Maite Maiora moved up to the 100-mile distance and took third at the 2019 UTMB. In the following interview, Maite talks about how hot the women’s race went out and if it was hard to stay conservative amongst that, how she didn’t know for a long time where she was in the women’s field, what happened next when she heard she’d moved into third position, and what it was like to run into unknown territory during her first 100-mile race.
Be sure to read our in-depth results article to find out how the race played out.
Maite Maiora Post-2019 UTMB Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Meghan Hicks of iRunFar. I’m with Maite Maiora. She’s the third-place finisher at the 2019 UTMB. Congratulations, Maite.
Maite Maiora: [With assistance from a translator] Thank you and good morning.
iRunFar: 100 miles is a really long way.
Maiora: Yes, so long [laughs].
iRunFar: When I think of you, I think of somebody who specializes and excels at shorter-distance trail running. What made you want to run 100 miles?
Maiora: So, this year I’ve been trying to do a little bit longer races. This year I’ve done a couple more ultras, but UTMB has been on my mind. With my partner, we’ve been talking about it and how it would be great to run it – it’s sort of a dream to run it. So, last October I got the bug for UTMB. We talked about it and we decided to jump in this year.
iRunFar: Wow. Let’s jump into the story of this year’s women’s race. China’s Miao Yao took the women’s race out really hot and you looked like you were sitting back and sort of trying to relax for the first kilometers.
Maiora: So, I heard that on the lead they were running this way [very aggressively]. I was completely sure this wasn’t my strategy. In a certain way, I was glad they were doing it, because that meant they were going to fall down later in the race. I just kept there waiting and that happened, yeah.
iRunFar: I have to wonder, for somebody like you who is used to being near the front of the race, did it make you nervous at all that there were like 25 women in front of you at 20k?
Maiora: I was a bit bummed, of course, at feeling like I was a bit back and there were a lot of women in front of me. But the goal was clear: Get to the finish line. So, I just tried not to pay attention to it [the number of runners in front of me at that time].
iRunFar: One of the big features of UTMB is that you run through a very long night, and you’re out in sort of remote, difficult terrain in Italy for that night. What was night running like for you?
Maiora: So, I’ve never trained in the night. I’ve never, ever trained in the night. But, all the ultras I’ve done of over 100k or something were during the night and I actually love it, so it was pretty good. I particularly love sunrises. I remember each and every sunrise during races. This one was beautiful, too.
iRunFar: If we fast-forward the race to Switzerland, from the outside perspective it just seemed like all of a sudden, boom, you were there in the top ten and at every checkpoint you were moving up. From in the race, did it feel like that? What was going on?
Maiora: I had no idea where I was standing during the race, until Champex-Lac. Then I saw Ekaterina Mityaeva going out. The strategy from my team and I was to not know where I was standing, but my partner let it slip, “Yeah, you’re in sixth now.” I was like, “Oh, okay. Now I know.” I was just focused on what I was doing.
iRunFar: When we saw you at Vallorcine, which is 150k, that was the first time you were in podium position. Did you know then that you were in third?
Maiora: I was in podium position in Trient [140k], but when I got to Vallorcine I was still in fourth. But when I realized I was sneaking into podium position and my partner told me I was there, I was like, “Shit! I was on a chill pace to complete the race, but this is an opportunity to compete.” Unfortunately, it was the last 20k of the race, but “This is an opportunity and I’ll take it.”
iRunFar: How did you feel going into those kilometers in terms of distance that you’d never run before? Did you notice a new strength that you never knew you had? How did you keep the physical and mental ability to stay on the podium?
Maiora: So, when I got to La Fouly, it’s still like 60k to go. My partner asks, “How are you feeling? Are you feeling comfortable? Can you keep this pace?” I was like, “No freaking way. No way this is going to happen until the end. Then, I had a huge surprise in myself. I felt really, really good. I was actually surprised with my body and how it felt. I was surprised how the body itself can hold this effort for a long time. It was a good surprise.
iRunFar: This is my last question for you: When I see you finish third in UTMB in your first 100-miler, I think… she takes third in her first 100-mile race. What else can she do? What can she do with some experience? Are you thinking the same things?
Maiora: I didn’t win [laughs]. Being on the podium was a dream, but it was never a goal. It was just a dream I had, now it’s a dream come true. Winning must be something out of this world, then. I used to say, “When I win Zegama, then I can retire.” But it didn’t happen [I didn’t retire after winning it in 2017]. So, maybe, if it eventually happens here at UTMB, I can look at something to do.
iRunFar: Maybe we’ll see you here again, then. Congratulations on your third-place finish.
Maiora: Thank you very much.