While Spain’s Azara García has stormed to victory in many races, she’ll be lining up for her first 100 miler at the 2022 UTMB. In the following interview, Azara talks about how she’s approaching these 100 miles differently from any race before, the knee surgery she had earlier this year as well as her recovery from it, and why being visible as a woman racing hard trail races is important for the next generation of trail runners.
[Thanks to Álvaro Postigo for the translation!]
Azara García Pre-2022 UTMB Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Meghan Hicks of iRunFar. I’m with Azara García. It’s a couple of days before the 2022 UTMB. Hi, Azara. Hola.
Azara García: Hola. Hola todos.
iRunFar: You have been to the UTMB festival before but a shorter distance. What’s it like to stand near the starting line of your first 100 miler?
García: [through translator] Well, she’s very nervous and it’s a big challenge for her. Especially after the past surgery in February so she’s very, she doesn’t know how she’s coming here. I mean, not very, she doesn’t have a lot of kilometers for that distance, but she’s very confident. I mean, she’s nervous but she’s confident because she ran, the longest distance is 135 kilometers, Transgrancanaria, but this distance is more like a challenge for more than the body, the brain. The mind.
iRunFar: You have run races that are really long before. Transgrancanaria, Lavaredo Ultra Trail, Ultra Pirineu. You know, building up to the 100-mile distance, does that, having done those difficult things give you confidence in like the final 40 kilometers of UTMB will go okay?
García: Yes, it’s very important to have run those distances because it gives you confidence and you know how to manage the race and all the problems you can have. And she’s confident about the distance because she knows she can run a longer distance.
iRunFar: iRunFar has seen you race many times before and you are a, you’re a front runner, you’re a fairly aggressive racer. Do you expect, not to give away your race-day strategy, but do you expect to help set the pace on Friday and Saturday?
García: [laughs] She’s changed a lot this year. It’s been many changes and especially the trainer is the biggest one because she needed to change for this distance the way she was running. So now she said different runners can and we trained a lot in the stations to be relaxed, you know to eat and be relaxed and think more in the race than she was very explosive, and she didn’t manage very much the race with a brain. More like how do you say, the heart.
iRunFar: Explosive. Yeah, okay running with the heart. That’s really good. Maybe to use your metaphor, less of a storm and more of like a sprinkle. You’re always going to be a storm.
García: Difficult to change. Her character is like a storm.
iRunFar: Okay, you mentioned your surgery and before we were on camera, you showed us a little scar in your left knee. What happened?
García: Yeah, after Lavaredo she had this problem. Yeah. She needed to stop then because she had this problem there. I don’t know, how do you say in English, it’s this tendon that brushed the bone here.
iRunFar: Is it the iliotibial band? The tendon that goes like this. [gestures at leg]
García: Yes, it’s a very common injury. So they try very different treatments before the surgery and nothing works. So they decided to open and clean very well all that, the knee. And after that she worked very hard to, I mean her mind was, come here to UTMB, everything was well and now is forgotten. She’s been running May, June in Austria, and July in Romania.
iRunFar: My last question for you. I watched on social media last winter as you worked to be an advocate for Spanish women’s runners and trying to get the Spanish media to cover women the same as they cover men. That’s, you know, a thing that’s sort of near and dear to me, too. I would just love to hear your thoughts on, you know, here at UTMB, it’s a race that each year a few more women participate in, but still many more men. I would love to hear your thoughts on how we continue to bring more women to races like this.
García: She said always the same, it’s always the same. I mean for the media, for the brands, women needs to appear in the media and the races. And at least they need the same as men, at least the same. But in some races like this happened yesterday here, the coverage was, it was going to be 10 elite men and five women. And you know always the balance is not right. I mean, at least they want the same. So they have the same opportunities for the brands, for the media, for the girls that come in. I mean, the young girls need the reference. If they don’t show the women in media and press, in the brands, those kids won’t be a sport woman in the future.
iRunFar: So representation is just really important. That’s what you’re after.
García: Yeah. She wants to leave a flat path for those kids. Those girls are coming now so they don’t need to fight like her to have a place in between all the men. You know, all the men in the races. I mean in the society in general. So she’s fighting at least she’s fighting. Not all the elite women, they are not all together in this case, but at least some of them are fighting to have a base for the girls.
iRunFar: Well, thank you for that, and thank you also for the interview, and best of luck making your first 100 miler.
García: Thank you very much. The next year she promises she’s going to talk in English.
iRunFar: And how about me in Spanish next time.
García: Muchas gracias.