When the going gets tough the tough get going – Zegama 2012

Whilst the International SkyRunning Federations 2012 Zegama Marathon is not strictly an ultra, we thought it worthy of some attention. Why ? Well, when World Mountain Running Champion and 2hr 14m marathoner American Max King takes 4 hours to run this course flat chat – its hardcore in our books.

This years conditions were the opposite to last years heat – zero degrees on the summit and snow falling. As the runners progressed around the undulation mountain course conditions turned to mud.

I was asked to help the International Salomon Team to crew the final summit before the crazy 11km descent to the valley bottom and the Pyrenean town of Zegama. This required me to leave the start and make the 11km trek to the summit, carrying drop bags and wet weather gear. I undertook this with fellow Salomon employee Serge and Kilian’s sister Naila. We ran/jog and worked up a good sweat. It didnt take long for the rain to turn to sleet and then snow!

We we well placed to see the race unfold and it didnt take long for the large crowds to start cheering as the first runner was spotted. Right on cue, Kilian Jornet continued his habit at the this race of leading from the front. Earlier in the week he had told me his ideal conditions were cold and even snow.

He was not disappointed as he seemed to be in control of the race. A couple of minutes back, World SkyRunning Champion Luis Hernando swept into view and was looking a credible threat. Closely followed were a swathe of Salomon runners including last years runner up Tom Owens closely marked by US Max King.

Image courtesy of Salomon Running

And this is how they stayed, Kilian maintained his lead over Hernando and Tom edged out his rivals on the muddy descent to take third place. Even in the tough conditions, Kilian was still within 2 minutes of the course record. Impressive stuff considering the mud and rain.

In the womens, a cracker of a race unfolded with English Fell Runner Laurent Jeska leading at the final climb from last years winner Oihana Kortazar from Nuria Picas and Emelie Forsberg. Jeska basically hit the wall on the descent – or more accurately hit the mud and was run into fourth by the ever strong and defending champion Oihana Kortazar. Nuria was second and Emelie was third. When I caught up with Emelie, who is a renowned downhiller, said she loved the downhill so much that she wished she could do it again. I am not sure everyone would agree with her.

Image courtesy of Salomon Running

After the success of the US athlete Dakota Jones at last weeks Transvulcania, the US disappointed this time round. The general consensus amongst the guys when I   caught up with them at the finish was “poor shoe choice man” Joe Grant took on the course in some Nike racing flats, Nick Clarke his trusty Pearl Izumi’s and Mike Wolfe in the NB Minimus.

Dakota Jones was happy with my assessment of his run today as being a bit “cruisy” as he still Transvulcania in his legs. But the quote of the day comes from Max King – “never run a 4 hr marathon and still worked so hard for it”

I am sure a few of these athletes will return next year as the Sky Running Federation seeks to expand the sport, but this time I am sure they will think about their shoe choice if the conditions look to repeat themselves.

Full Results HERE

Ultra168 was a fully expensed guest of the International Sky Running Federation

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