Interview with Cristofer Clemente

An interview with Cristofer Clemente of La Gomera, one of the world’s most prominent Trail Runners.
In 2015 he started to stand out as one of the leaders of the sport, achieving runner-up position in the Ultra Skyrunners World Series. In 2016, demonstrating a great thirst for self-improvement, he won the competition by a considerable margin.

In 2017 he was called up to join the Spanish team that won first place in the IAU-ITRA World Trail Championships (Italy), with Cristofer Clemente coming in second place – just a minute behind the winner.
This exemplary athlete trains every day in La Gomera, driven by the nature and feeling of freedom that he experiences in each and every one of the many routes available on the island.

Question: What is Trail Running?

Cristofer Clemente: It’s a pure experience that really connects you with nature. It has similar advantages to hiking – you can really appreciate the beauty of the landscape, but much quicker. It’s much more demanding.

Why La Gomera?

Cristofer Clemente: I’ve been to lots of places, and I’ve noticed that La Gomera has lots of trails that are perfect for this sport. They’re well signposted so there’s no danger of getting lost, plus amazing landscape contrasts, and there are different types of trail so there’s something for runners of all levels. La Gomera motivates you to better yourself, as it’s a demanding sport. People really must discover this island and its landscapes through its trails.

Which route is your favourite?

Cristofer Clemente: I really like the more technical and difficult routes, and there are plenty of those on the island. I try to do lots of coastal ones. It’s true that lots of routes tend to head off up into the mountains, into the greenery, but the coastline has spectacular sunrises and sunsets. It’s a sight for sore eyes for people who like walking or trail running.

What advice would you give to runners who want to come to the island?

Cristofer Clemente: The trails are very well marked here, as well as their distances, and runners need to take the slopes and temperature changes into account. Keep in mind the distance you want to run, and make sure you get enough hydration. The island is a real treat. For trail lovers, “La Gomera is the place.”

How many hours do you train?

Cristofer Clemente: During the week I do 18-20 hours. Luckily, on this island temperature doesn’t limit training, you can train any time from sunrise right through to sunset. We fans of mountain running love going out with the light out in front, and here the skies are so clear that you can enjoy the spectacular landscapes as you reach the top.

What is a typical training session like?

Cristofer Clemente: I leave my house in San Sebastián de La Gomera and have the choice between lots of different trails, for example going up towards Degollada de Peraza, descending to La Laja, or going up towards Cedro or Alto de Garajonay. La Gomera is great because you can go along the coast or through the mountains, there’s a lot of variety. What I do isn’t like ‘normal’ training, I’ve tried it in the past but it wasn’t my thing. I prefer to run straight out onto the natural terrain and do more difficult routes, leaving home and being in contact with nature. There are fast days and there are slow days. But it works. I didn’t start trail running as a child – it began to help me lose weight and get into shape, but I quickly fell in love with the mountains as I went up and down my routes.
For me, trail running is 70% mental and 30% physical. Mentally you need to motivate yourself and control your body, telling yourself “come on, you can do this”.

Do you have any technical advice for going up or down slopes?

Cristofer Clemente: You have to go up like an old person – small steps, keep your pulse low enough to hold a conversation. And for going down, control your stride length. Again, it needs to be short and consistent, on tiptoes, a little like a dance. That way you’re more stable, with your body leaning forwards.

Pregunta: ¿Y el calzado?

Cristofer Clemente: Your shoes will need to be special mountain running ones, not just normal running or walking shoes. The island has very varied terrains, loose rocks, areas of limestone, leaves, grit. Sometimes, because of the wind, the ground gets humid and you need to have the right footwear.