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RUN247 / Race Previews / GTWS Zegama-Aizkorri 2024: WATCH REPLAY as GOAT Jornet takes epic 11th win
26 May 2024
Zegama
-
Spain

GTWS Zegama-Aizkorri 2024: WATCH REPLAY as GOAT Jornet takes epic 11th win

GTWS Zegama-Aizkorri 2024 is here and we have all you need to know, including live coverage as Killian Jornet bids for ANOTHER victory and top 4 women from 2023 return to battle for the win.
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Race Guide

This was our preview of Zegama-Aizkorri 2024 – you can click here for full results and report on how Kilian Jornet and Sylvia Nordskar claimed brilliant victories.

This Sunday (May 26), the attention of trail runners worldwide will once again be focused on the Zegama-Aizkorri Mountain Marathon with the great Kilian Jornet among the starters.

Zegama maintains a well-earned reputation as arguably the planet’s toughest mountain marathon. More than 13000 hopeful athletes entered the ballot for this edition and the 500 entrants lucky enough to be selected will tackle 5472m of cumulative climb over 42km of steep technical climbs and deep valleys, taking in four of the highest peaks in the Basque Country.

This iconic event is as much a festival in honour of the elites who’ve toed the start-line over it’s 23 year history as it is a race. Spectators are already pouring into Zegama, a small town usually boasting a population of 1500, and an estimated 30,000 will line the course on race day. The cheers and the clatter of cowbells will echo through these valleys.

Zegama is race three of the Salomon Golden Trails World Series, following events in China and Japan back in April. The roster is a whos-who of trail-running talent many of whom are working to claim a place in the GTWS final in October.
The main event draws the headlines but over the weekend Zegama will also host a half-distance Junior race, and an utterly brutal Vertical Kilometre.

‘Zegama is Zegama’ is a phrase you’ll hear often in these parts. Coined by Kilian Jornet during one of his 11 participations in the race it neatly captures the unique coming together of cultural pride, carnival spirit, stunning terrain, and truly world-class racing that make up this event.

Follow Zegama-Aikorri LIVE

They refer to this race as the Basque Fever, an indication of the pride and passion this region has for the event. It’s massive popularity extends far beyond though and you’ll find it front and centre in newspapers across Spain.

Little surprise then that there’ll be live coverage throughout the race, from the start time of 9am local CET on Sunday May 26 (8am UK, 3am Eastern Standard Time, 3am PST) and it is available in four languages:

  • English via the Golden Trail World Series broadcast below
  • Spanish on the official Zegama YouTube channel
  • Basque on ETB1
  • Catalan on Esports 3 of Televisió de Catalunya

You can also expect regular updates via the Golden Trail World Series Instagram and we will include a link for live tracking here once it becomes available.

GTWS Zegama-Aizkorri 2024

start list

Of course, the big story is the return of Kilian Jornet. He’s become an adopted son of this region after winning here 10 times between 2007 and 2022 when he set the current course record. He has many times declared his love for the race and the people gathering here love him in return.

He’ll be hoping to reclaim his crown from last year’s winner Manuel Merillas, who also starts on Sunday. Last year, Merillas, racing for the 8th time, was pushed hard throughout by Elhousine Elazzaoui, and the Moroccan runner is also back hoping to move up to the top spot. Elazzaoui is currently 2nd in the 2024 Golden Trail World Series and could take the lead with a strong result here. They’ll be joined by a very strong Kenyan duo in Robert Pkemoi and Kevin Kibet as well as Robbie Simpson, Alain Santamaria, and Jan Margarit, among others.

All of last year’s top 4 women have returned to battle each other again. In 2023, in some of the worst weather conditions this race has witnessed, Daniela Oemus of Germany took the win on her first attempt. New Zealand’s Caitlin Fielder took 2nd, Theres Leboeuf of Switzerland 3rd and Sylvia Nordskar of Norway 4th. Less than 10 minutes separated the 4 of them, a narrow margin over this distance. Joining that quartet you’ll find Sara Alonso, currently 2nd in the 2024 Golden Trail World Series after excellent performances in the Asian races, as well as Dani Moreno, and the first two women over the line at last year’s gruelling Vertical Vilometre race, Naiara Irigoyen and Malen Osa.

Notable runners

Route

The 42km course is a winding loop which starts and ends in the narrow streets of Zegama before heading out into the hills. Runners will be faced with incredible views throughout and hordes of fans urging them on even on the hardest-to-reach summits and slopes. They’ll need that energy to push them forward as the trail demands not only speed but incredible endurance and strength.

The steep climbs are matched in difficulty by the technical descents, often tackled at heart-stopping speed, and other obstacles like rocks, roots and thick mud add an extra level of difficulty. The big question among the runners already in town is what shoes to wear as the variety of terrain makes choosing the ‘perfect’ trail shoe almost impossible.

Analysis

With an average of 180 rainy days a year, and mountain weather prone to sudden extremes, conditions at Zegama are regularly treacherous, as evidenced by the terrible conditions last year. Flying in the face of tradition, the forecast for Sunday shows mild temperatures, overcast conditions and, more importantly, no rain, raising hopes that course records might fall once again.

Those athletes who’ve been recceing the route already reassure us though that the trails are as wet, muddy and slippery as ever.

Most here are tight-lipped about Jornet’s chances of an 11th win. He was 19 when he recorded his first win here and returns now at 36, but he recently registered a truly sensational training run on strava and few can claim to know the course as initimately. You can be certain of euphoric scenes at the finish line if he does. With last year’s winner and runner-up back on the start line alongside him the King of Zegama will have to work hard for an 11th victory.

Daniela Oemus was the big surprise at last year’s race, winning having never entered before. She did so just 10 days on from breaking a toe and in horrendous weather. In good conditions and at full fitness eyes will be on her again. But Zegama is Zegama, and with the whole 2023 top four racing again, and a strong local presence in Sara Alonso and Malen Osa, truly anything could happen.

2012
Claire Bannwarth
152:23:00

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Will Roberts
Written by
Will Roberts
Will can be found telling epic adventures stories via his Everything Endurance podcast and his work for Beyond the Ultimate Race Series and the Montane Spine Race.
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