We catch up with Vajin Armstrong ahead of this weekends  World Mountain Running Association Long Distance World Championships in Zermatt, Switzerland.

Thanks for your time Vajin, can you please tell us a little bit about this event?
 Each year the WMRA puts on two World Championships, the short course event which is normally around 12km, and the Long Course race. The long course needs to be between 40-45km and needs to climb around 2000m. They normally incorporate it in with a successful established event which this year is the Zermatt Marathon. Zermatt, being the home of the Matterhorn, is one of the great mountain towns in the world. There are no cars, plenty of gondolas, cable cars and trains to take you wherever you want to go plus some of the most beautiful single track that you could imagine. The race has around 2500 participants, so it’s a big event, and starts down the valley from Zermatt in a town called St Nicholas. From here it runs up to Zermatt, which is 21km away, while climbing only 500m over this distance. This is on a mixture of road, dirt road and a few km of single track. Once we leave Zermatt the real climbing begins, the second half has around 1500m of climbing with 350m of that coming in the last 3km. That last steep section is the crux of the race, if you can run that well you will pick up a lot of people who started out too quickly.
How have you been preparing for this race?
I have already been in Switzerland for a month and have already done three Mountain races to help get me ready. Preparation is really key to running well in any of these big European races. You need to get used to the length and steepness of the climbs as well as spending some time acclimatising to the altitude and to the heat. This race requires the ability to run fast over the first half and then the strength endurance to climb well over the second half. I have been running some shorter steeper mountain races to improve my climbing speed and to give me more confidence on long steep climbs. The first race I did was only 9.5km but it climbed 1419m, that is some solid vertical. The big difference with these races, compared to the longer races I normally do, is that you are trying to run everything and to run it as hard as possible. Each week I have also been doing a couple of hill workouts, one being short hill repeats of between 1-3mins and the other being long repeats of between 7-10mins. I am definitely feeling strong in my climbing and am looking forward to really testing myself on Saturday. Beyond that I am also hoping that it will lead to some improvements when I move back up to the Ultras.
matterhorn V
Vajin at the 2013 Zerrmatt Marathon.
What will the quality of the field be like?
This race is going to be stacked. With it being a World Championship and with it being here in Europe it was always going to get a great field. This race is well known for offering great prize money so has always attracted a lot of top runners, this year though is something else. The Kenyans are fielding a full team of five men, as are the French, Germans, Swiss, Czechs, the Americans and plenty more besides, in all there 22 nations taking part. A lot of these guys have really fast road backgrounds so the pace will definitely be on from the start. With it looking like being a hot day and with it finishing it 2500m I am hoping that there will be some carnage and I will be able to move through the field in the second half.
What are your goals for the race?
I have done this race before, placing 7th in 2013. I would love to be back inside the top 10 this year but it is very hard to say what sort of performance will be required for that. I think it is so important coming into a big event to have a goal that is under your control. I cannot know or predict how fast the other athletes will run but I can focus on having my best performance possible. The big goal for me then will be to improve on my time from 2013, I have my splits from that years race and I feel that I could definitely go a bit quicker.
What are your plans for the rest of the European Summer?
This is the end of my “short distance” season and from now I am moving back up to the Ultra distance races. Next week I am heading over to Iceland for the Laugavegur Ultra, which is 56km, and then from there I am back to Switzerland for the Swiss Alpine Marathon in Davos, which is actually 78km. I am then planning on a big block of training in Liviigno, Italy as I prepare for the big one which is Ultra Trail Mt Blanc. 168km and nearly 10,000 of climbing requires some equally serious preparation so I will be doing all I can to get ready for that. UTMB is my last race for the season and by then I will be looking forward to heading back home.

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