trail world championships race report
Photo: DW Photographer

Race: World Trail Championships

Runner: Yvonne Naughton

Date: 5/12/2018

Location: Penyagalosa, Spain

Results: 13:25

3 Bests – What aspects of the race did you like the most?

  1. While I was part of the Irish 24 hour team last year at the world championship, this was my first time on the trail team. Having the opportunity to represent your country is such a fantastic experience. The comraderie and support was wonderful.
  2. The Spanish trails were absolutely stunning. Steep and technical and very fitting of a world championship event. I loved running through the hilly streets of the mountain villages and hearing cow bells chiming on actual cows grazing in the high mountain pastures.
  3. The people were fantastic! The village streets especially were lined with spectators young and old. And although you wanted to walk and catch your breath as you pushed uphill towards an aid station you just couldn’t stop running as the crowds chanted “Vamos, vamos, animo, animo!”

Not so much – Aspects of the race that didn’t do it for you

I honestly enjoyed every aspect of the event and would recommend their open races to any trail runner.

Highlights of your race – What did you do well and enjoy about your race in particular?

As an amateur trail runner I was grateful to just have the opportunity to represent my country at this championship event. The world’s best elite athletes would be there and as a working mom of two kids who’s turning 41 this year and only began distance running in 2013, there was a realistic chance that I might not make the first tight cut off. I knew the terrain would be steep and technical so I was very specific in my training. I also committed to being patient in the beginning of the race and not getting caught up in the excitement of a fast start. Both tactics paid off and I ran steady and consistent all day, finishing strong in the end.

world trail championships race report

Lessons for others – Share your pro-tips on the race to help the next runner

  • To anyone considering this race I’d say to train for steep and technical terrain. A few sections required scrambling and poles were very helpful on many of the steep ascents. Even the descents and rolling sections were rocky and technical so training on unmaintained and rocky trails was very helpful in getting more comfortable on this type of terrain.
  • I wore the HOKA Speedgoats which were grippy and cushioned enough for the terrain. I wouldn’t recommend any shoe more stacked than that though.
  • With the trail being so technical, calories that are quick and easy to digest are helpful and so they don’t distract from concentrating on the trail and moving quickly. I used Skratchlabs hydration mix and chews, Coke and cookies. I also carried water both to drink and soak myself with.
  • Much of the race is exposed and hot. Our crew had ice for us but it was also helpful to wear white armsleeves, a hat and a bandana around my neck. I soaked each of these at all of the aid stations which was helpful when trying to stay cool.

Most important course specific knowledge to know about the race

As I’ve mentioned it’s a very steep and rocky course so it’s very important to be prepared for those aspects. There are runnable uphills but you also need to be a strong power hiker. Descents can be narrow, steep and rocky so you need to be fairly comfortable with that in order to make up some time.

Aesthetics – Is it a pretty course?

The course is ridiculously pretty. From winding rocky trails, pine forests, cowbells chiming as the nearby cattle graze on the mountainside, vineyards and orchards to picturesque mountain villages. The area is steeped in history and it’s amazing to think that you’re following the same trails as many beforehand who’d traveled on religious pilgrimages in the area.

Difficulty – Is it a tough course?

With roughly 55 miles and 16,000 feet of ascent on technical terrain this is definitely a tough course.

Organized and well run – Did it feel like a well-oiled machine or were they flying by the seat of their pants?

The event was very well organized with wonderful opening and closing ceremonies. The trail was well marked and the aid stations well run and well supplied.

Logistics – Does it require a special handshake, registration a year in advance, hotels all booked? Give us the low down on the nuts and bolts of making the race happen.

As well as the World Championship event there were two open races. These attracted some elite runners from around the world as well as a big crowd of local runners. The race ‘Penyagalosa Trails’ has a good website which should have all the information about registering for the open events.

Spectators – Is this a friendly course for your friends?

For friends who wish to spectate there are a number of aid stations in easily accessible towns. The finish is at the high point just above 4000 feet which again is accessible and a nice area to hike or run as you pass time.

How’s the Swag?

The race swag is great and very Euro!

The Overall Score – How many stars do you give this race and do you recommend that others run it?

I really can’t fault the event at all and would give it five stars!