The Berber pride of Houssein Al-Azzawi, the Moroccan athlete who was praised by Kilian Journet

Elhousine Elazzaoui, Last Saturday’s winner of the Dolomyths race His first win in Golden Trail seriesWhen he was 10 years old, he ran 20 kilometers a day to go to school. A colleague loaded his bag on a bike, lounging in Zagora, one of the deserts that make up the Sahara, more than six hours’ drive from Marrakesh. A childhood without a mobile phone or TV for a nomad who is proud to be Berber, from the beauty with which his brother earns a living. And a life struggling with visas, like the guy who fought against all odds to compete in Switzerland in 2017 in his debut. mountain race. He came second and started traveling, a combination of cultures that makes him appreciate his own. “I have discovered so much of the world and nowhere have I had such hospitality as my family. If you come to my house, you are king. I do not give you comfort, but I give you my heart.”

At the start of the Dolomyths Run – a demanding 22-kilometer, 1,800-meter positive elevation race for the Golden Trail – Manuel Merías told him: “Today you will win.” And the Moroccan jokingly replied: “Mirellas, you are an animal!” In May, they took part in one of the closest duels in Zigama-Izcuri, in which the Spaniard settled in one of the last muddy areas before reaching the city, where it was the speed of the Moroccan, fourth in 2022, that prevailed in all votes. “It was difficult to follow this animal. He went to Zegama with his heart. I have great respect for him. Maybe one day I can win them over.”

Elhousine Elazzaoui durante la Dolomyths Run.Adventure bakery

One of the first messages the 31-year-old Azzawi received after winning the Dolomites was from Kilian Journet, father of the shoe he fell faster than ever. “He made running develop a lot. Today we have great events like the World Cup, the Gold Series or the UTMB thanks to him and other athletes.” He speaks of ambition to compete against the best, which is why he declined the invitation to the Marathon des Sables, one of the jewels of the desert. “I need to race against world champions with Stian [Angermund]”.

The Norwegian had his partner down the abyss of the Dolomites, a one-on-one that ended with a descent. “If I hadn’t attacked, I would have because there were a lot of strong riders on the way down. It was now or never.” Talk about a mental victory. “I was so confident, this was my last chance.” Because Sierre-Zinal, in August, has specialists in less technical terrain – and the local presence of Kilian Journet and Remy Bonnet – and his struggle with visas will prevent him from going to the United States for the last two tests before the Grand Final. The US government does not give him permission to enter the country until two days before he reaches Pikes Peak and he has had enough of the accelerated travel.

Elhousine Elazzaoui tras ganar la Dolomyths Run.
Elhousine Elazzaoui tras ganar la Dolomyths Run.Adventure bakery

If Al-Azzawi does not win the Golden General, it will be because he abandoned the Mont Blanc marathon. “I had prepared well, had complete confidence and was wearing the number 2.” But the trip was two days to Chamonix. Plane from Morocco to Switzerland, bus, train, mechanical problems with the car and a night on the road until the replacement arrived. This pressure and pressure from his barbarian friends travel to cheer him up. But he saved himself in Italy. Hussein, this is life, I said to myself, you don’t have any problems, your health is fine. You can never give up.” After that zero, he needs another test if he wants to qualify for the final at Golfo dell’Isola; with the United States out of the equation, he’s looking for a way to go to Sierre-Zinal.

These prizes allow someone like him to make a living, helping out with the family business in November and December and showing his land to tourists. “I don’t want money for a big house, just to live.” He went to school for three years, until one day they wanted to give him a vaccine and he ran away – literally – never to come back. His father invited him to stay on his land: “Where will you go to a big city without studying?” Running was never in his plans, not even when a European tourist gave him his first running shoes. he ran. With some asphalt, he achieved second place at that track in Switzerland that changed his life. Despite the obstacles at the borders. “These problems give me a lot of strength.”

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