Spain’s Luis Alberto Hernando is the three-time defending champion of the Trail World Championships. In the following interview, Luis talks about how and why the 2019 race will be different than all the other world champs he’s been a part of because they are so much shorter, how the race will require just a little bit of brains and mostly a lot of running fast, and if he thinks he has a legitimate shot at yet another win.
Luis Alberto Hernando Pre-2019 Trail World Championships Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Meghan Hicks of iRunFar. I’m with Luis Alberto Hernando, the three-time defending champion of the Trail World Championships. It’s a couple days before the 2019 edition. Hola! Hello.
Luis Alberto Hernando: [Listens to an interpreter relay Meghan’s introduction in Spanish] Muchas gracias.
iRunFar: Okay, so it’s pouring rain outside today. It was hot before this. It’s supposed to be cool on Saturday. How are you feeling about the weather going into Saturday?
Hernando: The weather’s going to be the same for everyone, that’s a start. If it stops raining, as it’s supposed to tomorrow morning, the terrain will be a little bit less dry [teasingly helps the interviewer who stumbles over an English word, laughs]. It will be maybe a little bit muddy, but again it will be the same conditions for everyone. The weather’s going to be a little bit colder, which is better for everyone. If I got to choose, I’d prefer to run with it being a little bit more hot, or a little bit warmer as was predicted. But it is what it is. I’m going to try to do my best on Saturday.
iRunFar: I feel like the Spanish always like the weather hot. It must be a thing with your blood.
Hernando: Sí, sí. Maybe in Spain we have better weather at this time of the year. We’re not like people in more northern parts of the world that are coming straight off of ski season. We’ve already had a couple of warm days in Spain. Yeah, like everyone, I feel better at 20 degrees [Celsius, 68 Fahrenheit], but I think I perform better than the others [have a competitive advantage] when it’s hotter.
iRunFar: You’re the three-time defending champion. You’ve now won this race three times. Can the winning streak possibly continue?
Hernando: Every year is more difficult than the year before. 2017 was harder than 2016. 2018 was harder than 2017. This year, especially with the distance, I think people from shorter distances are trying to jump onto these distances. People like me who have been training for ultramarathons for the last couple of years are way more complicated to come back down to get that speed in the legs again to compete with these people. I think it’s a race that interests every single runner in the trail running world, like the distance. I’ll do my best, but I think it’s easier for people who are jumping up in distance than those of us from an ultramarathon background who are dropping down in distance.
iRunFar: Is that right? You think it’s easier to jump from being a 20k-30k runner up to this, than dropping down?
Hernando: I’m almost sure of it. It’s probably easier for a fast runner to get a little bit more volume and jump into this race than a runner like me who’s coming down from ultra distances–and there are many other runners [in this position, too], to get back to that speed. It’s easier to get volume than speed.
iRunFar: I actually rather admire the way you’ve been preparing yourself for this. You tossed yourself into two shorter half marathons. You got your ass kicked a bit. You did some vertical-kilometer races and made it really hurt. I admire the way that you sort of jumped on your weakness and tried to work on that speed.
Hernando: I’ve been specially training my butt, for when it gets kicked again, so it doesn’t hurt a lot on Saturday.
iRunFar: [Laughs] Okay! So, Team Spain takes this race pretty professionally. You guys came out and did a camp here. You’ve seen the course, you know what it’s like. Have you thought tactically about how you’re going to approach the race and the course specifically?
Hernando: So, as a team especially, the only good tactic is to perform well individually. To perform well individually, I believe it’s going to be a super-fast race. It’s important to not lose distance toward the leaders. I think especially at the first aid station at 16k, we’re going to be together and it’s important not to go crazy and not lose a lot of time on the leaders. Also, the idea is to get as close as possible to the leaders in the second half of the race, because after that there’s a little bit of rolling downhill. You cannot probably win a lot of time, but you can lose everything–you can lose the position you were taking. Yeah, I have zero tactics at all. I have no tactics, I just think it’s important not to lose time on the middle of the course.
iRunFar: It’s really interesting. I hear people saying this is going to be a distance where you have to just put your head down and run. There’s no other thing about it. You just put your head down and run.
Hernando: Everybody will do whatever they can. Yeah, the course is well-marked so you can put down your head and run. But anyway, it’s important to keep a cool head and not respond to every attack, to be intelligent. It’s important to be as smart as possible and not lose a lot of time against the leaders.
iRunFar: So that’s my last question for you: in American running culture, we have a saying that there’s such a thing as ‘dad strength.’ That’s where in the second part of your life, you’ve learned patience, and resiliency from being a father and being up all night and having a job. I don’t know if that translates to Spanish running culture. Is there going to be at least a little bit of dad strength that’s going to be put to work on Saturday?
Hernando: You mean old people?
iRunFar: [Laughs] No!
Hernando: I think that strength is probably not the best thing for Saturday. The best thing is to be fast and to have your legs be super-trained for it. On a course like this, which I would describe as ‘complicated’–it’s a bit technical, a bit quick–you have to be speedy. I think that’s the only thing that will be useful. It’s not a long race where your patience or your resilience is better. As long as you can run the whole course and stay in the lead pack, that’s the best thing you can do.
iRunFar: Excellent. Well, best of luck to you.
Hernando: And you.
iRunFar: We look forward to seeing you out there.
Hernando: Thank you.