The runner appeared over the crest that marked the start of Santo Spiritu. This climb is to the Zegama-Aizkorri mountain marathon race as the Alpe d’Huez is to the Tour de France and I moved through the crowds capturing images like this as they applauded, rang cow bells and screamed ‘in your face’ encouragement that bordered on intimidation with deafening battle cries of “Venga!”. The gathering of these crowds who climb this mountain ridge to lift the spirits of the weary runners and celebrate community has become something akin to an annual pilgrimage for some.
Earlier today, I looked back at this image that I captured during the Zegama-Aizkorri 2018 race and considered how far removed this scene was from the current global situation where social distancing and isolation have become sadly necessary in the battle against COVID-19. The unbridled screaming in close quarters, back-slapping and shoulder-to-shoulder huddling seems worlds away from present reality.
And yet, with a vaccine on the horizon there is hope that we can once again gather on the mountain tops to scream in the faces of runners or even pin a bib on, toe a starting line and race ourselves to exhaustion.
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