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Barkley Marathons: UTMB great Kilian Jornet on the intriguing prospect of Frozen Head

Stuart Dick
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Summiting Everest, winning Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc (UTMB) on a record four occasions, and claiming victory at Sierre-Zinal on nine occasions. These are just a few of the accomplishments on Kilian Jornet’s legendary resumé.

The 35-year-old Spaniard, who will unfortunately miss out on this year’s UTMB World Series Finals through injury, has admitted he learned a long time ago to ‘never say no’ to a challenge and that he could be interested in taking on the mythical Barkley Marathons in the future.

The Barkley Marathons, devised by Gary ‘Lazuras Lake’ Cantrell, is one of the hardest races on the planet with just 17 individuals able to complete the 100-mile course since its inception in 1986.

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‘Very intriguing’

Speaking on the Crossed Paths by UTMB Podcast with amateur French runner Julien Loisy, Jornet discussed a number of topics including the prospect of visiting the Frozen Head State Park.

I learned some time ago to never say no.

Kilian Jornet on Crossed Paths by UTMB Podcast

“It’s something very intriguing,” admitted Jornet after Loisy brought up a potential entry to the race. “It doesn’t look nice at all, like the place is not very inspiring like it’s not ‘wow, the beautiful mountain’.

“You’re in the middle of a forest, in kind of a silly place.

Kilian Jornet at the 2017 Hardrock 100
Kilian Jornet at the 2017 Hardrock 100 [Photo credit: Salomon Running / Jordi Saragossa]

“I know a few of the runners like Jared [Campbell – three-time finisher] that has been finishing many times.

“It’s something very intriguing. I learned some time ago to never say no, so it’s probably that yeah.” 

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‘I knew I was hallucinating’

Many who have experienced the thrill on Barkley Marathons attempt are well-versed to the potential dangers. Sleep Deprivation, navigational errors and hallucinations are all par for the course.

Jornet states, as part of his mountain climbing experience, he has previously seen things that aren’t there. That could inadvertently help prepare him for the challenge of the Barkley.

“I have had hallucinations, but I have always been liking knowing it was a hallucination – not really running in races but climbing. There were some people, but I knew it was not people. 

Lazarus Lake day 2 Barkley Marathons 2023 photo credit: Davidmillerphotography_ on Instagram
[Photo credit: Davidmillerphotography_ on Instagram]

“I felt like a needed to take this guy down the mountain because he was feeling bad, but I was very aware that was just my mind making it, but I was still thinking ‘come on guy, why are you going so slow’.

The Spaniard also described the challenge of competing in an event that is run over ‘two or three nights’ as ‘fun’. “you get into like a mental state, it’s very interesting,” he concluded.

The full podcast – Cross Paths by UTMB Episode 5: Kilian Jornet and Julen Loisy is available on Spotify.

Stuart Dick
Written by
Stuart Dick
Stuart is a graduate of the University of Sunderland with a masters' degree in Sports Journalism. He spends a lot of his time running and cycling around West Yorkshire, England.

THE SBRX Show

In episode 1 of our new SBRX Show we sit down with ultra runners and coaches Kim and Jayson Cavill to get their take on the Barkley Marathons and triathlon & trail running gear reviews, training tips and more

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