Kilian has just completed his 12th Zegama-Aizkorri Marathon, one of the toughest and most beautiful races in the trail running world. Known for its challenging trails, Zegama pushes every runner to their limits.

With his long history at this race, Kilian's latest win adds to his impressive record and shows his incredible endurance and love for the sport. In this blog, we’ll recap his training, reflect on his history with Zegama and highlight key race moments of his 11th victory.

Watch: Limited Edition Kipchoge PACE 2, currently sold out

Accessory: COROS Heart Rate Monitor

Analysis tool: COROS Training Hub

Zegama Wins & Course Record Over the Years

Kilian's connection with the Zegama-Aizkorri Marathon is remarkable. He first raced Zegama in 2007 and has become one of the most successful competitor by winning 10 out of his 11 attempts at the 42-kilometer trail race.

What makes Kilian special is his ability to perform consistently well in the tough conditions. Runners know the race for its steep climbs, tricky descents, and unpredictable weather.  But despite these challenges, Kilian has always managed to navigate the course with speed and precision.

Kilian's finish at the 2022 Zegama-Aizkorri Marathon setting a course record.

In 2022, Kilian set a new course record at Zegama, further solidifying his dominance in this race. His performance that year was a testament to his exceptional VO2 max and ability to push the boundaries of what is possible in trail running.

Throughout most of the race, Kilian had to fight to stay ahead of a strong competitor. It wasn't until a significant climb around the 33-kilometer mark that he managed to secure the lead and ultimately take the win and set the record. This victory was hard-earned. He finished the race in 3:36:40, shaving nearly nine minutes off the previous course record of 3:45:08 set in 2017 by Stian Angermund-Vik.

Kilian's metrics from his course record at Zegama on May 29, 2022

COROS Education: Using Effort Pace helped Kilian maintain a consistent effort throughout the 2022 race, despite changes in elevation and terrain.

Preparation for the 2024 Zegama-Aizkorri Marathon

Training for Zegama is no small feat, even for an elite athlete like Kilian. His preparation involves a meticulous blend of running, strength training, and a unique approach to cross-training that sets him apart from many athletes.

During the winter months, Kilian dedicates his focus to training based more on volume instead of intensity. The majority of his time is spent skiing and one to two run sessions a week. The low-intensity nature of Skimo complements his running by maintaining his base fitness and improving his muscular endurance.

Example of a training week for Kilian during the winter training cycle.

This period of cross-training helps him prepare for the steep ascents and technical descents he faces during the warmer months while giving his body a break from the repetitive impact of running. Skimo provides the necessary strength and endurance training without the constant pounding on his joints, ensuring he stays fit and ready for trail running.

Kilian went on multiple Skimo sessions a week during his off-season.

As the snow melted and the trail running season approached, Kilian transitioned back to more running-focused training. However, the benefits of his Skimo training remain evident. His legs are stronger, his endurance is heightened, and his ability to tackle technical terrain is sharper than ever.

In preparation for his 12th attempt at Zegama, Kilian incorporated specific running workouts designed to mimic the conditions of the course. These included hill repeats, long trail runs, and technical descents, all aimed at preparing his body for the unique challenges that he would face over the 42 kilometers

COROS Education: Base Fitness will fluctuate throughout training, reflecting how your body is responding to the stress of your workouts. Moving from the off-season to a training cycle usually will have an increase in volume and/or intensity. This should show a consistent increase in Base Fitness as you build towards your race.

Race Data from Zegama

Photo Credit: Chris Alonso

Heading into his 12th race at Zegama, Kilian was more prepared than ever. His history of wins and his 2022 course record set high expectations, and he once again proved why he’s the greatest of all time at this event. Kilian started this year's race strong and fought hard to finish in an attempt to break his own course record. But anything can happen on race day and in the last 10 kilometers, he experienced stomach problems that caused him to slow down and adjust his pace. He was still able to cross the finish line and claim his 11th win at Zegama.

Post-race data from the COROS app.

The course for Zegama is very demanding made up of technical trails with an elevation gain of 2,736 meters. Runners never know what they will be in store for with the weather and today's conditions were no different. Participants endured high humidity and rain when they reached the peaks. Here is a look at Kilian's performance during some of the toughest segments of the race.

Segment 1 - Start to Aratz

Kilometer 1-16.38 data of Kilian Jornet at Zegama.

This is the first hard climb of the race and Kilian started strong with a nearly one-minute gap from the pack. He gradually pushed the pace on this climb and started to move farther ahead. Utilizing effort pace, especially this early on in a trail race, helped Kilian to avoid starting too aggressively and potentially burning out early.

Segment 2 - Aratz to Sancti Spiritus

Kilometer 16.38-19.86 data of Kilian Jornet at Zegama.

This is one of the race's most notable and challenging segments. Kilian had to navigate a steep and technical descent. Despite the rocky terrain, he used this as a way to recover from the intense climb and pick up his pace in preparation for the next big challenge.

Segment 3 - Sancti Spiritus to Aizkorri

Kilometer 19.86-22.37 of Kilian Jornet at Zegama.

The second ascent of the race is known for putting runners to the test both physically and mentally because of its steep gradient. But at this point in the race, Kilian now held a 3-minute lead and this is where it was realized he may be on pace to beat his 2022 course record. While this segment is super challenging, it is also the section of the course that is known as a major support point. The trail is often lined with spectators cheering for the runners providing a much-needed boost.

Segment 4 - Aizkorri to Aketegi

Kilometer 22.37-23.29 of Kilian Jornet at Zegama.

This smaller segment is where runners will reach the highest point of the course. It is along a mountainous ridge with several smaller peaks along the way. Here is where the weather can be extremely unpredictable and runners need to pay extra attention as they make their way up and across rocky, uneven terrain.

Segment 5 - Aketegi to Paso Andraitz

Kilometer 23.29-30.29 of Kilian Jornet at Zegama.

Between the major peaks, this segment is a rolling terrain with a mix of short ascents and descents. It provides a brief break from intense climbing and descending, allowing runners to find a steady rhythm. This is also the part of the race that marks the end of the most challenging sections of the course. Once reaching 30.29 kilometers, runners know that it's all downhill to the finish.

Segment 6 - Paso Andraitz to Finish

Kilometer 30.29-finish of Kilian Jornet of Zegama.

The final 10-kilometer is a descent to the finish line and the spot where athletes usually pick up the pace for a fast finish. Kilian started this downhill with the possibility of setting a new course record, but due to stomach issues outside of his control, he slowed down his pace and effort to hold on to his lead. He didn't let this stop his momentum and made his way to the finish line for his 11th Zegama win.

Photo Credit: Chris Alonso

COROS Training and Performance

The COROS team proudly celebrates Kilian's incredible achievement at the 2024 Zegama-Aizkorri Marathon. By utilizing COROS metrics such as Base Fitness, Effort Pace, and Heart Rate, Kilian continues to push his limits as an athlete. We look forward to continuing our support of his journey on the trails and are excited to see what he accomplishes next.