Trail Runner Nation Talks with Kilian Jornet on Family Life, the Pressures of Trail Racing, Risk in the Mountains, and More

Kilian Jornet running up a mountain.

This Friday, Trail Runner Nation will be feeding a special edition of our podcast– an hour-long interview with trail running legend, Kilian Jornet.

Jornet, 33, is one of our generation’s greatest athletes. A six-time Skyrunner World Series champion, he has stood atop the podium at trail races around the world, most notably the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc, Western States Endurance Run, and Hardrock Hundred Mile Run. He has set the fastest known times on mountain peaks from the Matterhorn to Mont Blanc, and holds numerous ski mountaineering records. With his partner Emelie Forsberg, also one of the world’s top mountain runners, he has two daughters. The couple live in Åndalsnes, Norway on a farm with sixteen sheep, and a labradoodle, Maui.

Kilian Jornet running up a mountain.
Jornet training above his home in Norway. (Photo: Kilian Jornet)

The episode provides a unique look into Jornet’s life. A lot has happened for Jornet in the past few years. In 2015, he moved from Chamonix, France to the mountains of Norway, where he and Emelie purchased their new home. Jornet also recently started an environmental foundation, which encourages environmental awareness in alpine areas and funds a variety of on-the-ground projects.

His appearance on Trail Runner Nation came about thanks to guest host Anna Frost, a longtime friend and fellow elite trail runner. According to Frost, the two met a number of years ago, when she says, “Trail running was still just a passion project for both of us. We were traveling a lot, racing hard and playing hard.” Jornet, says Frost, “is one of the most humble and kindest people I know. He is happy to share his passion for trail running with people around the world.” Jornet isn’t a unidimensional athlete, however. “He’s passionate about our environment, bringing up his family and teaching future generations about how to keep our planet safe.”

Kilian Jornet running through a crowd.
Jornet after a record-setting run on England’s storied Bob Graham Round. (Photo: Mick Kenyon/Running Snakes.)

The episode is co-hosted by Frost’s friend, ultrarunner and coach Stephanie Howe, from San Francisco’s Bay Area. Howe, who has a PhD in Nutrition and Exercise Physiology, writes and speaks about sports and nutrition. “I think what I found the most intriguing about our conversation is just how real a person Kilian is,” says Howe. “We think of him as this amazing trail runner– and he has some very impressive results– but he is also a human being. It’s not really the case that he eats, breathes, and sleeps trail running. He has a family. He cares about the environment. He does things more than just be a trail runner.” After the conversation, Howe says, “I just look up to him even more. When you see the layers of depth and just how humble he is, you realize he is just such a great human.”

Kilian Jornet arrives at the finish line of Spain's Zegama trail race.
Jornet winning Spain’s Zegama trail race. (Photo: Javi Colmenero.)

The show provides a rare look into Jornet’s life. Frost and Howe covered a wide range of personal topics with Jornet. Excerpts include:

On running’s place in his life:
I’m just a guy that runs. I run because it’s fun, and that’s all… Many times, we think sport is very important, but we need to put it in context. It’s something so small. It’s not to be humble, it’s being realistic. I love it and it’s my passion. When I do my workouts, of course, I’m 100% in.

Kilian and Emily at home.
Kilian and Emelie at home in Norway. (Photo courtesy of Limbus Agency.)

On finding a life balance:
I’m someone that needs a lot of solitude. I’m a big introvert. To be [in races] all the time… it was very fun– but it took a lot of energy. I needed to deal with [the] anxiety for a few years until I found a good balance… Moving to Norway was a big part of finding that balance. [I am just trying to] keep the joy of racing and competing. Mountains feel like home to me. When I am in a city, I feel like a stranger… I can spend time there, but I use so much energy. It’s not sustainable for me. When I am in the mountains, I feel at home… I feel I am in my place.

Kilian Jornet near the summit of Mount Everest
Jornet on Everest. (Photo: Seb Montaz/ Summits of My Life.)

On mixing children and mountain adventures:
It hasn’t changed my approach. I think that’s because I try to be very rational. [In the mountains,] I turn around maybe 50 or 60 percent of the time. But it has changed in other things. I used to do a lot of crazy stuff. When I raced Hardrock the last time, I dislocated my shoulder. I flew the next day to Barcelona, then I left the airport and drove to Norway. It was like 35 hours without sleeping. Now, I feel this kind of risk is unacceptable…. But in the mountains, I feel like I’m in a zone where I feel comfortable and don’t feel any stress. It’s been part of me for a long time. I think that’s because I am always analyzing the risk.

Kilan, their dog Maui, and Emilie at home in Norway.
Emelie, Kilian– and their Labradoodle, Maui. (Photo courtesy of Limbus Agency.)

On the life changes that come with having kids:
Logistics have changed a lot. You need to plan. We need to be more efficient. If you plan well, there is time to do everything. It’s challenging. My favorite thing about my daughters is just to look at them. I learn patience and love from them, every day. It’s just beautiful to see them growing, and to get surprised about what they do… I’m more than proud. I think I’m just in love.

What’s next for Jornet? He listed two specific projects that may surprise many listeners. For those answers, and a full hour with Kilian, Anna and Stephanie, tune in!

Trail Runner Nation’s special episode with Kilian Jornet will be published Friday, August 20, and is supported by Trail Runner Nation partners UCAN, Path Projects and XOSKIN.

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