With two local signature cycling and running events behind us and the Olympics ahead, there is reason to reflect upon the nature of people and sport. The Iron Horse Bicycle Classic celebrated its 44th year in May, and the 23rd “Wild & Tough” Hardrock Endurance Run wrapped up last weekend. Both historic events, whose courses wind 50 and 100 miles, respectively, through the San Juan Mountains, are dominated by pure grit and muscle, produce superb acts of athleticism, an unbridled community spirit and the mettle of the old hard rock miners. To paraphrase Wallace Stegner, they create “a society to match the scenery.” We could use more of this.
The sportsmanship displayed in this year’s Hardrock by Kilian Jornet, the men’s first place co-finisher, is a reflection of the man and the mountains that inspire him and a lesson to all. Sportsmanship captures the ethos with which Jornet ran and finished the race. He was a co-finisher because after running for almost 23 hours alongside Durango runner Jason Schlarb, Jornet could have sprinted to the finish to win, but instead chose to finish together with Schlarb running hand-in-hand to kiss the finishers’ rock.
Jornet had already set the record for running the course in both directions, but the glory of winning is not what motivates him. He loves the land and people – runners, pacers, crew members, aid station volunteers, and race directors – and the act of sharing the experience with others. In his personal sportsmanship, Jornet emulates some of the values of the race – honesty, integrity and professionalism – and a sense of fellowship. These traits are also shared by Anna Frost, the women’s champion for the second consecutive time, who was wearing running shoes that said “run happy, be kind.” These athletes have something to teach us about hard work, winning and losing, humility and respect, especially now.
A shared sense of suffering can also bring out the best in people. Anyone that has participated in these events knows the courage and determination they require. True sportsmanship is a model for our times.
This story has been corrected to reflect that this year’s Hardrock 100 event was the 23rd year and to fix the spelling of Kilian Jornet’s name as well as the event name.