Fulfilling a long-time dream, Basque runner Maite Maiora won the 2017 Zegama-Aizkorri Marathon and set a new course record in the process. In the following interview, Maite talks about how she ran within herself all day, how the dry course conditions were favorable for her, what it was like to have thousands of locals cheering her along the course, and where else she will race in 2017.
For more on this year’s Zegama, read our results article.
Maite Maiora, 2017 Zegama-Aizkorri Marathon Champion, Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Meghan Hicks of iRunFar, and we’re here at the finish line of the 2017 Zegama Marathon. We’re with women’s champion, Maite Maiora. Congratulations!
Maite Maiora: Thank you. Many thanks.
iRunFar: You had what looked to be a perfect day. Every time we saw you, you looked like you were running with ease. Did it feel like that to you?
Maiora: Yes, it was partly the image I wanted and the image it was. I was running with my mind super cool and not thinking much. The legs were just joining the ride. I knew it was a race and it’s a competition and I was going to give it all if I had to compete, but if there was someone faster than me, I would let her pass. That was basically the image of what it happened. What you saw was what happened luckily.
iRunFar: It looked to us that Sylvia Rampazzo, the second place woman, was the one who was setting the pace for much of the first half of the race. Were you shadowing behind her and trying to keep her close, or were you just running by feel and she just happened to be there in front of you?
Maiora: It happened to be Sylvia was in front, and at some points I was third and I was fourth. Yeah, it’s true I was motivated to reach her after I was getting closer to her. After Aizkorri, I just passed her and I thought she wasn’t looking that great, So I said, Okay, I’ll just go. I was feeling good, so she came back with me. It just happened.
iRunFar: It was a race that stayed close all the way through. Could you feel her behind you? Could you see her behind you? How did the last 10-15k of the race play out with her?
Maiora: There was a moment in Urbia around 28k that I was feeling she was really, really close. It was hard for the mind. Then going up to Andraitz on the last climb, all the people were cheering up and saying and giving me references that my pace was a bit better. That’s where I thought I could get to the finish line with a little gap.
iRunFar: The race finishes with about 10k downhill. Much of it is really runnable; you have to be able to run hard. You said in your interview with you before the race that that was something that would be on your mind. Did you run hard that last downhill?
Maiora: Yeah, I had the benefit of knowing the last 10k perfectly and could do what I said and what I had planned in my race plan and ran fast in the downhill, but it was a little longer than I expected.
iRunFar: You beat a course record that was eight years old and that was held by one of the legends of Spanish mountain running, Emanuella Britzio (6:20). How does it feel like to set a course record, not only taking it away from an iconic runner, but it’s kind of like your home race?
Maiora: As you say, she’s a legend, and being able to get that record is a dream and it’s amazing. At some points in the race I was a bit scared at the paces we were getting. We were going really fast. The truth is, the terrain was super dry and the weather was perfect for running, so I guess everything was held up to make the record.
iRunFar: Basque runners and Basque fans of this race come out no matter the weather, but I think maybe there were more people out cheering on the course today because it’s such a nice day in the mountains. Where I saw you, everyone was, “Maite! Maite! Maite!” How does that make you feel to have at least10,000 people—literally—cheering you today?
Maiora: That’s true, and I really want to take the opportunity to thank the people. Yeah, it’s amazing. It’s something you just feel. You can’t explain it. you just feel it. I think for a week I’ll just close my eyes and hear my name.
iRunFar: You’ve been third at this race; you’ve been fifth at this race. You’ve run this race a number of times, and you’re now a champion. This race is also known for it’s after party. Are you going to party tonight, or how are you going to celebrate winning Zegama?
Maiora: My celebration was just to go through the finish line. I know the after party is amazing, but I’m not really keen on the party, but I know how big it is. I think Mauri [Pagliacci] will celebrate it with my friends. Mauri is the candidate #1 for today.
iRunFar: Final question for you: what else is on your 2017 racing calendar? Where else will we see you?
Maiora: The season is almost starting. I have two big peaks—one was Zegama and one will be CCC. I’m also doing the Sky Running Extreme Cup. It’s a variety of races in my calendar because I’m trying to do races that attract me because of the course like Tromso and Glencoe Skyline. Then I’m also doing the Red Bull 3k and the Grand Paradiso race, so it’s a variety of races.
iRunFar: Wow! Big year for you. A lot or races still coming.
Maiora: Yeah, probably it’s a bit of an ambitious calendar, but all the races are pretty and different. Yeah, it’s true that maybe things happen and maybe you don’t get to complete it, but that’s the idea.
iRunFar: Congratulations to you on your win and course record at Zegama. Maybe have a bit of cider tonight. See you around the world this year!