His name is Jose Antonio de Pablo.
He is known for being a runner, writer, editor, public speaker, traveler, and friend.
He is better known by his nickname, Depa.
And he is perhaps best known as the energetic finish-line announcer at many trail races in Spanish-speaking western Europe.
At 46, Depa lives in Valladolid, Spain, a city in northwest Spain, where he grew up with his parents and sisters. He actually lives in the house he grew up in, having inherited it from his parents when they moved, but to be honest, due to his constant travel, he only lives in it say, 100 or so days of the year.
“I live on the world,” he declared.
The journey starts in Depa’s childhood in Valladolid. Not a great student, he admits, Depa finished a few semesters at the University of Valladolid, studying logopedia, which in English means speech therapy for adults and children with learning disabilities. Throughout primary and high school, he had about 10 years of playing handball. With the same slim, skinny frame and a body-fat index of less than 10 percent as he has now, Depa’s 18-year-old self did not quite fit the handball athlete.
Instead, these days, the lean frame traverses smoothly over the trails throughout Europe.
At races, you will know him when you see him. Black shoulder-length hair is kept out of his face by a cowboy hat and sunglasses. Plus, you won’t miss the microphone or megaphone in his hand. And you also can’t miss the replete happiness he emanates into the world—it’s visible on his face and on those of the people with whom he spends his time.
In his thirties he started running, cycling, and competing in triathlons and duathlons—basically anything that kept him moving and moving fast. There was a period of cross-country races and road events until 2002 when he ran his first ultra trail race, the Penyagolosa Trails, a 63-kilometer event, in Castellón, Spain.
The desire to run on the road was fading, and Depa was quickly discovering and fulfilling a passion for the mountains. Valladolid is not in a mountainous area and the city is actually known more as a communications hub because of its plains and flat lands, which makes transportation easy. So, whenever he could, Depa vacationed in the mountains, heading to the Picos de Europa, the ‘Peaks of Europe,’ a mountain range due north of the city near the north coast of Spain, and the Pirineos, the ‘Pyrenees,’ the massive mountain range dividing Spain and France to the northeast of Depa’s home.
“Doing trekking and alpinism,” Depa said. “I mixed my passions of running and mountains. It was then I fell in love!”
Traveling, bouncing around for races, escapades, and other adventures is how Depa spends the rest of his year. He is a professional traveler, with a career established by running and friendships.
It was in 2005 when he first got started in the media world. He and Elena Moro worked together on the editorial side of Motorpress Ibérica, an outdoor-inspired publishing company, and when the media company Rodale launched the Spanish edition of Runner’s World with the company, Depa started writing about running.
At Runner’s World he wrote and coordinated the special trail running issue, where his passions for the sport burst from the pages. At Runner’s World, he had some big assignments. For example, he reported from the 2007 World Championships in Athletics in Osaka and the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. All this, and yet his love was for and to write about the trail scene.
At the time, Moro was the editor of another outdoor magazine called Oxigeno, and when she invited Depa to write pieces on trail running for her magazine, he jumped in. Lately, a few freelance articles from Depa still make it to the Runner’s World magazine at times.
With the booming growth of the sport, Moro and Depa joined together to start the trail-running-specific publication, Trail Run.
“He was the perfect person to take charge of that trail magazine,” she said. “He is the image and the voice of trail running in Spain, and I think in many other countries!”
According to Moro, it is Depa’s creativity that allows him to envision great ideas and focus on how to interview and write in an original way. Plus, with years of knowledge and experience in the sport, he is able to speak using a “from a runner to a runner” manner.
Now, working mainly for Trail Run, Depa travels to different trail races, not just to run or report, but to speak and motivate the runners. He has been an editor for the magazine for the last three years, performing an unimaginable number of speeches, with that cowboy hat on and microphone in his hand at almost all times.
At the magazine, Moro said, he has to think about all the contents with the rest of the team, deciding which races to cover and other pieces to pitch.
“Also, due to his friendship with many athletes, he invites them to write or make a special contribution to our magazine,” Moro excitedly explained. “And, he always gets it!”
His specialty or leading role at the magazine is called, “En Territorio de…” (In the Territory of…). For each issue he travels to the land of a different athlete, living for a day with that person, and sharing his or her way of life.
“It is hard for me to call these ‘jobs,’” he said. “The only way that I can do something is with passion. I just don’t understand any other way.”
This guy is busy. Every weekend, every trail race, you can find him—or nearly so. From afar, he might appear to be the race director for the way he is walking around, talking and organizing, but often his actual job is motivating the runners as the race’s public speaker. He sometimes acts as runners’ personal assistants, as press for the magazine, and basically a consultant to turn to for whatever help is needed.
When you’re at a race and see Depa, press play on the recorder on your phone. Every speech is different, unprepared, and crafted that morning while living in the moment. You’ll want to collect as many as you can.
“As a speaker, I think he has a lot of knowledge about the world of trail running and he knows perfectly most of the athletes (many of them are his friends), so he doesn’t have to prepare a speech,” Moro explained. “He improvises. He has the right words for every moment of the race.”
He can be motivating and encouraging, or more carefree and funny while singing and dancing.
“You can cry and laugh with him,” she said.
His speeches can be heard at the most important trail running races in Spain and in Europe, a coworker, Teresa ‘Tele’ Sánchez said, and is the Spanish announcer at UTMB every year.
“He talks to the runners with great energy and he encourages all the people who watch the race,” she said. “He receives the runners on the finish line with joy and fun. He is special. He has such enthusiasm that he passes it on to the rest of the people, both runners and fans.”
As a runner, Depa does not call himself a professional, but chooses the races he truly enjoys running in, thus finishing pretty high up in the top finishers.
Sánchez claims he tries to race whenever he can, and although he likes to “run for fun,” as Depa says, deep down, he likes to compete and run fast. He trains five to six days a week, just heading out for a few miles or long hiking expeditions.
“Valladolid is the flattest place in Spain, so I can’t trail run on mountains close to my home. I train the mountains during my travels at the mountain races,” he said.
He prefers the shorter races, like the 42k distance and chooses the Zegama-Aizkorri Marathon as the perfect marathon-distance mountain race.
What makes him so special, Sánchez said, is his ability to easily befriend people all over the world.
“He likes to travel and knows so much of other cultures and interesting people, which he then writes in the magazine,” she said. She also says it is because of Depa that she has learned so much about trail running and equipment while working with him. “He has a special gift and always transmits special feelings.”
That gift can be found before your race, listening to the inspiring words he expels as the starting horn gets blown. Then it is there again at the end as you cross the finish line feeling like you’re the most important person in the world as Depa hugs you good job.
And if you’re lucky, you receive that gift during your race. Moro will never forget running with Depa for the first time at the 2010 Transalpine-Run, before she and Depa truly knew each other.
“We had been working with each other but we had never run together in training or in a race yet,” she said.
The race organization invited the two to run in a team, which would only be the second trail run Moro had run in her life.
“So, I was scared, and didn’t trust in my possibilities to run and finish such a hard race as the Transalpine,” she admitted. “Depa said to me, ‘I know you. I have seen you running in the mountains. You are fit, and I am going to run with you to reach the finish line in Transalpine. Don’t be worried, you can do it.’”
Preparing, Moro didn’t want to train with Depa until she was ready physically and mentally for the race.
Later, she said, when the team was interviewed and asked how much they had trained together beforehand, they just looked at each other speechless with smiles on their faces.
The race ended up being eight intense and wonderful days.
“That race allowed us to get to know each other better. It was amazing,” she said. “We lived through some bad moments, good moments, and that race made our friendship stronger, a friendship forever.”
Since that race Moro and Depa have made traveling to races and trips together a yearly thing, even if it is just to go hiking for a day, she said. They did the TransRockies Run and went on a run and expedition through the Grand Canyon together.
Within the last year, Depa has traveled even more and taken more of a freelance position at the magazine. In 2015, he took on another commitment, one consisting of fast running, traveling, and a world-championship honor.
Depa works as an assistant and technical assessor with the Real Federacion Española de Atletismo, the Spanish athletics federation, for the team that the federation assembles to compete at the Trail World Championships. For the past three years, he has traveled with Spain’s team to the event in France, Portugal, and just this past weekend, Badia Prataglia, Italy.
Without a doubt, he knew his runners would be prepared and ready to take on last weekend’s 50-kilometer course with nearly 3,000 meters of climbing. With the first two male finishers coming from Spain, Luis Alberto Hernando and Cristofer Clemente, it seems that he was right. The overall men’s team took home the gold medal and the women’s team, using depth more so than top finishers, took home third place. The Spanish Team is one of the larger teams at the championships and the championships itself is growing more competitive each year, which Depa says is due to more and more people turning to the trails.
Though the championships are about fast times and place standings, trail running in Spain, and all over the world, embodies the freedom people look for in their lives.
“People want to run free on mountains without times and best performances,” he said. “People want to feel free.”
For Depa, that freedom is not living or staying in one spot for too long. He has been all over Europe, in addition to Chicago, New York City, and the West Coast in the U.S. He’s run on other continents, too. He is drawn to the experience, wherever that may be. He dreams of competing in some of the famous U.S. races like Hardrock, Western States, and Leadville, and is looking forward to spending a few months in the states with friends to run and improve his English!
This year, Depa will be at a countless number of races in Spain to speak and will be at the starting and finish line at UTMB. Next year he wants to do more engagements in Argentina, Chile, Ecuador, Colombia, Brazil…
“I am very lucky,” Depa stated.
Lucky to travel, lucky to have a great, diverse group of friends and family, lucky to be able to run and climb mountains, and lucky to feel free.
We are lucky just to know him or about him. We are lucky to be at a race listening to him speak or running alongside him in a race.
We are lucky to call him a friend.
Call for Comments (from Meghan)
Do you know or have you run with Depa? Has he been the announcer at a race you’ve run? What stories can you share about Depa’s energy and enthusiasm? Leave a comment to pay tribute to Depa!