Kilian Jornet (or Kílian Jornet Burgada, in his native Catalan) is a 33-year-old Catalan mountain climber, ultrarunner, ski mountaineer, and self-proclaimed ‘lover of mountains’.
And he is arguably the most famous, prolific, and dominant mountain athlete of all time.
He has won pretty much every major ultrarunning race, smashed numerous endurance records, and pushed at the limits of what anyone thought was possible in the mountains.
This article will take an in-depth look into who Kilian Jornet is, how he does what he does, and why he does it.
Kilian Jornet: Killer Stats
For the stat-heads among us, here is a breakdown of Jornet’s physical statistics:
Maximum Heart Rate: 205
Resting Heart Rate: 34
VO2 Max: 92ml/min/kg
Body Fat Percentage: 8%
Lung Capacity: 5.3 Litres
Average Hours of Sleep Per Night: 8 Hours
What running records does Kilian Jornet have?
Kilian Jornet’s Fastest Known Times
Kilian Jornet holds an impressive record of Fastest Known Times, or FKT’s.
2018 – Bob Graham Round (12h53′)
2014- Aconcagua (12h49′)
2014- Denali (11h48′)
2013- Cervino (2h52’)
2013- Mont Blanc (4h57’)
2012– Courmayeur-Chamonix through Innominata (8h42’)
2011 – Ascent and descent Mont Olimp (5h19’)
2010 – Kilimanjaro (5h22)
2010 – Transpirenaica (8 days)
2009 – Tahoe Rim Trail (38h32’)
2009 – GR 20- Corcega (32h54’)
Kilian Jornet’s Trail Running Achievements
Kilian Jornet’s Championships Wins
- 2019 – Golden Trail Series Champion
- 2007, 2008, 2009, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2018 – Skyrunning World Cup Champion
- 2012, 2013, 2014 – Ultra Running World Cup Champion
- 2014 – Vertical Kilometer World Champion
- 2014 – Skyrunning and Vertical KM World Champion
- 2008, 2011, 2013 – Skyrunning, Ultra and Vertical Kilometer European Champion
Kilian Jornet’s Important Race Wins
- 4x – Winner -Hardrock 100
- 9x – Winner -Zegama Aizkorri
- 6x – Winner -Sierre Zinal
- 4x – Winner -Trofeo Kima
- 3x – Winner -Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc
- 2x – Winner and record holder – Ultra Pirineu
- 3x – Winner -Fully Vertical Kilometer
What was Kilian Jornet’s childhood like?
Kilian Jornet started training when he was just three!
He grew up in the Pyrenees mountains in Catalunya with his sister Naila Jornet Brugada, and his parents.
In an interview with Runners World, Jornet remarked, “I had a normal childhood, just that my playground was the forest and mountains instead of the streets”.
His father was a mountain guide and hut keeper, and Kilian Jornet grew up in the mountain hut where his father worked.
The family would spend weekends and holidays trekking and summiting local mountains.
By the age of three, Jornet had climbed up a 3,011-metre mountain, Tuc de Molières.
At age five, Jornet climbed the highest mountain in the Pyrenees- Aneto (3,404 metres).
At six years old, Kilian Jornet climbed his first four-thousander, Breithorn (4,164 metres) in the Italian/Swiss Alps.
When he was ten years old, Kilian, his sister, and his parents hiked for 42 days across the Pyrenees.
By the time he was twelve, Jornet had begun his ski mountaineering career, and by age sixteen he had joined the Spanish national ski mountaineering team.
He says that the most important lesson that his parents taught him and his sister growing up was – “to be conscious that we’re a part of nature, to understand how it works and respect it.”.
What are Kilian Jornet’s views on winning?
Kilian Jornet has a very measured view on winning and success.
In his book Run or Die, Jornet writes,
“Winning isn’t about finishing in first place. It isn’t about beating the others. It is about overcoming yourself. Overcoming your body, your limitations, and your fears. Winning means surpassing yourself and turning your dreams into reality.”
For Jornet, you can be a winner in any position. He says,
“In one race I can finish first, and because it was not a competition or I wasn’t happy about my race, not feel like a winner and see after 20 hours someone reaching the finish line in 1,299th position and see he is crying of happiness to finish. This is a winner.”
Is Kilian Jornet limitless?
For Jornet, the bar for overcoming his limitations and fears is much higher than for most.
After years of bagging the winning position at the world’s most prestigious races, he came to the realisation that he had completed all of his race goals.
So, to find new ways to push himself, he started to create his own challenges.
Combining running, skiing, and climbing, Kilian Jornet began a personal project, beginning in 2010, to set the fastest known times for ascending seven of the world’s most famous mountains. He called the challenge ‘Summits of my Life‘.
The project included; Kilimanjaro, Mont Blanc, Matterhorn, Denali, Aconcagua, Elbrus, and Mount Everest.
Upon finishing his first ascent of Everest, and unhappy with his time of 26 hours, he found the idea of resting and recovering boring;
He then went on to run up the world’s highest mountain once more, this time in 17 hours.
Later on, in 2020, Kilian Jornet turned his back on the mountains and attempted to beat the 24-hour world record. Unfortunately, he had to drop out after 10 hours after experiencing chest pains and dizziness.
Safe to say, the man is not utterly limitless. What is inspiring about him though is his drive to push at the fringes of his limits.
One of the principles which Kilian Jornet followed during his Summits Of My Life challenge was this;
“We will follow the instinct that takes us toward the unknown.”
What does Kilian Jornet eat?
Eating and drinking properly play a massive part in an ultrarunner’s success, and Kilian Jornet is no stranger to fuelling faux pas.
During his 2010 attempt at the Western States 100 mile race, Jornet became severely dehydrated, and ended up slowing to finish in third place (still incredible, but not his usual superhuman first place position).
In a 2011 interview with Salomon, Kilian Jornet remarked, “my diet mainly consists of pizza and Nutella”.
Since then, Jornet has changed his ways.
He now opts for a carb-heavy plant-based diet centred around whole foods.
In an interview with GQ he revealed that his diet consists mainly of pasta, potatoes, bread, and a wide variety of vegetables.
His philosophy surrounding food is simple- he eats when he’s hungry, drinks when he’s thirsty, and doesn’t overthink it.
How much does Kilian Jornet sleep at night?
On his website, Jornet lists that he gets eight hours of sleep a night. He has often spoken in interviews about the importance of getting a good amount of sleep to recover well.
However, the athlete has grown very familiar with the feeling of sleep deprivation. In a 2020 Facebook post, Jornet writes about undergoing sleep deprivation training.
The endurance monster writes about how he goes out and runs a long run on extremely little sleep to conduct a ‘lucidity test’.
He writes about the importance of doing this sort of training in a ‘safe environment’ so that “when you pass out someone can find you in a short amount of time”!
How much does Kilian Jornet train?
Kilian Jornet seems to be in a league of his own. He does not have a running coach or a prescriptive training plan.
Instead, the mountain man prefers to train in accordance with how he feels- and he usually feels like training a lot.
As in seven days a week, often twice a day.
For Jornet, training in itself is the goal, not something that must be done to achieve a goal.
Kilian Jornet is a mountain runner through and through. This translates to the way in which he tracks his training. Instead of looking at his training in terms of miles or kilometres, Kilian measures it in terms of elevation gain.
During the year, Kilian Jornet can log some 1,000 hours and some 550,000 meters of elevation gain.
How does Kilian Jornet divide his training seasons?
For Jornet there are two seasons; the ski season, and the trail running season.
From November to May Kilian Jornet skis.
The winter season is divided into two parts; the skiing pre-season from November to December, and the season itself runs from January to May.
During the pre-season, Jornet trains between 20-30 hours a week on the slopes.
During the season, Jornet takes part in between 20-25 races. He counterbalances the races with high volume training and periods of recovery, meaning that his weekly activity can range from 10-30 hours.
He covers 300,000 meters of elevation gain and 500 hours of training during the skiing season.
From May to October, Kilian Jornet runs.
He trains between 20-35 hours a week, typically training twice a day.
He spends 80% of the seasons training running, and 20% on cycling on his road bike.
He covers 250,000 meters of elevation gain and 500 hours of training ruing the running season.
How does Kilian Jornet Recover?
He says that there are no secrets to recovery.
Massages, stretching, eating, and drinking.
Kilian Jornet remarks that recovery DOES get easier.
After running his first ultramarathon it took him three weeks to recover, from his second, one week, and from his third only two days!
What books has Kilian Jornet written?
Kilian Jornet has written five books during his career:
- Run or Die (2011)
- The Invisible Frontier (2013)
- Summits of my Life. Dreams and Challenges in the Mountain (2017)
- Nothing is Impossible (2018)
- Above the Clouds: How I Carved My Own Path to the Top of the World (2020)