After a five-year hiatus, Kilian Jornet returned to the Hardrock 100 and ran the fastest time in race history – 21:36:24. In the following interview, Kilian talks about how going through the ups and downs is a key part of ultrarunning, how it was fun to have a long ultra decided by acceleration rather than fading, how recovering between races is important, and how the human moments of running are everything.
To see how the whole race unfolded, check out our 2022 Hardrock 100 results article.
Kilian Jornet, 2022 Hardrock 100 Champion, Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here with Kilian Jornet after his record-breaking win at the 2022 Hardrock 100. How are you?
Kilian Jornet: Feeling good. Like, got some sleep and some food so yeah, pretty much better than yesterday.
iRunFar: Understandably and you said no major problems or injuries?
Jornet: Yeah, I think yeah, sometimes you feel like small problems start to happen in the race and this pain just grows. So, no blisters, no, legs are sore but like not any specific thing, so that’s good for the recovery, yeah.
iRunFar: Today 30 or 40 kilometers?
Jornet: [laughs] No, no, no, I will take it easy. As I said, like after Hardrock, till the next race, just like a lot of recovery and some hard sessions but yeah, mostly recovery.
iRunFar: Not volume, no 200-kilometer weeks.
Jornet: Not at all.
iRunFar: Good. You are a little human after all.
Jornet: Yeah, yeah. No, no, volume is not like after the race, I don’t think.
iRunFar: Yeah. For you like is that, how much recovery? How important is that to you?
Jornet: I think it’s key. Like I mean, we often like, training without recovery, it’s meaningless. Like adaptation comes with both of it. So, we need recovery in that. It depends. Sometimes it takes longer, sometimes it takes shorter, so you just need to kind of listen to the body to see when you can start training again. It’s not like, it’s just like to buy tickets for injuries or like overtraining or whatever.
iRunFar: And is it for you also important mentally to have some downtime during the big season?
Jornet: Yeah, I think especially like to get out and just like be in your kind of place, environment, just to not think about like racing or like that, just like to enjoy time. That’s important. Yeah.
iRunFar: Because you enjoy other pursuits in the mountains. So, some days maybe you’d be out longer, but also more climbing and scrambling.
Jornet: Yeah, just climbing. It’s good because you are moving very, very slow. But so, you are not like pushing the muscles or the cardiovascular system, but you’re just having a nice time and just enjoying the sun.
iRunFar: Well, this weekend you had a good, good weekend. You got to run with François D’Haene and Dakota Jones for a long time. Did it feel relaxed for most of the first half of the race or were there times where you struggled at all?
Jornet It was first very, very cool to like… François and Dakota, they are good friends and they are amazing people. Like François, like he’s like the GOAT [greatest of all time] of ultrarunning and it’s very, like it’s an honor to run with him all the time. And Dakota is a good friend. He’s a, he’s an incredible person and I’m also super happy for him to do the race and to finish that well, like, because he had to show what he’s capable of. So, it was super nice to be with them and just chatting and just, yeah. Just having a good time. Like conditions were good. Like we were enjoying the landscapes and mostly it was feeling like pretty, like kind of easy running but with the distance it gets like harder. But most, except like from Ouray to Engineers when I was feeling bad, all the rest it felt much more under control, you are just like having a long, long run.
iRunFar: Do you know, do you have any ideas on what caused you to feel bad or is it just normal to have time like that in a long race?
Jornet: Yeah, it’s always up and downs but I think there I felt like most, like some cramps and then like also some stomach issues. So, I have like two theories. One is like altitude that I’m not used, I haven’t acclimatized before the race, but then I was feeling good at the end in the altitude. So could be that or the other is like I was sick last week. And during the race like on the last day I still felt like I had a lot of mucus in there, the lung. So maybe that was also affecting a bit. So well yeah, but…
iRunFar: Sometimes it just happens.
Jornet: Yeah, sometimes it happens. Like, ultrarunning is like you go up and down and just you go through all these kind of moments.
iRunFar: Yeah. With all your experience now, is it important to know that you can have the downs and you can still come out?
Jornet: Yeah, and that’s, if you expect to be always high like that never happens. So, you need to go through all that and know that yeah, just to keep fighting and to understand what you can do. If you can slow a bit down to make it better, but to see that, yeah, ultrarunning is about handling like bad moments. Yeah.
iRunFar: Were you surprised at all when Dakota took off like he did or when you heard the time difference at Engineer or Animas?
Jornet: Well, when we crossed the road and started to climb to Engineer like, there I was with Dakota and he just keep running. I was like, when is he going to start hiking? And he was just, keep running, keep running. He was like, okay, he’s like, he’s just like going for it and it was incredible. Like, he was so quick. And it was just impressive to see him. And I thought like, “We’ll never see him again.”
Jornet: And yeah, he put us like 30 minutes in Engineer and that’s, yeah, that was amazing. Yeah.
iRunFar: That’s more than two, more than two minutes a mile.
Jornet: Yeah, no, it was just like, yeah, you think okay, it’s there in the race. It’s a lot of race to go but like, how fresh he was looking was like wow. Like, that’s like just…
iRunFar: And then you caught him at Burrows after Handies Peak.
Jornet: Yeah, in the uphill to Handies we can see that we were like catching him a lot. And then in the downhill. Yeah, and then he, I was surprised because when we passed him, then like he was losing a lot of time very quick. But then he kind of recovered well, because he finished not that far. And he had a good finish. So yeah, I think he had to, he paid a bit for the Engineer climb but after that, like he could recover well.
iRunFar: During the stretch after Handies when you and François are together in the lead, are you two at all talking or are you just the whole time just running, running, running?
Jornet: Yeah, there it was also like Rickey Gates that joined François as a pacer and then we were chatting a bit. But like, you chat a lot in the first like half of the race, then like you don’t have a lot of energy to chat. So, it was more like shorter, like just like, “Oh, look there.” Like, “Oh, nice moon.” But not, like it was not deep conversations. So, we want to mostly like yeah, having fun, enjoying, and also like pushing. Like it’s, even if you are kind of fresh like it’s still like a lot of miles on your legs, and it was just like okay, get the kilometers done.
iRunFar: Before the race I was talking to François and he says sometimes in these long races, the leaders or another person, you’re running together, and sometimes you talk about “Oh, I’m not feeling …” like personal talk. You know, “I’m feeling good.” Or somebody saying, “I’m not, I’m going to drop back. Good luck.” It seems like in this race it was a little more just, there was a moment when maybe you too started …
iRunFar: Pushing. Yes. Yeah. It was not a conversation.
Jornet: No. It was fun, because it was like, actually François also felt bad on the Ouray to Engineer.
Jornet: So, we were talking like, I felt bad at that moment and he said yeah, I was feeling bad on that and now we are feeling good again. But then it was more. It was so cool to race 100 miles. Like a short distance, like normally as you mentioned, like, people start to fade down or like to, it’s not really like accelerations but it’s more like people falling onto their base. Here like it was okay, we are going at a good pace together. And that is like, okay, who’s going to make a move or attack. It was not really like that. It was not just like okay, keep climbing fast, and then me or François is dropping down. But it was like, okay, no, now I attack so I started accelerating.
iRunFar: Who and when? Who made the attack and where?
Jornet: So first it was the, just the last maybe one mile to Cunningham in the downhill. And then I started to accelerate a bit. So actually François, then I saw François was also like…
iRunFar: Putting the gas?
Jornet: Putting the gas to follow me fast down. And then like, exiting Cunningham aid station like then it was like kind of knife on the mouth.
iRunFar: I love that expression.
Jornet: It was just putting the gas and just like going for it. And then it was like, we start climbing and François dropped Rickey Gates and I dropped a bit my pacer in this climb, and then she caught me, but we were just giving everything in that climb. Like climbing fast. That’s fun, but I think that means that we were doing a good race because we were able to really change a gear at mile 90. So it was, it means that we did that with a good strategy.
iRunFar: Do you, again, you’ve raced so many times and had great results. Do you enjoy that moment where you’re like, “Oh, wow, I’m 90% through my race and I can still have another gear.”
Jornet: Yeah, that’s amazing. That’s what we train for, to be able to race well. And race well it means that if you are able to push at the end of the race, it means that the training has been good. Your race strategy has been good. So, it’s fun. Like, I love to come here for the like, the ambience and the people and to see the Aspen, but when you are in a competition like especially like, we have enjoyed like 90 miles of super fun, like just enjoying everything. Then it’s like okay, let’s race and you know, let’s compete. That was fun just to like, be able to get to push and to fight.
iRunFar: Yeah, so at the top of that climb, Little Giant. I don’t know if you were looking back, you have a sense of how far back he is, how far back was François?
Jornet: He was about one minute at that point. So, with him one minute but that’s very close and still like one long downhill and all the flat to town. So I was thinking, “Okay, like now it’s a race to the, to the line, like to the rock.” So needed to really, I didn’t know how far he was because then he’s in the forest. So I was just pushing everything to the finish line. Yeah.
iRunFar: And does that feel, yeah, that had to feel amazing.
Jornet: Yeah, it felt it was like well, like the legs are sore and everything but, but to be running and to be running fast and like it’s a, it’s a great feeling. Like I mean, like as an athlete, I think to, to be able to finish races well, it’s, it’s a good feeling.
iRunFar: Do you think that translates to everybody who’s racing?
Jornet: Yeah, yes.
iRunFar: Whether you’re 21 hours or 41.
Jornet: Yeah, you can be like fighting for the victory, or fighting for 24, fighting for like 30, or for finishing and you see the guys like finishing just when we were here. It was today one guy finished at 2.5 minutes to 48 hours. This last spring like that’s, that’s what we are looking for also, like to achieve our goals. And that’s it doesn’t matter what this goal is but to dream about it, to train about it and to make it, that’s why we are here. Yeah.
iRunFar: And where will you make some magic next?
Jornet: Well, not magic but like, like now, yeah. Try to rest a lot. In four weeks is Sierre-Zinal, which is a very different race, short. So, I will see how that goes. And then like, like one week after Sierre-Zinal is UTMB. So, then it’s yeah, we’ll see. Like, I’m happy like this year. The fitness is good and training has been going well. But yeah, need a lot of recovery.
iRunFar: Have you talked to François about that at all, the Hardrock/UTMB double?
Jornet: Yeah, yeah. I talked with him and last time I raced here 2017 I also did like both.
iRunFar: Oh yeah, the same.
Jornet: So Hardrock, Sierre-Zinal, UTMB. I think all it depends how well recovered you are after here. Like if you are able to recover well like in two weeks feeling fresh again, then it’s, then it’s okay. I think it’s more if you keep the tiredness of, of like Hardrock and thing is, the problem if you start to train too quick then it’s, yeah, I think that’s the problem. So like, we’ll see how the recovery goes and then yeah. Mostly it’s Sierre-Zinal, need to build the speed for that. So that’s kind of now the biggest goal and then with UTMB, I will see how I arrived like after Sierre-Zinal, but I think the volume is, it’s okay. And then just how I can recover from Sierre-Zinal.
iRunFar: After four big races in a fairly short time, you just have to see what your body thinks.
Jornet: Yeah, exactly.
iRunFar: Well, congratulations on a great run and a great course record.
Jornet: Thank you very much, and congrats for the live coverage. It’s always a pleasure to follow it.
iRunFar: Thank you. Take care.
iRunFar: So Kilian, a bonus question for you. We were at Animas Forks and you go through the aid station, you’re about to leave, and you give Beth Jones a fist bump. Her son just put 12 minutes on you. And it just, to me it felt like one of those moments that makes ultrarunning so amazing. What is, what are those human moments like for you in trail racing?
Jornet: Yeah, it’s everything. Like I mean, why do we race if it’s not like, emotionally if it’s not like some kind of, yeah, is that. I was so happy for Dakota, too. Like I thought that he was going and that he was like, winning. And I felt so happy for that. And then it’s just like, I think that’s, that’s cool. Like you’re doing your race, but you’re like sharing with the people and seeing like, it’s about celebration. And it’s about celebration of, first that we are able to be here, to be able to run on the mountains that means that we are healthy, that we are all that. So that’s one thing is celebrating with the others. Like you are happy for your race, and you’re happy for the race of the others. And yeah, I think it’s a race, and then it’s a celebration of somebody. The love of mountains and the love of the community, and that should be shown. If you are just focusing on like, the strategy and your race that you’re missing a big part of what this is.
iRunFar: And it’s not congratulating your friend or another runner at the finish line, it’s out there in the middle of nowhere. No one else sees this.
Jornet: No but like it’s yeah, it’s…
iRunFar: It’s a celebration.
Jornet: It’s a celebration. Yeah.
iRunFar: And fun.
Jornet: Yeah, and it’s fun. We race for fun and then like, of course you might be a bit happier if you win but it’s just having fun. Trying to race and to enjoy the thing, like the landscape, or the trail, or the fight, or the conversations, and seeing people. I think it’s that.
iRunFar: Did you have any other moments like that during the race this year?
Jornet: Yes. Like it’s been like five years since I was in the U.S. and I saw so many friends out there. Like it was like, “Oh, how are you?” Like very quick chat because you don’t want to spend like 15 minutes, but just to have this kind of chit-chat. Then like seeing like yeah, seeing that people like drawing in the Kroger’s Canteen, like Joe Grant has made this drawing, like, talking with them. And just like, yeah, it’s a lot like during a race like that. Yeah, you meet so many good friends and good people. And you want to, you want to stay there for long talks but yeah, unfortunately, yeah, you want to run, too.
iRunFar: Awesome. Thank you for sharing.