Rickey Gates November 18, 2011 TWEET COMMENTS 0

Just Kilian - Page 3

At 18 months old, he would walk four to five hours at a time, hiking with his parents. By the age of five he had already bagged some of the largest peaks surrounding his home.

"When he was a young," his mother recalls, "we soon realized that he was a child that we would have to tire out."

In 1997 when Kilian was 10, his parents took him and Naila on a 40-day trek along the length of the Pyrenees, from the Atlantic Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea. Twelve years later, running 50 to 60 miles per day, he would repeat the crossing in eight days—a record that was captured in a three-part episode of Kilian's Quest.

"My mother taught me a lot," says Kilian. "It helped that she never gave us the solution, but rather the tools to find the solution."

"We wanted to teach our kids how to be autonomous," explains Nuria.

In the saddle of a road bike, Kilian experienced his first taste of competition before he was a teenager. Training rides would take the young rider up and over passes from mountain town to mountain town and sometimes even into the neighboring countries of France and Andorra. The racing that followed was fun, if not easy.

An endurance masochist was born.

"I discovered that there is much to be gained through suffering and struggle," he recalls of his early training missions. Heavy thoughts for a 12-year-old.

The following year, Kilian joined the local ski-mountaineering team (the sport is known across Europe simply as "SkiMo"). Under the guidance of a couple of mentors, the young athlete adopted a passion for training and racing and an even deeper love for the mountains. In 2004, 17-year-old Kilian made his presence known on the international stage by winning the SkiMo Junior World Champion Vertical Race.

The next summer, fellow competitors and teammates convinced Kilian to take up trail running and racing. Few were surprised that he was immediately successful ... least of all, Kilian. "I grew up playing in the forest, on the rocks, in the mountains," he says. "Now I'm doing the same thing except it's racing."

In July 2007, at a team relay race in the Italian Alps, Kilian's three-person team entrusted him with the longest and most technical leg of the course. "Il Bambino," as the locals were calling him, was everything one would expect from a teenager -- quiet and awkward with a smattering of pimples across his face. Everything, except that he arrived 30 minutes ahead of the next competitor.

In the SkiMo community, Kilian's running achievements are often overlooked, and vice versa. I ask Kilian which he prefers: running or skiing? "It is impossible to choose. I am not a runner. I am not a skier," he says. "I love the mountains. I am a mountaineer.

"For me it is not possible to run or ski all year," he continues. "After six months of skiing, in the spring all I can think about is running. In the fall all I can think about is skiing."


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