Owens 'disappointed not to win' at Zegama
Up against some of the greatest mountain runners in the world, the UK’s Tom Owens celebrated his debut at the great Zegama-Aizkorri Maraton Alpina race in the Spanish Basque region with a superb second place…
Such is Owens form at the moment he finished just 35 seconds back on three-time winner, Kilian Jornet.
After 42 gruelling and severely hot kilometres Tom was overhauled in the last kilometres by Kilian. It was yet another great day in the mountains for Tom, which has seen wins for the Glasgow-based athlete at the 57th Three Peaks Race in Yorkshire, the Carnethy 5 race and round one of the 2011 British Fell Running Championships in Northern Ireland.
As is often the case in these situations the story of the race is best told by those taking part. Speaking after his return to the UK, Tom described what appears to have been a titanic battle against arguably the world’s best off-road runner, alongside the sweltering conditions:
“Last weekend I had a shot at the Zegama race, part of the Skyrunner World Series. A race I’d heard fantastic reviews on and have wanted to do for a while. The race started off steady and there was a bunch of runners for the initial run out. The French Skyrunning legend, Corrine Favre, had given me some really good pre-race advice “the race starts after 20km!”.
So I was happy to conserve energy and stick in behind, especially as it was mega hot. I concentrated on getting fluid on board at every opportunity as there were drinks stations every 5km. The atmosphere on the course was unbelievable with Tour de France ‘style support on the climbs and spectators surrounding the runners on the climbs – deafening at times and totally inspiring!
I reached top of first main climb just behind the leading few runners and quickly took the lead on the descent and tried to open it up a bit. The lead then switched between Kilian Jornet and me until the top of the 2nd climb with former pro cyclist Aitor Osa catching on the second big ascent. I then led to the base of 3rd climb through the large section of pasture running and Kilian and myself opened a gap on Osa.
I felt good and wanted to stride out and apply more pressure. Frustratingly I started to get cramp in both hamstrings and calves due to the fluid loss. Running was difficult and I really had to control things and prevent total seizure!
By the base of third and final big ascent Kilian powered past me and opened up a gap. I was starting to feeling pretty wrecked and felt like I was going backwards. However I was surprised to catch him again after the technical running on the final descent. I went past him but couldn’t open a lead. It’s one heck of a long last descent – over 13km – with lots of runable sections and a few small climbs. Kilian showed his strength again, passing and pulling away from me on the small climbs.
By the last 5km I was red lining and trying to prevent total leg cramp age. Blisters were developing on both feet due to the constant pounding and heat.
I finished in 3h 58m14s, just 35 sec behind Kilian. The reception at the finish was amazing – absolutely unforgettable…
Miguel Heras demonstrated his strength to gain a couple of positions in the latter race stages and storm into third position. Ricky Lightfoot (2009 champ) didn’t have his best run having only recently having returned to full training following a bad achilles injury. However he stuck at it in tough conditions when many top runners dropped out to finish in 4h 33m – much respect Ricky!
Although it is disappointing not to win, I was proud of my efforts and to run well in tough conditions and delighted to finish second. I had pushed it pretty hard in the heat and was totally caked. It was exciting to be at the sharp end of the race with Kilian Jornet – in my opinion the Worlds’ No. 1 mountain runner. Kilian showed real experience, maturity and strength over the race – he is a great and very humble champion.
This result will boost confidence for future overseas races. I’d recommend the race to UK hill runners. The course has a bit of everything with tough climbs, runable bits and technical sections. I’d love to go back, especially now I know the route – this will definitely help!
The hospitality of the Basque people and support from back home was wonderful– thank you! And of course a big thanks to Salomon for providing the opportunity to run!”
Full results can be found here.