Timing the Zegama Trail Run
What does it take to time one of the world’s famous and beautiful Trail Run races? We spoke with Lander Fraile, timer of the Zegama Aizkorri Trail Run. He talks us through this beautiful event whilst we discuss topics like timing, equipment, and environment.
Maybe Zegama doesn't instantly ring a bell when talking about big mass running events. However, it is a big name in the Trail Run world. Lander: '’Zegama is quite a small town that became super special thanks to the Trail Run. Even though the event takes place only once a year, every weekend people try to complete the trail, marked by yellow markers. Seeing those people running on the mountains is a beautiful scene’’ he says.
All the people in the Zegama town support the race before, during, and after raceday. The Trail Run also serves as a boost to the local tourism sector.
Nowadays the event is timed using MYLAPS gear, but back in the day timing was done with ChampionChip equipment. That was a lot heavier and bulkier than today's timing components. Volunteers climbed the mountains and carried the equipment by using a baby chair bag.
The sceneric views of the trail are beautiful, but also come with some difficulties. Lander: ‘’Half of the Zegama marathon is in a valley which is somewhat difficult for beginners due to the conditions to rescue them. Many years ago, raceday was extremely cold resulting in a higher risk of athletes suffering from hypothermia’’. The event is highly popular. Every year, a total of 500 participants are lucky enough to enter. Only 350 spots are reserved for amateurs. Every year, around 9,000 people register for the bib draw of the event.
Timing the marathon
Like we explained in our blog about timing a Trail Run this is something that shouldn't be planned in a few days. Lander is very experienced in timing Trail Runs and explains his preparation for Zegama with us.
He says: ‘’The Zegama timeline points are quite special due to the fact that we have 12 of them. Two weeks before the event I do a training for volunteers. During this training I explain how the timeline should be installed and discuss some specific points of the route. Only one team member will check if the most crucial timepoints are installed properly. Four hours before the event, I will give them the equipment’’.
Timelines aren’t the only asset that need preparation. Lander also discussed the Race Week itself: ‘’Normally, at the start of race week, I prepare the bib numbers with their tags; I like to do this by myself to ensure everything is correct (attaching ThinTags to the back of the runners' bibs). Then I verify the registrations and prepare the BibTag equipment and finally, I do a full battery charge. On Race Day I arrive 2 hours early, so that I’m present to fix some issues that might need attention. On average, the time to arrive before the start is 1 hour or 1:30, but I’d rather be early. The volunteers take about 5 minutes to set up their timepoint on Race Day’’.
The unique Zegama experience
When preparations are finished and the race is ready to start, Zegama becomes an extra special place - with its own legends.
Twelve years ago, Killian Jornet, professional runner from Catalonia competed in the race. He has won 10 times so far. Thanks to him, the popularity of the race grew. Around 3,000 local Basque people cheer at the event yearly.
Lander explains a funny anecdote from the event that happened a couple of years ago: ''We were still timing with ChampionChip technology at that time, and the moment Killian crossed the first timing point, we couldn’t find his passing in the system. Given the fact that he is one of the title contenders, we can never afford such failures. I then asked the organizer how he was wearing the chip, because it was odd that we missed the passing. They then told me Killian went looking for it and found out he was wearing it on his short! The organizers worried since the chip positioning was very off which might have caused it to be unreadable. There was nothing they could do about it at that point anyway, and Killian finished the race with the chip dangling on his short but ended up winning. This moment was very funny’’.
Lander has timed the Zegama Race since 2009 using MYLAPS. Before Zegama, he timed a different event, the San Silvestre de Sebastian. Using an excel file and clock that was property of the running federation he knew that there was an easier way, without too much hassle. When the federation informed him that a company was interested to invest in automatic timing, he instantly took action.
Lander: ''I contacted them and together we invested in MYLAPS equipment. Since then, we took it step by step and kept growing. Growing step by step is one of the main reasons we are still doing well’’.
Since the first use of that new equipment, many years have passed in which he kept a close relationship with MYLAPS;
’’I trust them, because of the warranty and effectiveness we receive. Years ago, we contacted the 24/7 support because we had a problem with SU files, and they offered me a good and easy solution, fast’’.
The Zegama setup
What does a visual setup for a world class event like Zegama look like? See the graphic below for a setup of the BibTag system, smillar to Zegama. . More technical detailed specifications of Trail Running equipment can be found here.
Although Lander is happy with the current Zegama setup, in the future he wishes to add more elements: ''Last year at the IRONMAN (triathlon series), I got to use the ProChip Smart Decoder, and fell in love with it. I could install 4 timing points while being on my bike. It was just so easy’’.
More on the BibTag system
Enjoyed the read, but still got questions about the BibTag system or the usage for (Trail) Running? Don't hesitate to contact our sales team, or read more about BibTag on our website here. Looking for more info on how to time a Trail Run? Read our previous blog here or visit our website for more information about timing systems for running races.
For more info on Zegama, visit the event's website here.