Just KilianThe Spaniard Kilian Jornet is taking the trail-running world by storm. A self-described “mountaineer,” the 23-year-old takes a surprisingly Zen approach to distance trail running
Kilian pounding down Tanzania's Mount Kilimanjaro (19,341 feet), at around 16,000 feet, not far from Lava Tower camp; in October 2010, he set the up-down speed record of 7 hours 14 minutes on Africa's tallest mountain. Photo by Stephan Repke.
This article appeared in our December 2011 issue.
The video clip opens with a person climbing a serrated, snow-covered ridgeline. He is wearing a white spandex racing suit and eggshell-thin ski boots, and, slung tightly to his back, are a pair of skis. The background music is dramatic, catchy—an inspirational three-chord rock anthem, something Hans Zimmer might have composed. He is taking deep methodical breaths. The clip switches to a helicopter view showing the earth drop off precipitously thousands of feet all around.
The season changes from winter to spring as the athlete trades out ski boots for running shoes and sets off at a sprint through the thin, fresh snow. His wardrobe morphs throughout the clip too, all threads committed to a theme of tight and bright. Ascending one mountain, descending another, launching off boulders, scrambling down steep, treacherous terrain to the crescendoing background music.
After dropping below snowline, he stops, crouches down and feels the grass and earth at his feet. The music pauses. You hear him breath. You hear his heart beat. The music kicks back in. By the end of the video the viewer half expects the star to climb into an Aston Martin alongside a beautiful woman or BASE jump off the mountain to machine gun down some bad guys.
This is the trailer for season three of Salomon’s high-budget, trail-running video series called Kilian’s Quest.
He fills in his race entry form as Kilian Jornet Burgada. By the time the start list has been finalized his mother’s name, Burgada, is usually dropped for brevity’s sake. Increasingly, though, as his fame has rapidly grown, he is being elevated to the ranks of Madonna, Bono and other one namers, and is known as just Kilian.
Kilian with the short, black hair and the soft chin.
Kilian with the calm and quiet presence of a librarian, a demeanor that allows him to go unnoticed on a crowded starting line.
In 2007 Kilian won his first of four consecutive Skyrunning World Series, a series of highly technical up-and-down races at altitude of up to a marathon in distance scattered around Europe and beyond. In 2008 he won what is generally considered to be the most competitive 100-miler in the world, the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc (UMTB), which starts and finishes in Chamonix, France. He broke the course record by nearly an hour. In 2009, Kilian won the Sierre-Zinal in Switzerland, a 32K mountain race that prides itself in stacking the starting line with several sub-2:15 marathoners from Mexico, Ethiopia, Colombia and beyond, each year. In June of 2011 Kilian became the first overseas winner of North America’s most competitive 100-miler—California’s Western States 100—and, in September, again took top honors at UMTB.
Having either won races, broken records or both on five continents, Kilian is arguably the most accomplished and recognized trail runner in the world.
In addition to being the sole star in his own on-line trail-running series, over July 2nd and 3rd, 2011, the first annual Kilian’s Classik was launched—a casual race weekend where fans could run and chat with Kilian himself. The release of his book, Córrer o Morir (Run or Die, available in Spanish, French and Catalan for now), followed later that month. Oh, and he’s 23 years old.