A Life OutdoorsFrom The Field
In Conversation with Kilian Jornet
Written by Neil Irwin
Kilian Jornet, champion sky runner, ski mountaineer, and long-distance runner, is synonymous with ultra endurance races. He’s broken numerous records for fastest ascents and descents of mountains including the Matterhorn and Mont Blanc. He’s blitzed the Bob Graham round. Kilian is an all-out athlete, taking on new and daunting mountain challenges for fun.
Like many of us, Kilian is currently staying home and keeping safe. We managed to catch up with him to see how he’s doing at home during the Coronavirus pandemic, and what he got up to during lockdown.
Sidetracked: How are you and your family doing at the moment in this surreal situation we all find ourselves in?
Kilian: It hasn’t been that bad, to be honest. We live in a rural area in Norway and health measures have not been super strict like in other countries. We underwent a period of isolation after coming back from the Alps, and we continue to practise social distancing, but – speaking personally here – it’s actually pretty easy when the thing you enjoy the most is being alone in the mountains!
Initially we had a few weeks where we had to stay at home, and I did a lot of treadmill and indoor workouts. Thankfully now we are able to go out so I’m getting back to my regular training.
Many people are finding they now have a lot of free time on their hands. Do you have extra free time at the moment, and if so what are you doing with it?
I was actually very busy during our period of lockdown. We took the time to create loads of new content, and take part in different charity projects, so it was quite interesting – an opportunity to do something different. I also have a little daughter. I truly enjoyed spending more time with her – I’ve been spending as much of my time with her as I can.
Have you been learning anything new?
I’m trying to improve my capabilities in flat terrain, rather than the climbs and descents of the mountains. For this the extra treadmill training I carried out during lockdown has been very useful.
As an ultra endurance athlete, you must have built up a strong mindset to be able to push yourself during hard conditions. Do you have any tips that you could pass on to help others in these difficult times?
Yes, I think it’s a matter of taking it step by step. Don’t try to look at the finish line, because it’s still far in the distance, but try to enjoy the small steps along the way if you can.
Your daughter Maj is now one year old. How have things been over the past year balancing fatherhood and being an ultra endurance athlete?
It’s been amazing, I love being a dad! It requires more organisation in your life, for sure, but Emelie and I are lucky – we can both spend a lot of time with her, each taking turns to train while the other is with Maj.
Do you think Maj will want to follow in her parents’ footsteps and become an endurance athlete?
Haha, I don’t know! I just hope we are able to show her how much we love the outdoors and that we need to take care of it, but what she does is her choice and we’ll support her no matter what.
You’re 32. You’ve racked up quite the list of achievements over the past decade, including summiting Everest, and there’s no doubt plenty of life left in your legs. Is there anything left that you’d like to compete in, or any other endurance challenges that you’ve got your eyes set on?
What I like in mountain sports is that there are endless opportunities. I always say that my favourite summit is the one that I will go to tomorrow. Every time I complete a project I’m already thinking about the next one, and that’s what keeps me motivated to keep going.
When the world gets out of this pandemic, there will most likely be many people out exploring after being stuck at home for long periods of time. How can you express what the outdoors means to you, and how would you encourage others to get into the great outdoors?
The outdoors is my life – it is where I spend most of my time, where I’ve been in my life’s worst and best moments. So I hope people will enjoy the outdoors while being aware that we need to preserve it, but still enjoying all the beauty out there in nature.
If you could give one piece of advice for someone who may be now starting on their trail-running journey, what would it be?
Enjoy it. Don’t think too much about goals or races, but just enjoy and learn to listen to your body!