Written by Sergio Mayayo for the World Mountain Running Association (WMRA). Photos by Sergio Mayayo. ATRA founder Nancy Hobbs is a member of the World Mountain Running Association Council.
The Valsir Mountain Running World Cup touches down in the Basque Country on Sunday for the 13th edition of Zumaia Flysch Trail, the final Long category test of the 2022 season. After all the drama of Canfranc-Canfranc, we’re back in Spain for the 11th and penultimate Gold Label test of the year.
Over 22km and 850m of climbing, Zumaia Flysch Trail Half Marathon first winds its way westward along the coast over short, punchy climbs. Travelling across the spectacular cliffs of the Basque Coast UNESCO Global Geopark, the race traces a line where the rich green of the hills meets the deep blue of the sea, the incredible geology adding an extra dimension to a race that is a real feast for the eyes. After 10km, the race takes a big swing inland and heads back towards Zumaia, taking the mirror of the outward course and crossing over itself several times as it loops out towards the coast and back inland.
On top of the incredible landscape, one of the big draws of Zumaia Flysch Trail must be the Basques’ famous enthusiasm for sport, and for mountain running in particular. First or last, it doesn’t matter; the crowds that gather on the course will give their loud support to every single athlete in the race. Basque Country racing is something every mountain runner should experience at least once.
When the World Cup came here last year, the Run2gether pair of Joyce Njeru and Geoffrey Ndungu prevailed, battling through the cold, the mud and the rain to take victory after close races with Lucy Murigi and Sandor Szabo. In doing so they sealed the titles in the Classic category. This year, Zumaia Flysch Trail will once again be the decisive, though this time in the Long category.
A total of 700 runners, all hoping for an improvement on last year’s conditions, will take to the start line in Gurrutxaga Square at 10 a.m. on Sunday. Among them are some of this year’s strongest Valsir World Cup performers.
Lucy Murigi is back again, the 2 time World Champion looking to go one better than last year and overtake Joyce Njeru at the top of the Long category standings in the process. If Camilla Magliano, currently 3rd in the standings, can take the win and Murigi doesn’t finish 2nd then the Italian can also win overall. They will have their hands full trying to contain an in-form Oihana Kortazar, who has taken recent wins at Canfranc-Canfranc 45k and Maratón Montaña Palentina, and Leire Fernández Abete, who will be looking to build on her 5th place in the Canfranc-Canfranc 16k.
In the men’s race both France’s Robert Loic and the Spaniard Raul Criado have a chance of moving onto the overall Long category podium with a strong finish here. Loic was incredible in taking the win and course record at Canfranc-Canfranc, while Criado will be on familiar ground, having won the marathon here last year. And look out for Borja Fernández who will come into the race on a high having recently gained selection for the Spanish team for the World Mountain and Trail Running Championships in Thailand with his win at Maratòn Montana Palentina.
As ever in the Basque Country, the international athletes will be up against a very strong contingent of local runners, including Ismail Razga, 2nd in last year’s Zumaia Flysch Trail marathon, and Hassan Ait Chaou, the Morrocan now living in Gipuzkoa.
As it was last year, Zumaia Flysch Trail will be streaming live on Youtube. From 9:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. local time there will be four and a half hours of coverage presented by the elite runner Jokin Lizeaga and the journalist Sergio Mayayo.
LIVESTREAM LINK: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E3hgLOpPPDc
EVENT WEBSITE: https://zumaiaflyschtrail.eus/