Book Review: Run or Die

I have major “reader ADD.” I have a huge stack of books sitting on my bed stand waiting to be cracked open for the first time or partially read and just waiting to be loved again. I will start a book and then hear about a better book and read that all while my “to read” books pile up. I’ve made a good dent in my pile this summer (ok, maybe only in the past couple of weeks) and then I go to the book store or Amazon and buy more books. I think I seriously have a problem!

Source: Amazon

Source: Amazon

Anyway, while browsing some of my favorite blogs I found a book review on Kilian Jornet’s Run or Die book that caught my attention. I quickly added the book to my ever-growing “to read” list I keep in my purse, even though I had no idea who the heck Kilian Jornet was. I just knew he was an ultra-runner from Spain who is only 25 years old. Interesting. Last week I had some time to kill before meeting up with a friend so I went to Books-A-Million. I like Books-A-Million, but can I say that I totally miss Borders?! My first stop in any bookstore is always the sports and fitness section to see what the store has on triathlon and exercise physiology books. And then I head over to the science section. Yes, I’m a proud science nerd! Surprisingly, BAM had Jornet’s Book so I picked it up.

I finished the book in a couple of days. It’s short (less than 200 pages) and is a quick and fast read. The book was originally written in Spanish and then translated into English, which at times makes the writing a like awkward at times. Now, who is Kilian Jornet you may ask. Good question! He is a 25-year-old world champion ultrarunner and ski mountaineer who grew up in the Catalan Pyrenees. He began his skiing, running, and mountaineering career at a very young age. By age 5 he had completed the ascent of Aneto, the Pyrenees’ highest peak with his family. Now, that is pretty awesome if you ask me!

He has won the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc, a 168K trail race around Mont-Blanc with over 9600 meters of climbing that must be completed under 46 hours. He has won this three times. He also won the 2011 Western States 100 in California. He has also set the speed record on Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest peak and my number one bucket list item! I’m a bit jealous!

As you can see the kid is pretty spectacular and an amazing athlete. With that part set aside, what I really enjoyed about his book is his maturity and worldly view of his life and what he does. His descriptions of the scenery he sees on his runs and his feelings are very real and keeps you turning the page for more. Through his story you can tell that some of his biggest life lessons have come from running. Clearly this kid is very well-disciplined. Heck, he goes out a runs for 5+ hours for fun!

One section in the book was about Alba, a girl he met on a bus back to his hometown who he fell in love with. From his writing and her mention in the book you can tell that she profound effect on his life. One of my favorite quotes of the book comes from his questioning himself as a person after he and Alba break-up: “It motivated me to find strength and inspiration from those around me, because the winner isn’t the strongest, but rather the one who truly enjoys what he is doing” (page 124).

Chapter 9 entitled “what I think about when I think about running” is the chapter that really hit home for me. As a long-course triathlete it is often hard for my friends and family to understand why I think swimming, biking, and running hours on end each day is fun. Kilian hits home exactly my stance on the issue:

“When thoughts sail through my head and can find no way out, I always go for a run to free up my mind. I find that then I can see everything more clearly, and that my problems are put into perspective. Running is the best way for me to disconnect from routine and to find the solutions to my problems, which I struggle to see even though they are often staring me right in the face” (page 173).

I tend to solve all my problems while I’m either running or biking. I often train alone because I need that time to sort out life’s problems. I have solved many of the world’s problems in my head while running, now just to make them tangible… 

In a nutshell, I recommend this book. It’s a quick and fun read. Kilian is very wise and mature for his young age. He has done some truly remarkable things thus far and I’m sure he is on the path for more greatest in the sports of running and skiing. And perhaps he’ll let me crew for him when he makes a speed attempt on Mount Aconcagua!

~ Happy Training!

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