France’s 23-year-old Benjamin Roubiol is the 2023 Trail World Championships 80k champion. In the following interview, Benjamin talks about how he couldn’t dream of being world champion, how he came to the trails and ultrarunning, and how his race played out.
For more on what happened in the race, read our 2023 Trail World Championships 80k results article.
Benjamin Roubiol, 2023 80k Trail World Champion, Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here with Benjamin Roubiol after his win at the 2023 Trail World Championships 80k. Congratulations, Benjamin.
Benjamin Roubiol: Thank you. Thank you a lot.
iRunFar: How do you feel after winning the race?
Roubiol: Now, at this moment, really happy about what happened in my life. And for the moments we live with all the team friends. It was incredible. Since the beginning of the event, we collect nine titles, nine medals. So it was really exciting for all the group.
iRunFar: Yeah, and you have two of those.
iRunFar: Individual gold medal, team gold medal.
Roubiol: Yes. It’s true. Yes.
iRunFar: In the past, you’ve had some strong results. You’ve run some races. You were 14th I think at CCC last year. A good run at Tor des Géants last year. But did you dream that you could be world champion last week?
Roubiol: No. Clearly, no. I know that I have the capacity to do a good race with my aptitude to run in hard ground and mountain space. But imagine to finish first on this race was not a dream.
iRunFar: [laughs] Yeah. You’re only 23 years old, yes?
Roubiol: Yes, it’s true.
iRunFar: What is your history with sport and running?
Roubiol: I began to doing sport really young, beginning by mountain activities. Firstly, on climbing sports, rock climbing in a club. There are many clubs to, it’s an activity where we share a lot with all the climbers. And after passing many times in mountain by this way, I began to run. And furthermore, my father is a runner, too.
iRunFar: On trail?
Roubiol: On trail running. So naturally, I discover really clearly this activity, and it became a passion for me.
iRunFar: You were running trail races at 16 or 17 years old?
Roubiol: Yes. It’s true.
iRunFar: And 20 years old you were running your first ultramarathon.
Roubiol: Yes. The last year, my first 100 miler was great.
iRunFar: But you had a 50-kilometer race when you were 20 years old?
Roubiol: Yeah, maybe yeah. In 2020.
iRunFar: And what inspires, you’ve always liked to be outdoors with sports. What made you want to run ultramarathons?
Roubiol: I think it’s a kind of travel, to do that type of race, because it was a stair upper than a simple long trail. Where we run in the night, we parkour a lot of kilometers. So I really want to try something like that since many year. And last year, I began to seem capable to finish just one. So I plan travel in Réunion Island. So the objective was also to combine the race event of the Diagonale des Fous to travel across over island, discover by the better, better way.
iRunFar: Well, so here you are in Innsbruck-Stubai, for the Trail World Championships. You start out the race. You are maybe in 15th, 20th position in the early kilometers. Was that your plan, to be calm?
Roubiol: Yes. The plan was to begin really, really not slow, but cheerful. And the ranking can be what is it, but it’s not important for my performance. So I began really low in the ranking for the trail, but 20 and 10.
iRunFar: And then around mid-race, maybe 50 kilometers in, you’re already close. You’re on the podium.
iRunFar: Does that surprise you? I mean you have to finish, but to be in the top three.
Roubiol: It really surprised me. But I’m staying focused on the plan to, to have it always, no decrease. And really do what I can do in this moment. So I just want to follow the plan.
iRunFar: So the runner ahead of you for some time was Andreas Reiterer, who is very successful. And you know him. So if he’s the runner ahead of you, are you thinking you can catch him or do you think he will win?
Roubiol: Clearly I don’t think capable to catch him. From the moment when I saw him really far from me, and I saw him push really, really strongly on his poles and on his legs. I say man. I was a bit impressed by this performance. So. But my friends along the way says, “Ah, you’re not so far! You can have it!” So at the last uphill I saw him really approach in less than a minute. I see him along the way. And I say maybe it’s my moment.
iRunFar: So on this final large climb, do you decide to maybe take some risks? Maybe to push?
Roubiol: Maybe before this. Maybe a bit early. And after I have big down just before the big final climbing but, I stay. I stay in serenity and don’t, just the second place was amazing, so.
iRunFar: But then you’re in the lead. You’re at the front of the world championships. Are you excited? Are you scared? What’s your emotion?
Roubiol: More excited, yes. To lead a race like that. But the rule to follow is to stay focused and to continue to drink and eat some sugar to be the fastest possibility. Because we are not two. At this moment we are four or five, maybe to be winner. So the race was not finished until the finish line.
iRunFar: Of course. So now you’re champion of the world. What can you dream of next?
Roubiol: Oh. That was so true, the passing all my dreams before the race. And I can say, I mean only this, or I finish a great objective, and maybe later I plan another one, but now I’m really complete.
iRunFar: As you should be. Congratulations.
Roubiol: Thank you. Thank you a lot.