Just Kilian - Page 5
Says chief technical clothing designer for Salomon, Serge Chapuis, "Kilian is an athlete who knows the human body perfectly. He's intimately aware of the body's potential and adept at translating needs into actual equipment." In 2009, Chapuis designed a lightweight rain jacket for Kilian—a required piece of equipment for the UTMB. Kilian complained about the weight and Chapuis had to start again, researching fabrics that had never before been used for running. "Nothing is ever light enough for Kilian," says Chapuis.
In need of a stage to show off all this technical shoes and clothing, Kilian's Quest was conceived in 2008. The premise of the trail-running series was simple—give a young and talented athlete the means to pursue some of his lifelong dreams, capture the adventure on film and offer it, free, in bite-size episodes throughout the year. The idea was brought to life the following year when Kilian broke record for the 118-mile GR20—a rugged trail that diagonally crosses the mountainous island of Corsica, climbing 35,000 vertical feet in the process. With a time of 32:54 he broke the former record by four hours.
The episodes that followed captured Kilian's successful attempts to break the records up and down Mount Kilimanjaro, up and down Mount Olympus, around Lake Tahoe along the Tahoe Rim Trail and the aforementioned coast-to-coast running of the Pyrenees.
Add up the cost of designers, plane tickets, hotels, camera crews, helicopters for aerial shots and the countless other expenses and one does not have to speculate for long to deduce that this thing surrounding Kilian is a massive and costly project. The question arises, how does this project pay for itself?
In the background of nearly every one of Kilian's great performances over the past couple years has stood Gregory Vollet. After seven years as a professional mountain biker and several more years working with various sport-related companies, Vollet, 36, joined the Salomon team with a global vision of expanding the reach of the sport.
"This sport is arriving on all of the continents," says Vollet. "We aren't just out to push our product, but to grow the sport at the same time." The goal behind Kilian's Quest is not to convince runners to buy Salomon running shoes over their competitors' but rather to inspire non-runners to run and to create running communities where none existed before.
"What we have to do in sports is to have business," he continues. "It is difficult to evolve a sport without business. Without support the sport rests in niche."
As team manager, logistics coordinator and pacer, Vollet is the liaison between Kilian and his endeavors, between Kilian and the world.
Vollet goes on to explain how an amazing performance is only validated by spectators and the story that follows. "You can't have a big race if nobody is going to write about it. We organize media around an event to inspire people to run. All this communication," he says, "is for making noise."