Delayed for a year due to the pandemic, the ISF International Skyrunning Federation Skyrunning World Championships took place at the BUFF Mountain Festival - Epic Trail in Vall de Boí, Spain, on the 9th-11th July 2021. Raidlight athlete, Maite Maiora Elizondo took on the Ultra (68km/+4900m elevation) and crossed the finish line 1st in a fine style becoming World Champion!
Maite tells her story. “To summarise nine and a half hours in a few words is very difficult. I would start with the finish, the title, what it means to me to win an important championship again, I won in 2016, it has been a while, and it's not easy to be back in form at the right time and place, everything has to flow, and the stars have to align for this to happen. To feel again what I felt years ago, to set myself demanding goals, to walk the path to achieve them and make them possible, because I was very excited, I trained hard, and things worked out well.” Things could have gone wrong even before the start, because three of the Spanish team entered the start area when they should not have and were each given a 3-minute penalty, luckily it did not change the result but added some spice to the finish. In Maite's words, "I must have put on a thousand bibs in my life, and I had never been penalised, I got disoriented, I was told off by a referee at the finish line, and rightly so".
The race: "The beginning was flat, not my preferred terrain, but I didn't get overwhelmed, it was a demanding pace, and I knew at the beginning of the climb I wasn't going to be the first. Gemma Arenas was in the lead, I didn't even know who was behind, going uphill I soon got into the lead, Gemma was close, then during a technical section, I concentrated, moving fast, I knew I could open up a gap over this terrain". For those who do not know the route, apart from the statistic of 68km and 4889m of elevation, the terrain is also technical, off the beaten path, with long scrambling ridges, pure skyrunning. "In the middle of the race I got six minutes ahead of Gemma, there was a non-technical section that was more her style, and she got some time back on me, I did not panic, stayed calm in my thoughts, I stayed patient for the next technical section where I could benefit again, and I did. I looked back a few times to check the gap, I wasn't nervous, I still felt strong.” Maite progressively increased her lead over Gemma, in third place was Italy's Giuditta Turini. "At around 50km there was a long descent, I looked back and could not see Gemma, I had to be careful not to fall and lose everything though. One kilometre from the finish line, entering Barruera, I got goose bumps, I know I am going to win, everything was great, I was already heavily fatigued, but my body was asking me to go faster, it is amazing what adrenaline does. I was thrilled when I crossed the finish line, I was a World Champion again!” "Finally, I want to thank the Spanish federation for the opportunity they have given me, as a team we did the job and especially the women’s ultra team have done really well. And, of course, to my partner Iosu for always being there".