15 Feb Zegama Aizkorri Maratoia. Lady of the heights.
xtremely intense feelings. Passion and sacrifice. Exertion and satisfaction. A search for the perfect ending. Difficult for the experience to fall into oblivion. Very difficult. Almost impossible.
*“It’s not mania or madness that I have with you. It’s not mania or madness that the best doctors can´t find a cure, if it doesn´t come from your hand, Lady of the Heights”.
Elements, water and air. Cold. Wind and rain united with low temperatures on the day Zegama Aizkorri Maratoia celebrated fifteen years, and the mountain reminded us how small we are compared to its immensity.
Otzaurte, Aratz, Aizkorri, Aitxuri, Oltze, Urbia, Andraitx…
*“If you want to come, I can pick you up, so you can be with me and I can tell you how much I need you. Although I think you already know it, I’ll say it again, I love you more than anyone, I always have and always will, bring healing to my bones, Lady of the Heights”.
Element, earth. Mud and stone. Comrades since the beginning of this battle in which the strongest opponent is yourself, and where those who also carry a number, from rivals become friends on which to lean on again and again.
Element, fire. Which dwells in the hearts of all fortunate fighters.
Zegama. Lady of the Heights. Long life.
* Lady of the Heights. A song by Los Planetas taken from their L.P. “An egyption opera”.
Yngvild and Oihana. Youth and experience. Calm taut and feigned. Nerves and doubts run through their veins.
Aritz and the rest. Impossible paces. Threatening sky. Zegama is waiting for you. Come back with your homework done. Then you will rest in the knowledge of having given everything. Almost even your life.
Oihana. Containing yourself so as not to be dizzied by the cheers of a frenzied crowd that does not understand the reserves of strength you´ll need for that loneliness leading up to the summit of Aizkorri. Experience.
Azara. Passion. Pure strength. Her smile doesn´t yet know that the cold will destroy her dreams just a few kilometers later. She will return. Without a doubt.
Kilian and Marc. The King and the Prince. The road to St. Spirit where they will fight a battle burned into the minds of hundreds of lucky witnesses.
Jokin. Pure emotion. Euskaldun Pride. An almost invincible warrior. From here to eternity, the goal. Reserving absolutely nothing. Empty. Thank you.
Maite. Strength and courage. On her own merit. Overcoming and turnaround. Injury overcome, just because. Because the perfect date was coming. Her date.
Luis Alberto and Manuel. This is Zegama. This is a mountain. Manuel’s face says it all. We can´t see Luis’, but we know it’s full of respect for his companion, not rivalry.
Zegama. A devoted town. The crowd, volunteers, runners and organization. All in one. All present for the best mountain race in the world. A feeling in common. Of pride. Of course.
Kilian. Master of masters. The Lord of Zegama. A legend in life. A myth. Someday, in the future, books will talk about him. He has earned it now. The greatest.
Yngvild. The future at your feet. A fighter with fragile appearance but to be reckoned with. Smile. Smile. Smile. You’ve made history.
2? 1? It makes no difference. Perhaps in the next edition, instead of a number, it should be a “K” or a “G”, as in God.
There´s something different about Zegama. Living through experiences that no other race can offer. And I´m not talking about the sporting event itself.
Much has been written about the climb up Sancti Spiritu to Aizkorri. The cheers of the crowd are something that those who´ve had the opportunity to partake in this race will never forget. The screams are so deafening that, when they end, and you face the ridge towards Aitxuri, the silence turns into a hum, similar to that which penetrates your ears after a loud concert. It’s really hard not to be swayed by the cheers of a public who don´t realize the reserves of strength you´ll need to draw upon for the rest of the race.
Before running this race, I´d heard of the beauty of its route, of the mud and the support of the crowd. Perhaps not so much of its toughness. But of course it’s probably not for its elevations, although highly respectable for 42 kilometers, but rather the weather conditions and with it, the mud.
In the 2016 edition, there was a lot, too much. The feeling of skating, rather than running, is common in many sections. It perfectly reveals who is used to running in it and who, laughing at first and then fearful later, confronts these descents. It´s definitely a characteristic element of this race together with the fog that turns forests into landscapes taken from a legend. Everything is stunning. Trails, peaks, ridges, meadows, forests…
But I don´t think the race is the true protagonist of the weekend. At least not for me. What most amazed me was the atmosphere of Zegama. One can say without being mistaken, that it is different. And this is probably because this sport is unlike any other. Where can an amateur cross European or World champions again and again and openly greet them? Where else can you see firsthand the excellent relationships athletes have with those from different teams? Where can you have a drink just a few centimeters from that runner you´ve always admired? Runners, the organization, national and international associations, brands, the press, volunteers … Coexisting in harmony. Everything seems perfectly geared towards living a dream weekend. Even the presence of branded vans such as Salomon, Buff or La Sportiva, with their doors open and their team gathered around, make you a smile every time you pass them.
One last detail. I have taken part in many prestigious races. I stand corrected if I said that there is no other race where you can find so many elite athletes among the five hundred participants who are lucky enough to join them at the starting line. What is beyond question, and this is unique in the world, is the integration of all runners. We are all equal. This is the essence of mountain races and, please, don´t ever let this change. Races such as Zegama safeguard it. Passing the number and kit checkpoint and heading towards the starting line I had Zaid Ait Malek just behind me, Alfredo Gil in front on my left, and Oihana Kortazar to the right. There are no privileges for the elite runner. We will all face the toughest and most beautiful battle together. Zegama is Zegama. Forever.