Enlightenment came in your twenties. What happened?
"I believe that it is not a human being who goes to the mountains. Rather, it is the mountains that choose him. So it happened to me. After the first races on the trails, I never stopped, following my motto, "All in": if I do something, I do it at the top. If I win, I win big. If I lose, I lose everything: but I don't care if I did my best."
It's been years (and races) since then. Is there one you would like to mention for the emotions it has left in your heart?
"Definitely the OCC at Utmb in 2017. I finished fourth, one minute away from the podium. But it wasn't just the competitive performance, I felt really good that day. It was a special race, I always ran it with one of my teammates. We were twentieth, and one by one we overtook almost everyone. It was an overwhelming, wonderful ride, the result of a great team effort.
There was also a particular race, the Ultra Pirineu, that you often quote. What happened that time?
"I was 23 years old, it was one of the first important events of my life. I started with a group of elite runners, but I didn't know anyone. That day at the starting line there was also one of my legends, Pablo Villa. I had studied all his performances, he was a myth for me. I was lucky enough to run that race with him, to talk to him. Since then we have remained friends, we still talk often.
However, we know that your dream is different, and that is to conquer Chamonix for real. How come?
"I am in love with Mont Blanc, its peak is a source of inspiration. I lived in France for some time to stay in that area, an experience I would like to repeat soon."
So there you have it, Utmb is your castle to conquer. Will that be a goal of yours again this year?
"This year I'm going to try my best to run the CCC (100 kilometres, d+ 6,100 meters, one of the Utmb races, ed). I know that it is very hard to hope to win, but I will try with all my strength to make my dream come true. Then obviously I have other objectives: the 80 kilometres at Lavaredo and the 62 kilometres at Penyagolosa, but I would also like to join the Spanish national team for the World Championships in Thailand".
When Mario is not racing on the trails, what does he do?
"I like to spend time with friends and family. Now I live in Cogollos Vega with my girlfriend, I love the quiet and calm life, I like to read and write. I have always looked for quiet jobs: I have been a waiter and a bricklayer, now I help a friend of mine who has a cow farm. Simple things make me feel good. That's why I love running: it gives me calm and doesn't ask anything of you. It's like in life: the less you need, the happier you'll be".
And when you can no longer run?
"I hope it never happens, and in any case, I will continue to walk in the mountains. I'd still like to get a job in the sports industry, maybe tied to some outdoor brand that has a team to follow. I have learned a lot over the years and have found many people who have helped me realize my dreams. Here, I would like to in turn help beginning athletes achieve their dreams."
Photo Credits: Jose Miguel Munoz Egea