The online world has gone into a bit of a melt down today as the ultra running world wakes up to yet another Kilian Jornet dominated race. The effect this Catalan athlete is having this year on the traditions of the sport is quite remarkable. And whilst the comments boxes in a number of the well read blogs around the world are divided as to what his secret is, whether it be his talent or local knowledge, or the support from him sponsors, from what I can gather, Kilian has quietly fallen asleep clutching yet another trophy happy in the fact that he and the mountains yet again did battle and on this occasion he has prevailed.
I am not going to sugar coat this post, I am one of his biggest fans whether he wins or loses, but his performances do need looking at to find out what is the secret source when so many marquee names from the US DNF’d on the weekend.
A number of you are thinking he is only as good as the Salomon Team supporting him, or that with enough of his Salomon colleagues running alongside him they ultimately let him win, or even worse, Salomon got wind of the recent course changes in advance and only informed their athletes. Well, all I can say is that having spent time with the man, all of this chat is just that, its chatter. Kilian goes about his business no differently to you or I, he focuses on those factors in his control and executes them to perfection. When he makes mistakes he analyses them, works on improvements in training and then tries again, often with a successful outcome. Of course it is important to stress it is his job, but don’t we all try to do our jobs the best we can every day? But how many time have we heard him say after a wrong turn “More kilometres, more fun”. It happened at WS100, Mt Olympus and even this weekends UTMB. He still had a smile for the crowds and spent the better part of his afternoon cheering in fellow athletes still to finish and signing autographs for future Kilian wannabes.
One of the genuine things about Kilian is his love of the mountains and on numerous occasions during my trip with Salomon to his home town in the Pyrenees, he went out of his way to share with anyone willing to listen, the swiftest, most fun way of crossing the peaks. It didn’t matter whether you were 10 years old or 100 years old, he has time for anyone willing to listen and give it a go! A relative slow coach such as myself has returned to Australia with a new-found desire to run better and smarter utilising some of the tips he shared with me.
I would like you to reflect on this point for a moment. In the lead up to UTMB, he not only put in some serious hours of training as did other athletes from both sides of the Atlantic, but the remarkable thing is that he didn’t try to hide any of it. Regular Facebook updates would have pictures of him with Dakota Jones, Jez Bragg or Sebastian Chaigneau who all are running for rival brands flying up the side of one of the mountains on the Mont Blanc Massif. In fact, if anyone is sitting at their keyboard wanting to rant that he has an unfair advantage due to his support, just find the nearest mountain he is running on and join him for a run. I am sure he will enjoy the company.
I was able to ask the senior guys at Salomon on how much of his life is stage managed and how much he has to himself and what was refreshing from my observations is that he uses every ounce of his day as efficiently as he runs. Feedback sessions on new developments in gear are swift and to the point, no endless meetings refining the last 5%. If it works, it works, move onto the next matter. If he fancies changing his training from running to cycling, he just gets on with it. What the association with Salomon allows him to do, is stare like any small boy does at a topographic map somewhere in the world and go “I would love to run up that mountain”. This is where the mighty Salomon machine helps execute it and bring it in all its 1080p High Definition glory to Youtube!
I don’t know about you, but those Salomon videos certainly make me want to get out and run !
How long will this passion and enthusiasm last? I can’t answer that, but on meeting his parents, their love for the mountains and their desire to share it with their children runs as deep today as when Kilian was 5 years old and crossed the Pyrenean chain on foot.
UPDATE: For a great post-race interview with Kilian, take a look at Bryon Powell’s excellent website, irunfar.com.