The infinite demand of the Zegama-Aizkorri | Sports

The rain falls incessantly in Zegama and the mist hides the muddy mountains. This is how the goal of the Zegama-Aizkorri is set up this Friday, within the reach of a few, barely 500 runners for a raffle that has had 13,830 requests this year, the record for one of the most sought-after events in the world. It is the lottery to live this Sunday the mountain marathon (42,195 meters with 2,736 meters of positive difference in altitude) that the Basque fans have turned into an epic. Because that is no longer climbing a mountain, it is crowning the Tourmalet.

The father of the race, Alberto Aierbe, took a topographic map in the kitchen and improvised a circuit. That idea remained in the bedroom until a friend heard the president of the Basque Mountaineering Federation in the middle of a walk in the mountains: “You have to do a race here.” The City Council needed causes to stop depopulation and found a treasure. His niece Ainhoa ​​Txurruka, director of the race, remembers him. “The town was quite dead, people were leaving. Trying to do something was to throw a party, not at all thinking that it was going to become a town of 1,500 inhabitants with running tourists who come throughout the year to do the tour. 20 years ago, seeing a foreigner here was something anecdotal”.

These days it is a cosmopolitan place, as the race integrates the most famous international trail circuit, the Golden Trail Series. Of the 500 numbers, 250 are drawn in a draw in February, 125 are awarded to the best times of the previous year and another 125 are for the elite, sponsors and the organization. Kilian Jornet, ten times winner of the marathon, will not be there this year. Parity is a pending goal. “We know that the percentage will never be the same, but we try to make a positive discrimination against women within a logic of time. And once we manage the casualties, we pull more from the waiting list of women than of men ”, he says. There are numbers for those registered in Zegama —with at least two years old—, three for the San Silvestre of the town —pure raffle among those registered— and for the six who have disputed all the editions. Sponsors raffle numbers even in the days before the race.

Zegama’s success responds to the boom in this sport. “In 2002 you didn’t see anyone running in the mountains and today it’s rare not to see someone running,” emphasizes Txurruka, who defines the family profile, the “love” they receive as it is not a professional organization. “None of the hard core are athletes. We had no idea about this, but we were clear that we had to learn from those who did it well and, above all, from those who did it wrong ”, he explains. Watching races all over the world, some where half the runners got lost. That is why one of its pillars is to redound in signage.

Lies for a number

The orography of the area justifies this conservatism with the number of participants. The 2016 edition gave a great scare due to a radical change in the weather. At the start, there was a very hot south wind and two hours later, the temperatures were very low on the tops. “People were not prepared, they did not even take out the windbreaks. It was a drama, many hypothermia. We were able to do it because there were 500. If it is a 2,000 race, who knows what could have happened ”, he recounts. In most of the route there is no access by vehicle and the helicopter is not a panacea. The organization changed the route of the vertical kilometer on Friday due to adverse weather conditions.

The probability of getting a number in the draw is 1.8% and there is a runner who has been trying for 15 years without success. “We have not found the solution, I do not know if it exists. What solves us to go up to 100 or 200 more? We are not going to do two races either. We suffer a lot with this because we know it is very frustrating, but Zegama is what it is, a small town. As an organization we do not give for more ”.

In response, the end of the bib justifies any means. “There are things that cannot be counted, it is terrible what human beings are capable of.” There are the classic causes, that of asking for a number for the brother because he is 40 years old. “Of these, a thousand.” The problem comes when they appeal to drama, from illnesses to deaths. “There are people who have been saying that their father has died and it was a lie. Or I’ve had three cancers and now I’m fine and in the end you discover that it’s not true. These are things you can’t play with.”

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