Spain’s Sheila Avilés started and finished strong to take third at the 2019 Trail World Championships. In this interview, our first with Sheila, she talks about her running history and why she wanted to run for her country at the Trail World Champs, how the race played out from her perspective, and details of Team Spain’s women’s team silver medal.
For more on what happened at the race, read our results article.
Sheila Avilés Post-2019 Trail World Championships Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Meghan Hicks of iRunFar and I’m with Spain’s Sheila Avilés. You’re the third-place finisher at the 2019 Trail World Championships. Wow. Congratulations.
Sheila Avilés: Thank you. I’m really happy. This is a dream for me.
iRunFar: When you crossed the finish line today, you had an amazing look of relief on your face. It was almost tears of relief.
Avilés: [through a translator] I started the race, this is my first Trail World Championships representing my country, and I knew there was a lot of levels crossing. Having this result was mostly a dream come true.
iRunFar: I want to ask about how you got into running. I’ve seen you at a few skyrunning races over the years, but like you said this is your first Trail World Championships. What is your history with running?
Avilés: I started when I was 10 years old doing athletics, and then this is my sixth season in trail running or mountain running. I’ve done skyraces because technical is my best ability. Technical races are where I feel better. But this was a challenge, this was different, so I tried it.
iRunFar: Team Spain had an interesting qualification process this year. You had a couple different races at which you could qualify. Where did you set in your sights, “Oh I want to be on the national team for the Trail World Championships?”
Avilés: Last year at the end of the season, I participated in the national championships in Spain, but there was only one spot for the team. We decided we should aim for the team as it was a marathon distance, so it could fit better and I could win a place there. I couldn’t win it in the national championship. But then in the Autonomic Federations–you know in Spain they have their Autonomic Federations–I participated there and I was second behind Azara [García] and there I could win my spot for this world championships.
iRunFar: Got it. Let’s talk about today’s race a little bit. I think the women’s race went really fast from the start.
Avilés: So yeah, they started really, really fast and I tried to…
iRunFar: They or we?
Avilés: Well it’s they.
iRunFar: Because she went out hot, or you went out hot, I thought.
Avilés: Well she [translator referring to Sheila] just said that she started with a colder mind, trying to save herself for the technical parts, the last descents and technical parts. When she found herself in front of the pack, she just pushed in front of the pack and made a great effort to keep where she was. You saw that. Here we are.
iRunFar: Here we are. Now I saw you at 16k and you were near the front, pretty close to Denisa [Dragomir]. Were you working with Azara at that point? Were you guys running together?
Avilés: No, it was just a coincidence you saw them together because she was a minute and a half behind and in that technical part, that descent, she pushed a bit to gain. She caught a couple girls and she arrived with Azara there, but she was in front of her.
iRunFar: Got it. Talk about the middle of the race where the course travels around these wind turbines. People said that would be one of the more runnable sections of the race.
Avilés: She knew that this runnable part was probably her most suitable part of the race. She knew also that if she arrived there in second place or in volume places, she could make it. It was like that until the cramps showed up, which was unfortunate. She did it and survived the cramps.
iRunFar: When exactly did you move into podium position?
Avilés: More or less it was around 20k when you go up to the windmill part where she and Azara passed Denisa. She was already third so she doesn’t remember exactly when. She went for all that windmill part. Then in the last 6k Ruth Croft came flying by and caught her.
iRunFar: When you were in third place during the last kilometers of really runnable stuff through town, were you looking ahead at Ruth or were you looking behind for women?
Avilés: When Ruth went past me, I tried to run with her, but she’s a super fast and strong athlete and I knew I could not do it. I tried to go on that streak of speed and also keep in touch, keep in sight that nobody’s reaching me. Because all the other girls were trying to catch me.
iRunFar: Got it. My last question for you, Team Spain crossed the finish line and you are the silver medalists.
Passerby: España! España! Guapa!
iRunFar: [laughs] He’s been partying. Sheila you have some fans!
Avilés: [laughs] Oh my god.
iRunFar: Okay, last question. Oh my god. Team Spain was second but it was by just a few seconds, I think.
Avilés: So she, okay… [looks at dog off screen which bumps the tripod holding the camera]
iRunFar: This is truly amazing…
Avilés: We have a dog hanging around. She says that they were super happy because they thought they won the [team] race. But then they realized they changed the rules and now it’s not anymore because of positions and now it’s because of times…
iRunFar: Timing, yeah.
Avilés: They were second by just a few seconds, but they did everything they could. They ran as hard as they could so they’re happy. They’re super happy.
iRunFar: Congratulations to you on your third-place finish and congratulations to Team Spain on the silver medal.
Avilés: Thank you very much.