Spain’s Kilian Jornet earned a hard-fought win at the 2018 Ring of Steall Skyrace to the become Skyrunning World Champion in the Sky category. In the following interview, Kilian talks about how the men’s race went from his perspective including the tumble where he scraped up his chin, how his 2018 running season has gone, what he thought about this year’s UTMB men’s race, and more.
Be sure to read our results article for the full race story.
Kilian Jornet, 2018 Ring of Steall Skyrace Champion, Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here with Kilian Jornet after his win at the 2018 Ring of Steall Skyrace. Congratulations, Kilian.
Jornet: Thank you.
iRunFar: I think the first thing we need to address is… you took a little fall, maybe? [Gestures to a scrape on Kilian’s chin]
Jornet: Yeah, I took a little fall [gestures a somersault with his hand] on the last downhill. It was fun. It’s a good race. It’s a little muddy, the downhills are technical. We were fighting with Nadir Maguet all the way and on the downhill, we were ready to push. It was a big mud patch and I just got in my foot and then started rolling. Oh, the camera is…
[Bryon and Kilian stop to adjust the camera, which was gradually tilting]
iRunFar: There we go. We won’t miss a beat. So you handled the mud and you were in a big battle.
Jornet: No, it was great. I think it was a very competitive race. At the start, at least, it was impressive all the guys and people. Sage Canaday was here. People were coming from different places, I think because they wanted to get the points [in the Golden Trail Series] and that, they come here. It was hard. It was a hard battle all the way.
iRunFar: Specifically, you had a great battle with Nadir Maguet–the whole way. Can you walk me through that fight?
Jornet: The first uphill actually it was Rémi Bonnet. He was pushing hard and with him were Nadir and me. On the first downhill, Nadir and me were trying to push faster to go alone. I was thinking that maybe he would like slow down a little bit in the second half but he was just there. I managed to take 30 seconds from him on the uphill and then, he’s a great downhiller so I needed to push all the way to the end.
iRunFar: Did he close that 30-second gap at any point?
Jornet: We were always together by this distance. On the downhill, I was looking and he was right there.
iRunFar: Our friend [and iRunFar correspondent], Mauri [Pagliacci] was telling me you were on the descent, literally looking back.
Jornet: Yeah, because you never know when he will come. Especially on the first downhill, he was moving very well, very fast.
iRunFar: You’ve raced him in ski mountaineering before.
Jornet: Yeah, it’s fun. It was the first time we’ve raced in a skyrace together. We have done some vertical kilometers together. Never a race like Ring of Steall. In winter, since he started ski mountaineering 10 years ago, he has been racing me. We know each other very well, but normally in a different sort of race.
iRunFar: This year I think the two of you were second and third at Pierra Menta, maybe?
Jornet: Last year. This year was tough and I was not in Pierra this year, but last year.
iRunFar: So you’re familiar with Nadir.
Jornet: Yeah, during the winters we see each other every week almost.
iRunFar: Nice. So, it’s summer season, and you’ve had a great summer season. You were off with an injury over the winter, then you came back and were setting course records everywhere.
Jornet: I’m very happy because when I got injured in the winter, I was calculating and I said, “Okay, maybe I get to the middle of the season to do some races.” But, yeah, it was also about seeing how fit I could get back to. It’s not a big injury because it’s a bone, what’s done is done. Still, I didn’t know how the fitness would come back so I was having Mont Blanc Marathon and it was, “Okay, just keep doing some races.” It went well, yeah.
iRunFar: Do you have a favorite that sticks out, between the Bob Graham Round, this race, or something else?
Jornet: Probably Bob Graham, it was a great moment. It’s such a part of the history of running, and the atmosphere. It was something that I wanted to do since a long time ago. It was great to feel the cultural difference here in the U.K. So that was for sure one of the best moments from this season. Sierre-Zinal is another race which I love and is always super-competitive. Of course, I was here last year and I did the other one: the long race. The short one is amazing; it’s not that technical, but it was muddy and it’s pure skyrunning so it was great and this year the field was just amazing. So probably these are the three big races, yeah.
iRunFar: Your weekend isn’t done, either. You’re racing again tomorrow.
Jornet: Yeah, yeah. Actually, I love the race of the [Glen Coe] Skyline. It’s very technical and it’s beautiful. It’s also part of the Skyrunning World Cup and I need to do two more races. So tomorrow’s race and Limone Skyrace [in Italy in October].
iRunFar: So you have that, but I think the course will be changed tomorrow.
Jornet: Yeah, actually the weather is pretty hard. Today it was great, but today on the vertical kilometer it was super-cold and tomorrow it will be like that.
iRunFar: You take the course that you get, right?
Jornet: Yes. We run and I think at the end, there are some races that we like more or fit us better, but we’re here and anyway, it will be shorter but fun.
iRunFar: It’ll be a challenge. What other races do you have coming up before the end of the season?
Jornet: Actually only three more: tomorrow and then Limone Skyrace and then Otter [African] Trail Run in South Africa.
iRunFar: Then ski season?
Jornet: Yeah, I will not do the world cup this year. I live in a really nice place for skiing and ice climbing. During other years I was traveling to races. I want to spend some more time at home to do some more ice climbing and some more mountaineering.
iRunFar: Just enjoy your home mountains.
Jornet: Yeah, enjoy the home mountains and do some projects around there. I’ll do some ski races, too, but not 20 as in a normal year.
iRunFar: One race that you ran recently was the UTMB. It didn’t go as planned, but not because of your training or fitness.
Jornet: Yeah, I think I was well-trained. I think the preparation was good. I think I was ready, and that is the greatest thing in ultrarunning, especially this year at UTMB. It was a good example of how many things can happen. For me it was an allergy I have. Some people, it was a bad fall or a [twisted] ankle. It’s normal, it’s part of ultrarunning, that you can train well and you can be ready the day of the race, but then many things happen. That’s the beauty of the sport.
iRunFar: You never know. Obviously, Xavier Thévenard is a champion and he’s strong enough. But to have somebody like Robert Hajnal who you don’t know…
Jornet: He was amazing. We can make a fan club for him. It was great to see him and people like Jordi Gamito–he has been there so many years and then a podium. It’s great.
iRunFar: I mean, you are a fan of the sport.
Jornet: Yeah, I love sports and especially mountain sports. Within running, it was actually a super-amazing race to follow.
iRunFar: You were following after you quit.
Jornet: Yeah, that was the good thing, that I did not run many kilometers, so you are fresh and you can follow and share. That’s cool, yeah.
iRunFar: Well, congratulations on a great season so far, Kilian. You had a great race today.
iRunFar: A bonus question for you, Kilian. You support iRunFar through Patreon.
Jornet: Yeah. I remember the first time we met, it was 2009 in Tahoe. You were pacing me [for the Tahoe Rim Trail supported FKT].
iRunFar: I was trying [laughs].
Jornet: You were pretty fast. What you have is a great thing to follow the sport. It’s great content, it’s a lot of content. It’s good articles. It’s not yellow or pink press, just good information. I think the sport of running needs that. I’m proud to be helping, yeah.
iRunFar: Thank you so much.