After three years away the race, Kilian Jornet returns home to run Ultra Pirineu the weekend. In the following interview, Kilian talks about what it’s like to race where he grew up, what he’s been up to this summer, and what he thinks about this weekend’s race.
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Kilian Jornet Pre-2015 Ultra Pirineu Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here with Kilian Jornet before the 2015 Ultra Pirineu. Hello, Kilian. How are you?
Kilian Jornet: Good, yeah, and you? Enjoying my home?
iRunFar: This is your home! Does it feel good to be home for a race?
Jornet: Yes, sure. It has been three years now I haven’t been here. It’s always a beautiful race with nice ambiance. Yeah, I’m happy to come back here.
iRunFar: It has been a few years. Why haven’t you been back sooner? You won the race in 2012.
Jornet: Yes, September is always a busy month. It’s some races. Last year I was in The Rut and then preparing for Limone. Before, some mountaineering things and other things. Yeah, it has been some busy months, but this year I wanted to race one race in each distance, and this was the perfect one for a small ultra.
iRunFar: Yeah, the middle range. You have your family here. Your mother lives on the other side in Montellá, but in the Cerdanya area. Your grandparents are going to come to the race?
Jornet: Yeah, they are going to come to see the race. My mother lives in a hut close to where the race passes. My grandparents live 40 minutes from here, so they will come.
iRunFar: Have they ever seen you race?
Jornet: Yes, I think the last time it was here in the rain, yeah.
iRunFar: This year it’s going to be completely different. It’s perfect weather.
Jornet: Yeah, it looks good because it’s really sunny but not really warm. It will be good for the runners and also for all the spectators that spend many hours up there.
iRunFar: The course is different than the last time you ran it. There is an extra 25k.
Jornet: Yeah, that’s hard because the original race is so beautiful. Now these two sections they added, yeah, it’s 30 more kilometers or almost 40 more kilometers. It’s a runnable area to go to some villages. It adds some hours, and it will be hard.
iRunFar: Do you prefer the shorter 85k course?
Jornet: Yeah, I prefer that. It’s the original one between the huts, but it’s longer and probably nice to visit more villages.
iRunFar: Aside from being home, what do you enjoy most about this course?
Jornet: I enjoy all the upper parts where you are in the ridges. It’s never technical at all, but you are always in nice mountains. Yeah, the views from up there are really beautiful when you are on the ridges and see both sides—France and all the mountains towards Barcelona.
iRunFar: You can even see Andorra.
Jornet: Yeah, you see Andorra, France, and all the Montserrat mountains. Some days if it’s good weather you can see the mountains before the sea.
iRunFar: You can probably see Montserrat?
Jornet: Yeah, sure. It’s right here.
iRunFar: This location, it’s hard because maybe a lot of Americans don’t know this area. Pedraforca is just an incredibly beautiful mountain on the west side of the course.
Jornet: Yeah, it looks like a small Tetons.
iRunFar: Yeah. You mention that it’s less technical here. When the courses are less technical, do you enjoy other things? I know you enjoy very technical terrain. Do you get to see more when it’s less technical?
Jornet: Yeah, races are always fun. It depends. Every race has her thing. Western States is not technical but it’s so beautiful, the ambiance and the race itself, racing with all the people. Sierre-Zinal is the same. I think here, it’s nice, easy terrain, but it’s never easy when you race because people go faster. Yeah, it’s always a big level here. It’s a young race. It has not been many years but many good athletes come, and that makes it hard. If you want to compete, that’s a good thing.
iRunFar: Yeah, for the first time in awhile, you’re not competing in Skyrunning World Series as a whole. You’re sort of the outsider. You have Franco Collé racing in the lead right now. You have Cristofer Clemente here. Then Luis Alberto Hernando…
Jornet: Yeah, sure, and then probably Miguel Heras—he’s not in the series but he’s really strong. Zaid Ait Malek is trying this long distance. I think it will be a big competition. It will be exciting to see the battle between Luis and Franco for the world series because both of them are really great athletes and good friends of mine. It will be a big battle. I hope to run with them.
iRunFar: Any guess on who might take the series of those two?
Jornet: It will be hard, I think, because Luis Alberto is strong, and I think in perfect shape he’s stronger than Franco. But he has been doing UTMB, so he will be probably a bit tired from that. It was his first 100 miler. We’ll see if he’s recovered from that. Franco has not raced Tor des Géants this year, so he’s a bit fresher. I think it will be that. We need to see how Luis Alberto recovered from UTMB to battle with Franco.
iRunFar: You, you haven’t raced very much at all this year. Have you enjoyed having some time away from much racing?
Jornet: Sure, I used to do around 20 races per summer. This year I’ve only done six races. For me it’s a really small season but really fun. I have been doing really beautiful races like Mount Marathon. I discovered that race. It’s really fast, technical, and people there are really great. Hardrock is my favorite 100 miler. It’s so beautiful a race. Then some trail races in Europe like Sierre-Zinal and some vertical ks. Outside of that, I enjoyed much more free time. I enjoyed much more in the mountains climbing and doing some alpine stuff. It’s good for the mind, too.
iRunFar: Following your exploits on Strava and Facebook, it seems that you’ve had adventure after adventure—more time to explore the Alps and Norway.
Jornet: Yeah, not many kilometers. There were some weeks I did only 50k, but it was 40,000 meters elevation. Yeah, so many, many hours out there. Good. I think it’s good for recovering the body and also for the mind. I like being out in the mountains. I like racing a lot, but I like also to be just exploring and climbing the mountains around.
iRunFar: One of the things about racing is all the fans. I’ve seen the fans in the Canary Islands. I’ve seen the fans in the Basque country. I’ve never seen the fans in Catalunya. What can I expect on Saturday?
Jornet: I think it’s similar. It’s a big ambiance. You will see during all the race people in all the huts and all the places. It’s many, many people cheering. Yeah, you know how it is down here like in the Alps or here in Spain. The spectators are really, really crazy—so many people all the way.
iRunFar: It probably helps that two of the favorites are you, on the men’s side, and then Núria Picas, four-time defending champion on the women’s side. Does that bring something special to the race to have local runners?
Jornet: Yeah, sure, it’s that and it’s many so good runners from here. Jessed Hernández he lives just on the other side in Cerdanya. He has been winning the race before. Núria Picas, you say. Anna Comet—she’s from not far from here. Yeah, I think people are cheering that and are probably wanting the Catalans to win the race, but they cheer for everyone, I think.
iRunFar: It’s a great race with people from around the world. You have Mira Rai on the women’s side and Franco Collé on the men’s side, but it also feels like the Spanish championship.
Jornet: Yeah, I think in the Spanish high level, we will miss Tòfol [Castanyer] who is not coming.
iRunFar: Tòfol and Manuel Merillas.
Jornet: And Manuel Merillas—they are the only ones missing. It’s all the good Spanish. It’s like Zegama. In ultra distance, it’s the race the Spanish prefer, so everybody wants to be here.
iRunFar: Well, you are, and it’s going to be some great competition. Good luck, Kilian.
Jornet: Thank you very much.