Basque Country’s Maite Maiora considers the Zegama-Aizkorri Marathon to be one of her most important races each year. In this interview, learn why Zegama is important for Maite personally, how she will approach racing both the vertical-kilometer race on Friday afternoon and the marathon race on Sunday, and how she strategically races the unique Zegama Marathon course.
Maite Maiora Pre-2017 Zegama-Aizkorri Marathon Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Meghan Hicks of iRunFar, and we’re here in Zegama, Spain. It’s a couple days before the 2017 Zegama Marathon. I’m with Basque Country’s Maite Maiora. Hi.
Maite Maiora: Hello, and good day from Zegama.
iRunFar: You live not very far away from here. It’s like me visiting your home. You should be welcoming me, maybe?
Maiora: Yes, that’s actually true. You just came here, and I’ve been here the whole week. I live a half an hour away from Zegama. Yeah, you are welcome.
iRunFar: This is iRunFar’s fifth time covering Zegama. This is a little marathon in the middle of the mountains here in Spain, but this is a very special race. We’ve learned through time that this is a race we like to keep coming back to. What is so special about Zegama? Can you put it into words for people?
Maiora: It’s a hard race to get in. Everyone wants to get in. Maybe that’s what’s given Zegama the prestige—what’s hard to get is what everybody wants. That’s one of the biggest points of trying to be here besides the town and the mountains. It’s not really big and tough mountains, but the Aizkorri is super important for the Basque Country people. It’s an iconic race. Also, the town, and how the people get involved, all the people who come and cheer in the course, and how the organization is set up—it’s what makes Zegama what it is. This question, I’ve been asked a lot of times. That’s what I feel about it.
iRunFar: I think this is a race that is really special to you personally, too. I’ve seen you come here a couple of times really focused upon it—focusing your spring season on it. What does it mean to you personally?
Maiora: Yes, when I wasn’t into races, I came here just to watch the race, and I couldn’t believe what people were doing here—running a marathon up and down in the mountains was super weird and intriguing for me. With the years, I got involved in it. Also, it’s true that I live a half an hour from here, but my last name, Maiora, is pretty local from really close to Zegama. That’s my father’s last name. That’s why I’m here.
iRunFar: The weather forecast for the weekend is really strange. It’s usually cold, rainy, and foggy here. The forecast is for hot weather. I understand maybe you specialize in hot weather?
Maiora: Yes, in the past years it was weird ,because the weather here is usually like this in May—really good and good days. Then, you have the prior days to the race is good and, then, suddenly it gets rainy and not good. This is what usually should be around. I think I’m better in this weather. Everyone wants to run in 20 degrees Celsius and cloudy, but I’m really comfortable with heat and this forecast.
iRunFar: I have a couple questions about strategy for you. One is, you’re also racing tonight or this afternoon, the vertical kilometer, ahead of Sunday’s marathon, but so are a couple of the other favorite girls for the marathon on Sunday. Are you going to put everything into today’s vertical kilometer? Race today hard and hope you can recover by Sunday? How are you strategically doing these two races this weekend?
Maiora: Yes, it’s true I’m racing today, but I’m not really into saving anything. I’ll try to go all in today. If you go at 80% or 100%, it’s the same in a vertical k. So I think I’ll just go do my best today. With tomorrow being chill and trying to relax, I think I’ll be okay for Sunday. Then, it’s a marathon. It’s a long race. Nobody can go super fast from the beginning, so you have to see how things go. I’ll try to do my best today and my best on Sunday.
iRunFar: The Zegama Marathon has the reputation for being very rocky, technical, steep, and indeed the center part of the race has all the technical terrain, but the race begins with runnable terrain and ends with runnable terrain. Are you approaching the actual terrain of the course with any particular strategy? Will you be watching the girls, or will you be running with yourself?
Maiora: No, it’s true with the terrain, so people get crazy with the emotions and start really, really fast, but it’s true the last 10k is super runnable. My friend told me the other day that I have to run with my legs and not with my heart. I’ll try to see how my legs and everything goes and to hammer on the last downhill and try to do my best in that last part.
iRunFar: Keep the runnable legs for the last part.
Maiora: Yes, it’s like the first part of the race, I’m certainly not going to be in the lead or close to it. I’d be really surprised if I am, but I have to look at how things go until Aizkorri—the highest mountain. After that, the race starts. That’s where people start coming down. Before Aizkorri, everything is fictitious.
iRunFar: Thanks for the interview. Best of luck to you today and Sunday. Thanks for letting the Americans drop into Basque Country.
Maiora: You’re all invited. Thank you for coming.