What’s all the fuss about Zegama?

zegama

On the 27th of May, 2018, the cozy town of Zegama will become the Skyrunning world capital where the fastest and luckiest Skyrunners will assemble, ready to run the most famous mountain marathon in the world: Zegama-Aizkorri.

Every year, more than 8,000 runners from all over the world enter the lottery to win one of the 500 bibs available for this extraordinary race.  Zegama-Aizkorri is a mythical mountain marathon that every runner wants to attempt at least once in their lifetime. But why?

Why is Zegama so mythical? Why is Zegama the only race that Kilian Jornet wants to run every year? Why do so many people from all over the world travel every May to Zegama to run through the Aratz massif and Aizkorri mountain range? Let’s find out! 

Ingredient 1 – The people create an incomparable atmosphere

Runners from all over the world have heard stories about the uniqueness of Zegama’s atmosphere; about how surreal it feels to climb Aizkorri from Santu Spiritu with a tunnel of people cheering the runners so loudly that you can’t even hear your heart beating.

Basque people are used to heading to the mountains whatever the weather. They love mountaineering and Zegama is proof of this love for nature. It doesn’t matter if it’s raining, pouring or freezing, you are bound to find hundreds of mountaineers supporting the runners, from the very first to the last. Runners feel the warmth of the atmosphere even on the cold rainy days that make Zegama remarkable. 

Terrain – Aizkorri mountain range

This alpine marathon takes place in the second-largest natural park in the Basque Country and summits its highest peak, Aizkorri. The Aizkorri- Aratz natural park stands out for its limestone mountains and its endless beech woods. It has an average of over 150 rainy days each year, so be prepared to run muddy trails throughout the race.

The Zegama-Aizkorri terrain is all about the mud! Get ready to run boggy uphills and slippery downhills. You won’t end up with clean clothes by the end of this race, we promise you!

Weather – Rain and mud

Zegama wouldn’t be the same without rain, fog and mud. The combination of these three natural elements creates a unique atmosphere that runners surprisingly enjoy. Do not expect a sunny and warm day at Zegama because you’ll likely be disappointed; most years, runners encounter very tough conditions.

Even the Basque language reflects the conditions at Zegama: Xirimiri, a word you learn as soon as you spend more than two days in Basque country, means a very light rain that can last for days on end. So, don’t forget your waterproof jacket.

Athletes

Each year, of the 500 lucky lottery winners from over 8,000 applicants who get to run Zegama, 250 skyrunners are capable of completing it under 5 hours. If you achieve this time frame, you automatically get a bib for the following year. Without a doubt, the best runners are at this race.

Zegama is the most desired feather in a runner’s cap. The best runners from all over the world covet their very own Txapela  (a beret is a staple of any traditional Basque wardrobe) which signifies they have won Zegama. Kilian has plenty of them!

Maite Maiora, Kilian Jornet, Ohiana Kortazar, Stian Angermund, Emelie Fosberg, Marco di Gasperi, and Aritz Egea have all run in Zegama.

 Sidra and Txuletón

As soon as the race ends, it’s time to celebrate! Basque Country is synonymous with good gastronomy. The best places to go after Zegama-Aizkorri are the traditional cider houses known as sagardotegias. The typical menu includes chorizo cooked in cider, salt-cod omelette, fresh cod fried with peppers, char-grilled T-bone steaks, walnuts and cheese with unlimited cider.

The best mountain marathon deserves a fitting post celebration!

 

 

Pol Puig
Pol Puig is a writer from Barcelona and a member of the Corredor de Montaña’s website. ( www.corredordemontana.com), one of the top mountain running websites in Spain.

As a writer from Corredor de Montaña’s team, Pol writes on the Spanish mountain running scene, but knows life down under well having lived in Queenstown during the 2015. He's the Ultra Easy, the Routeburn and the Shotover Marathon in Queenstown.

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