More Powerful than Superman?

Levon Biss for The New York Times

Levon Biss for The New York Times

There’s no-doubt you’ve heard of an ATV, an All-Terrain Vehicle. ATVs are designed to take on various types of land–hills, mud, fallen trees–and come away unscathed. Today you can read about the “All-Terrain Human,” Kilian Jornet.

This is an incredible story of what the body is capable of. Jornet is an ultra-marathoner racer, ski-mountaineering racer, and he’s now attempting to ascend and descend the world’s tallest peaks faster than any other person before him.

He has, literally, grown up running, playing and racing in the mountains, and it seems to have paid off. Many of his peers compare him more to a mountain goat than a human.

Take a few minutes and read his story. It’s remarkable!


Kilian Jornet Burgada is the most dominating endurance athlete of his generation. In just eight years, Jornet has won more than 80 races, claimed some 16 titles and set at least a dozen speed records, many of them in distances that would require the rest of us to purchase an airplane ticket. He has run across entire landmasses­ (Corsica) and mountain ranges (the Pyrenees), nearly without pause. He regularly runs all day eating only wild berries and drinking only from streams. On summer mornings he will set off from his apartment door at the foot of Mont Blanc and run nearly two and a half vertical miles up to Europe’s roof — over cracked glaciers, past Gore-Tex’d climbers, into the thin air at 15,781 feet — and back home again in less than seven hours, a trip that mountaineers can spend days to complete. A few years ago Jornet ran the 165-mile Tahoe Rim Trail and stopped just twice to sleep on the ground for a total of about 90 minutes. In the middle of the night he took a wrong turn, which added perhaps six miles to his run. He still finished in 38 hours 32 minutes, beating the record of Tim Twietmeyer, a legend in the world of ultrarunning, by more than seven hours. When he reached the finish line, he looked as if he’d just won the local turkey trot.

Jornet “is not normal,” his mother says. “My mission is to make Kilian tired. Always, I was tired, but Kilian, no.”

Come winter, when most elite ultrarunners keep running, Jornet puts away his trail-running shoes for six months and takes up ski-mountaineering racing, which basically amounts to running up and around large mountains on alpine skis. In this sport too, Jornet reigns supreme: he has been the overall World Cup champion three of the last four winters.

So what’s next when you’re 25 and every one of the races on the wish list you drew up as a youngster has been won and crossed out? You dream up a new challenge.


QUESTION: What was your main takeaway from reading this story?