Until his daughter was born in February, the best moment of Pau Capell’s life was his triumphant arrival in Chamonix in 2019. Not only had he won the Mont Blanc Ultra Trail, he had dominated the race from start to finish, 171 kilometers in the lead . “I have never felt so much happiness together in such a short time. Not only because I achieved the dream of my life, but because I felt loved. “Sports successes have to come accompanied by feelings.” He is the banner of one of the best distance runners in the world, emotional honesty with himself, principles that have led him to remove his bibs when he was first because he did not want to run anymore. Feelings as a weapon, not as a backpack. With that philosophy he returned to UTMB four years later. To feel. And if possible, win.
Capell’s first global mark was to retire from a race when he was in the leading group. It was in Madeira in 2014, the existential crisis that changed him. “A withdrawal that really hurts is similar to a breakup. It’s hard for you to get over it, then you remind yourself of it again and again in other races. I don’t want to wake up the next day and feel that shit again. You have to fall to not do it again. Having losses is what allows us to sometimes win.” The debate led him to relativize, to not extrapolate the ruling from one day to an entire life. “Many times we are afraid of failing others and we do things without thinking about ourselves. That is an error”.
The 2019 victory in Chamonix was a before and after. Media attention arrived and sponsorships multiplied. “They offered me bigger contracts, I was able to become independent, I was able to project my sporting life for years.” Also the emotional one, since it cost him a breakup. This time, as a couple. The priority was running, he doesn’t hide it. “It’s screwed up to say it, but we are born selfish. There are people with a very big heart and we have friends that we do not want to lose, but it is our nature. We have to think about ourselves.”
When the doctor advised him as a teenager to jog in the mountains after breaking the cruciate knee playing indoor soccer, he responded that he had not lost anything there. But he tried and found meaning in his mother’s phrase: “Children, listen to the silence.” That’s how he discovered the loophole to what he calls robot society. “It is a super consumerist world, the trail allows me to go out.” And a boy who tended to talk more than necessary, to use inappropriate phrases, became an introvert, an “internalizer,” a manager of emotions. “I do ultras because I reach very extreme situations and I can think about things that are impossible to reach on a day-to-day basis. You dream all the time, you project You only think about meeting everyone when you finish your degree.”
It’s the paradox of mountain running: love and hate at the same time. “Life happens at super fast and super slow speed. Get hooked on that, you have a moment of euphoria and after a minute you are in misery.” In such long races, emotional management is crucial. That is why he carries music, his “legal doping”, a luxury in danger because more and more races prohibit it. He puts the emphasis on the lyrics: Sabina, Ismael Serrano, Serrat or groups like Buhos. “Songs that transport me, that take me out of where I am. You do this because you like it, but at the same time you want to run away. It is a super addictive contradiction.” Another emotional relief when he won in 2019 was making a call every 42 kilometers: to his parents, to his partner, to his coach. “That space is necessary. If you want to achieve something like this, you have to feel that you are great. It doesn’t mean you are, but you have to deceive yourself to achieve it.”
Capell’s profile is that of a complete runner—someone who can ride 50-kilometer runs in the Arctic at a pace of 4.30 minutes per kilometer—but he is a better downhiller than uphiller. A technique that he learned in the clubs. “If you danced more or less well, in the mountains you defended yourself. I don’t know if Kilian dances well, but I’ve had a party with some of them after a race and he always agrees.” When he was relaxed on his last descent of 2019, he hit a crash that shocked the public in Chamonix, but his ankle resisted. It was the dancer’s blur. In so many hours, discipline with the plan—eat without hunger, slowing down the momentum—collides with emotions. “The more robot you are, the less you will fail. But there has to be room for failure; If your body tells you to wait 20 minutes, listen.”
Something that he has also learned the hard way. Because Capell ignored the body’s signals, pain that led to a knee operation so compromised that the surgeon had to open it and see what he found. A race on the wire. That ended well and the patient celebrated with the cartilage party – he keeps the fragment in a jar – another foundational moment. Because he had to see the glory in Chamonix from the sidelines. His personal goal is to go from not being able to walk to doing the UTMB under 20 hours. “When you convince yourself that you can’t do something and you achieve it, it’s magical.”
It is his way of overcoming plenitude: denying himself. “I have already told my parents that I won’t be able to do it. I find it super complicated. But if I project it now two days before the party, the happiness would be such that I would throw the computer out the window.” In 2019 he won after 20 hours and 19 minutes; Last year, only Kilian Jornet and Mathieu Blanchard, second, managed to go under 20 hours. Do you prefer to earn by doing more than 20 hours or not by lowering that time? “As far as it would mark the history of the trail, I will take the victory because I will always be remembered. But ‘Breaking 20’ is the project of my life. When I retire, I want to say I made it.”
You can follow EL PAIS Deportes in Facebook and Twitteror sign up here to receive our weekly newsletter.
Subscribe to continue reading
Read without limits
Source: EL PAIS