Kilian Jornet Burganda can often, on investigation, seem impossible.
That he is the greatest endurance athlete of his generation is clear, but that title actually quite cruelly downplays his exceptionality.
Yes – he is the greatest in his sport (sports), but it is the margin of his greatness that really sets him apart. In his 24 hour races he will almost always win by at least a clear hour from the other competitors. Last year he ran the 165 mile Tahoe Rim Trail, on his way he stopped only two times to sleep on the floor (his combined sleeping time was under 90 mins), in the darkness of the night he lost his way and ran an extra 6 miles to get back on track, he finished the trail in 38 hours and 32 minutes a world record. This is all incredible and amazing, but hard to judge for those who do not know the sport, so here’s some help: he beat the previous record set by Tim Twietmeyer, who was long thought of as the greatest ultrarunner of all time, by seven hours.
By the time he was 25 Jornet had won every major race in his sport and broken every record.
He announced himself at 20 when he entered the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc in Chamonix, one of the primary and most competitive events in the ulta running calendar, he won and he won well against a highly competitive field including the sports best known runner Scott Jurek. He also set a new record for the course, and won it again the next year. And the year after. So, not bad really.
During the summer Jornet, like a lot of us, goes for a jog before breakfast.
He laces up his shoes and steps out his front door and then he runs close to two and a half miles (vertical miles) up Mont Blanc and then up into the mountain world that exists above 15,000 feet. He’ll run across a landscape of snow and ice, of jagged glaciers and past climbers, pro and amateur, he’ll get home in a clean 7 hours. It is a journey most spend days completing. Often he does these runs only stopping to drink from streams and eat wild berries.
Kilian Jornet is not simply the miracle man of Mountain running, Kilian Jornet is a miracle.