing of the race is we were fighting 15 hours. This is a lot of time. Your body is 100%, your mind is 100% and then you are in the finish line and you look him and we did all that we could, and now we are going to finish together because we can’t do it more.
iRunFar: In one year, or two years, you will look back at this race and still be happy and think it’s special?
Villa: Yes, of course. This race will be my mind for all my life.
iRunFar: It’s a good memory.
Capell: Yeah a good memory and also because we did a good fight during the races. It was not an easy race, so we were fighting fighting fighting and finally, I think that the best thing of the race is the result.
iRunFar: So before the race, we talked about, can you beat Pau? The answer is so far, not yet.
iRunFar: Next year will you both be back and you will maybe try to beat Pau again?
Villa: Yes, of course. I think the next race will be UTMB.
Villa: And another fight.
Capell: We will fight to the finish line another time. But I think that the next time we will decide to push to the finish, because we finish together here, so one time is enough. [laughs]
iRunFar: But this is not your first time finishing together.
Capell: For me, no.
iRunFar: I heard like, Cristofer Clemente I think at some small race.
Capell: Yes, Cristofer Clemente, Diego Pazos in Grancanaria five years ago.
Villa: Luis Alberto [Hernando] and Kilian [Jornet] at the [2013 European Skyrunning] Championships.
Capell: I finish I think in my career, four or five races I finish with other athletes in front.
iRunFar: So that makes me think that, you say there’s one motivation going in to win, but it’s not. It’s a few maybe.
iRunFar: There’s other people here.
Capell: Yeah, yeah.
iRunFar: It’s important to fight but also important to, for us to be together.
Capell: Because we are humans.
Villa: Yeah, yeah.
Capell: We are normal people and we have feelings, and during the race, it’s important to say that during the race you can have new friends.
Capell: In the race I meet more Pablo than before. And it’s nice.
iRunFar: That’s a good question. What did you learn about Pablo today or yesterday that you did not know before?
Capell: Oh, for example, maybe Pablo in competition I didn’t meet him during competition. And during the race you can see some things about one guy or one girl that you can’t see in normal life. So in the race I saw the effort that Pablo was doing. And when I was tired and I was talking with him about I don’t know. If you want we can talk about other things to,
Villa: Change the mind.
Capell: Change the mind, and yeah it was nice.
iRunFar: And did you learn anything about Pau yesterday?
Villa: I know the real performance of Pau Capell in a race is really, really strong. Really motivated with the situations in the race, and he’s an incredible professional runner.
Capell: He learn he can win me in the uphill because in Roque he passed me so fast he learned it.
iRunFar: So very strong. That’s good. Next so here’s a question for you, Pau. If you win five times at Transgrancanaria Clasico will you just retire so that maybe…?
Capell: My goal is do the five. It would be nice to do the five. Yeah, try to win the five and try to finish the career here in Gran Canaria.
iRunFar: And maybe you will make sure it’s only four?
Villa: It’s a dream for me, win two times, it’s a dream but now I only think in the next step that will be Transvulcania.
Villa: Of course I am thinking in UTMB.
iRunFar: That will be your first 170 kilometers.
Villa: Yeah, yeah. My first one.
iRunFar: Are you excited about that?
Villa: Yes, of course. It’s my dream since I started being this sport so I’m very motivated.
iRunFar: And little by little, poco a poco, you’ll go longer.
Villa: Yeah. Step by step.
iRunFar: And you, what’s on your calendar? Todos?
Capell: Next week I go to France to do a race but the important race is in Patagonia [Patagonia Run], three of April, I will go there and then Madeira-Island Ultra Trail 23 of April.
iRunFar: So two long runs in April.
Capell: Yeah. Madeira for example is one race that I’m very excited to run because I run and finish second two years ago. This one race I have in my list to check and I will try to do my best and win the race.
iRunFar: And Patagonia run is more of, it’s a race but,
Capell: Madeira ultra training. I will run 70k there.
iRunFar: You have been there before.
Capell: Yes. I run 100 miles last year but this year I will do the 70k to train.
iRunFar: And then so MIUT and UTMB?
Capell: UTMB also and then before UTMB I have other races, you know.
Villa: He is a strong racer.
Capell: But the main goals are Gran Canaria, Madeira, and UTMB.
iRunFar: And will you, Pablo, run fewer, less races this year maybe? In the past you also run a lot of races but short.
Villa: This year I’ll do less races than the last year, and I focus in Transvulcania, Infinite Trails, and two more marathons, and UTMB.
iRunFar: Okay. Well congratulations to both of you.
Capell: Thank you.
iRunFar: And good luck on your seasons. Thank you. Muchas gracias.