Hassan Ait Chaou earned his biggest trail running victory at The Rut 28k this weekend. In the following interview, Hassan talks about when he started running, how he’s improved so much in the past year, and what he enjoyed most about The Rut.
For more on how the race went down, check out our results article for The Rut 28k.
Thanks to Albert Jorquera for acting as translator.
[Click here if you can’t see the video above.]
Hassan Ait Chaou, 2016 The Rut 28k Champion, Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here with Hasan Ait Chaou after his win at The Rut 28k. Congratulations.
Hassan Ait Chaou: Thank you.
iRunFar: You’ve been running trails for some years, but I think this is your best result, yes?
Chaou: Yes, until now, I’d not won. I’ve been for four years in the World Cup and the Skyrunning World Series, and I’ve always been up front in the top 10, but curiously, each time it’s more difficult, but I’m getting better results each time. Today maybe there were some people missing but anyway on the day.
iRunFar: You have over the last few years you have improved. We’ve seen you in eighth or 10th at Zegama, but now earlier in the year you were running stronger at Ultraks and the Dolomites race and now here. What have you changed to improve your trail running?
Chaou: Of course the training is here and there are no secrets, but one thing I changed is my job. Before, I worked as a plumber, and I have three herniated discs. It was a physical work and it may have affected my races. Now, I have a more quiet job. This combined with different trainings are giving me these results.
iRunFar: Did you have the hernia repaired?
Chaou: No, I’ve used massage and physio and am trying to go on.
iRunFar: You are Moroccan. When did you move to the Basque Country in Spain?
Chaou: I moved there in 2000. My wife is Basque, so I had to move. I’ve been there for 16 years. My wife is quite happy there, and I’m quite adapted.
iRunFar: Were you a runner when you were in Morocco, or when did you start running?
Chaou: I started to run in 2003. Before, I was a smoker. I tried to quit, so I started to run. I’m here now.
iRunFar: When you started running, were you on the roads or on trails?
Chaou: I started on the roads for three or four years, but I’ve always liked the mountains. I went there to run with the family. I thought after three or four years, Why don’t I try to go to the mountains? And then I started to run trails.
iRunFar: You’re from the mountains, yet?
Chaou: Yes, I’m from the Atlas, so there are a lot of mountains there. Since I was a child, I went there to play. This is something that you have inside your heart.
iRunFar: Having seen you run at Zegama, I think you have a little Basque in your heart, too, because you descend very well.
Chaou: Yes, you must be regular, of course, but maybe my strongest point is the downhill. Of course in Zegama in the Basque Country you should be good in this aspect because there’s a lot of mountains and the mud and everything. You should be strong in that or else you cannot be up front.
iRunFar: Is that your favorite part on a course like today?
Chaou: Today, I really loved the uphill to Lone Peak because it’s quite technical, and I love that. Maybe the altitude affected me a little bit because I’m not used to such altitude, but I could keep it up and run.
iRunFar: When you were at the top of the race, you were in second position. When did you learn you’d taken the lead?
Chaou: At the start of the downhill, I saw I was cutting the time with Dakota [Jones]. Then in the middle, I saw Dakota on the side of the track stretching. I stopped to ask if he was okay. Dakota said to go on. I continued. I continued. I didn’t want to be so much confident because behind I thought that behind me I had good runners like Kiril [Nikolov] or the guy who was from here. Anyway, I could keep it until the win.
iRunFar: Will you be running Limone to finish the season?
Chaou: Yes, I’m planning to be there unless I have an injury. I want to be there and try to win.
iRunFar: Congratulations, and thank you.
Chaou: Thank you. It’s a pleasure to be here.