Kilian Jornet can now call himself a true Hardrocker.
One year after winning his first Hardrock Hundred Endurance Run in record-setting fashion, Jornet repeated his performance, but this time running the 100-mile race in the opposite direction. After his 2014 win, Jornet said he needed to return to the race and finish it the counterclockwise direction in order to be a “true Hardrocker.”
He ran the counterclockwise course in 23 hours, 28 minutes, 10 seconds to claim first place and break the former counterclockwise course record of 24:25:50 set by France’s Sebastien Chaigneau in 2013. It gave Jornet the course record in both directions, with a 22:41:35 clockwise effort in last year’s ultramarathon.
Jornet, 27, dreamed for years about running in the Hardrock 100 before his 2014 start. As a young man in Spain and while growing into a world-class athlete, he made a list of races he wanted to complete. The Hardrock 100 was the last race he needed on that list.
After solidifying his place among Hardrock legends, Jornet said the record times and the two victories didn’t mean as much to him as the atmosphere and camaraderie shared amongst Hardrock athletes and volunteers.
“The records, it means nothing,” he said shortly after kissing the rock at the finish line before 6 a.m. while the sun still slept. “To be here, be part of the race, it is what’s important.”
Jornet left his competition far behind by Friday afternoon, and his lead continued to grow as he ran throughout the night on the course that took athletes from Silverton to Lake City, Ouray, Telluride and back to Silverton.
He climbed 33,992 feet and descended that same amount, once again showing his ability to conquer high altitude in a race that averages 11,017 feet of elevation.
Canada’s Adam Campbell, who took third in 26:49:22, ran with Jornet for the first 34 miles before Jornet’s pace became too strong for him to sustain.
“It’s a huge honor to say you ran with the world’s best mountain runner for that long,” the 36-year-old Campbell said. “I find it amazing to see what the human body can do, and he’s showing us what the limits are. He inspired me to go achieve what I was doing on the course, and I paid for doing it with him as long as I did. But it’s fun to share some trail time with him and learn from him.”
After reaching the summit of 14,048-foot Handies Peak, Jornet began to break away from the pack. He took a lead of 9 minutes, 7 seconds on Campbell by Grouse Gulch at 42.1 miles, and, after waiting 5 minutes to see if Campbell would arrive, Jornet continued his journey with no competitors in sight.
When he took off, he was on pace for the course record.
Jornet continued a strong pace, though he said he didn’t really pick up his pace until after reaching Telluride more than 70 miles into the race. He took a small swig of tequila – as this “true Hardrocker” is wont to do – offered at the Kroger’s Canteen aid station at mile 67.7, but he resisted a full helping.
“I just put the lips in. I was a bit tired in this moment,” Jornet said of the festive drink. “But (pacer Rickey Gates) took both, so he’s the man.”
Many of the early finishers struggled to find the trail as they approached Oscar’s Pass, and Foote, who finished runner-up in 25:45:12, estimated he lost 40 minutes to trail-finding before he received some help from Campbell and his pacer.
Jornet also got off track for a bit in the snow that covered the trail and found himself waist-deep, postholing in some sections. When Jornet heard some coyotes crying in the distance, he joked with his pacer that they must have been cheering on the closing Campbell.
“I got lost in this moment. It was really stupid for me,” Jornet said. “I don’t know how long, how much time.”
Jornet said the highlight of his race was watching the sunset on Virginus Pass aid station above 13,000 feet. He tweeted it with a photo: “This is the reason I love this race.” He also enjoyed seeing elk and a porcupine. He spent nearly 10 minutes at Virginus, his longest stop of the race.
“It was amazing, the views there,” he said. “This race, it’s really wild. It’s beautiful.”
Though he was more than two hours behind Jornet, Foote, 27, was thrilled to finish in second place.
“It threw everything at you: a lot of weather, rain, snow, sunshine and beautiful views and good competition,” the Montana-based runner said. “In the moment, you can’t enjoy it, but after the fact, it’s a fun experience.
“It’s the most difficult race I’ve done, easily, and I knew that coming in.”
Foote credited Jornet for his performance but said it can be hard competing against the running- and ski-mountaineering superstar.
“He’s on a different level. It’s like you’re not in the same race,” Foote said. “It’s kind of unfortunate when he shows up, but it’s inspiring, and he’s such a humble guy who truly appreciates this.”
Campbell called the race even more challenging than when he took third a year ago, even after he experienced a lightning strike on top of Handies Peak in 2014.
“No lightning this year, which is nice,” he said. “I had probably 100,000 highs and lows, and it was a very challenging day for me. But that’s why you do the sport.”
The athletes seemed to enjoy the clockwise course more because of the long, gradual uphill roads involved in the counterclockwise production. Campbell said they are easy to run down, but they are taxing when running uphill in this direction.
“Every time I got on a road section, my energy and motivation would disappear,” Campbell said. “The long road climbs are slightly soul-crushing to go up. ... I wasn’t inspired on roads, but up in alpine, I got my inspiration and mojo back again.”
Chris Price, 34, of California took fourth in 26:52:50, and Troy Howard, 42, of Golden rounded out the top five in 27:04:00.
Durango’s Brendan Trimboli finished 11th overall and ninth among men in 29:25:10.
Jornet will head back to Europe on Monday. He is organizing a race in Norway as his next adventure.
Foote also has many more events on the horizon, but Campbell is focused on taking some time off – and some pace off – for a hiking trip with his father next weekend.
Jornet said he will be back to the Hardrock, even if his goal isn’t to win the race. The atmosphere and people involved with the event will keep him coming back for more.
“It is an amazing race. The mountains are beautiful, but there are many mountains around the world,” Jornet said. “The course is great, but all the aid stations and people is amazing. It’s really cool, this thing. That makes a difference.”