Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Unsung Heroes: Kilian Jornet

I'd say that Spain has more than it's fair share of elite sportsmen and women, probably partly due to its great climate. Rafa Nadal, Fernando Alonso, Severiano Ballesteros (RIP), the Spanish football team, Alberto Contador, Marc Gasol even Javier Gómez, the World Champion of Olympic distance Triathlon are all household names. Not so for Kilian Jornet, so he qualifies for my unsung section.

Kilian Jornet runs Marathons. In the mountains. He is an extraordinary athlete with a VO2 Max of around 88ml/kg/min which puts him at the upper end of all the values ever registered. He's already won the Skyrunners World Series 3 times not to mention being World Champion of Ski Mountaineering twice. Skyrunning, as its name suggests, involves running races in the mountains of 30-42km with at least 2,000 meters of climb (and descent - I'm not sure what is worse), a minimum altitude of 2,000m and, in some cases, including a Vertical Kilometer (R). I imagine you have to be extremely fit, lean and dextrous (and a little bit crazy, let's face it) to be able to compete in, let alone win one of these things.

What makes Kilian a "hero" in my book, is his dedication to what he does best without compromising his principles. He could no doubt get more attention and recognition (and more sponsorship for that matter) if he came down to Earth from his Mountains and competed on level ground but he sticks to his thing all the same. He is also very young indeed - only 23 years old - so who knows what he has ahead of him. I'd like to see him getting more coverage at least in the national press - he really is one of the best athletes this country has and he is right under our noses (or really above them I should say).


  1. This guy is simply extraordinary. He has an amazing CV, but I love this one: he went from Chamonix up to the summit of the Mont Blanc in 3h58m something that usually takes nearly 2 days for a normal alpinist (he has won the Ultra Trial Mont Blanc twice, by the way). I think he still holds the record. And he climbed the Kilimanjaro in 7h14m...
    He is a truly unsung hero, thank you Rob!

  2. I knew you'd appreciate this post, Pablo.

  3. If he did come down to ground level, he would not be nearly as competitive as he is in the mountains. Running on the flat with even footing is an entirely different game, of course. Speed and speed-endurance are essential. The Kenyans, Ethiopians, Eritreans, Ugandans and more than a few Westerners would eat him alive on the roads or track.

    1. of course you are right - it would be like saying that usain bolt could win a marathon if he trained for it, although not quite as extreme. also, it's easy to forget that only the very top track / road runners get any recognition. a friend of mine runs half marathons in 1:02 but nearly 5 minutes separate him from being able to make a living out of it.