At 65 years old, Santiago Hitos has no secrets. “it’s my life”. Running became his passion, which he dispenses to all Spanish and European marathons, up to the magic number of 351, a record that appears in the Guinness Book and which credits him as the Spaniard with the most marathons in both legs. This retired civil guard from Castellón has become a beloved figure in popular athletics. He fell in love with Vitória when he ran the Martin Fizz Marathon for the first time. His devotion leads him to land in the capital of Alava tomorrow for the 20th edition of the test. «I will arrive last, but I will. I’ve never dropped out of a marathon,” he admits. He’s the “guru” guy, in honor of his last name.
– Add in 351 marathons and 45 ultra-box tests. Do you have no limits?
As long as my body can handle it, I will keep running because it is my life. My best mark is 3 hours 20 minutes, but I don’t look at the clock anymore. Now I finish it in five hours, but I’m enjoying it. I was starting to like long-distance events, apparently at the age of 45 already. I know both Spain and Europe. It is a hobby that has no limits for me. It’s my way of life. The best thing about this marathon craze is how many friends I have in Spain and Europe.
– His life was not easy, first he worked in the fields and then worked as a civil guard.
– I did professional agricultural training and did not get a job. In 1980, when I finished my military service, I joined the Civil Guard. I had the chance of an irrigation supervisor, but the notification came too late. Before that, I used to work in the fields, cutting down pine and fig trees. I plowed, mowed, picked tomatoes… whatever came out. work hard. Now I say without problems that I have been a civil guard since I was 23 and that I have been assigned to the Basque Country and Navarre. Fortunately, I had no problems of any kind, but I couldn’t honestly say what I did in the most difficult years.
Another record in 2018
By the time I turned 60, I had run 35 marathons a year, beating my own record of 26.
– How did you get started in the marathon world?
– At the age of 25, I started to love running to get in shape. It came from two years of doing very little exercise. It started with a few popular races, then countless half marathons until I lost count. I loved the healthy environment I found, with very calm people. I started making friends, and I realized that this was my life and I am hooked to this day.
– Do you remember your first marathon?
– This is unforgettable (laughs). It was March 10, 1991 in Barcelona. He was a beginner and didn’t have a lot of references. I didn’t prepare it very well and spent more than four hours to finish it. I left very happy because I felt like a marathon runner. The next year I didn’t do anything after being transferred to Pamplona. Later, I ran for the first time in the 5th Marathon World Cup in San Sebastian, running 3 hours 22 minutes, which was my personal best.
–How did you discover the Martin Phys Marathon?
– It was a carambola. I had a half marathon in Pamplona, which ran through my gate. But I found out that a marathon was being opened in Vitoria by Martín Fiz, an athlete I have always admired and whose career I have followed. I didn’t think about it and went there for the first version in 2003. Since then, I’ve played them all. I loved the ambience, they always welcomed me as if I were at home. It is a beautiful city with many parks and people are very hospitable. So this Sunday you’ll see me cross the finish line, and there will already be 20 copies (laughs).
In the Martin Fez Marathon
“I liked the atmosphere from the first edition. They welcome me as if I were at home.”
35 marathons in 2018
– How many marathons can you run in a year?
– Since the year 95, I began to do a lot. On the occasion of my 50th birthday, I thought of breaking the record for marathons completed in one year and I managed to make 26. The record was held by an athlete from Zala who achieved a total of 25 in 2005. It wasn’t enough for me and I wanted to break my own record me when I was sixty years old. That year I turned 35. crazy! Some of what I did outside of Spain. I went to Italy, did two in the UK, Liverpool and Manchester, in France in Montpellier. The last 15 were in the last 15 weeks of the year, i.e. 4 in September, 4 in October, 4 in November, 3 in December, and the last one in Pisa, Italy. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to replicate such madness because obviously when I’m 70, I won’t be the same physically. Although I will continue as long as I can.
–How was 2023?
– a little weaker but because I’ve devoted myself a bit more to superfunding. I spent 24 hours in Barcelona and then had all my teeth removed to fix dentures. I’m still in therapy. I ran the Almagro Marathon in Ciudad Real in January, two in February in Seville, Castellón, Madrid… I did 24 hours of tests without sleep, one on the track and then I went to Italy for the Six Day World Championships where I covered 355 kilometres.
“I have traveled three quarters of Europe. Some year I would like to run in New York »
– What is the Six Day World Championships?
– I’ve only raced two races in this discipline, one in Hungary and the other in Italy. I actually filed in the super boxes because I added 45 but I needed to learn more about the six day races. It takes place around a campsite where you have food and a bungalow to sleep in, but you organize yourself. You can rest as much as you want but the more you do, the less miles you’ll burn. Some sleep only two hours a day.
– Do you have any secrets in your willingness to endure many kilometers?
When I have a marathon a week, I don’t train. What I do is rest and recover. My only secret is the sea. I live in Castellón. I take a shower from April to December for 1 hour a day. Heals all my ailments. If there are two or three weeks where I don’t race, I do extreme sports and do two or three hours a day. slowly and quickly. After the Vitoria Marathon I will be doing the 100km Santander. I don’t go to the gym even though I have to work out harder, but I’m lazy.
– How many countries have you traveled and what is missing?
– I’ve traveled three-quarters of Europe. Italy, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Austria, Bulgaria and Portugal. In some of them I repeated, for example, the Paris marathon that I ran three times. I turned 65 this year and wanted to go to New York. I haven’t crossed the pond but it’s more complicated because it costs more money. In Europe and Spain, I organize myself better and look for cheap flights and accommodation.
2,600 runners are registered for the three distances
The 20th edition of the Martín Fiz Marathon is already poised to take to the streets of the lava capital tomorrow starting at 8:30 am on the Paseo de Cervantes, where the finish line is also located. The 2,600 participants, 71 of whom are foreigners from 28 countries, are divided into the three distances offered by the sporting event. 510 of them will compete in the marathon, with 12% being female. Borja Abecia, Sergio Arriaca and Mercedes Bella, the Spanish 100km champion and the distance record set in 2022, start as favorites for the Queen’s Distance. In the half marathon, the number of participants increases to 1015 athletes with 21% female. Among the candidates stands out the name of Pablo Benito, winner of the marathon in 2021 and 10 km in 2022 whose goal is to be the only runner to win the three distances of the Vitória event. The popular race is the first most attended with 1,075 participants (462 women), including Martin Phys, Kamal Ziani, the 2003 marathon winner who holds the record with a time of 2:21.57, and the athlete from Alava Neves Zarza. The txiki test will spread across El Prado Park and already has 295 registrations. Proceeds will go to the Aspanafoa Association.