Just Kilian - Page 8
At the Rucky Chucky river crossing, with 22 miles to the finish, I leave Kilian with his next pacer, Tanzanian mountain guide, Simon Mtuy. The 6' 7" African held the Kilimanjaro record until Kilian broke it by over two hours. When asked how he felt about Kilian breaking his record, Mtuy explained that he felt honored that Kilian even attempted it. They left the aid station calmly, smiling, chatting. The three pursuers followed -- each with the intense look of the chaser etched in their faces. Their race was against Kilian. Kilian's race, as his father had said, was against himself.
I did not need to see the finish to know that Kilian was going to win.
Fear and Loathing in the Roses
Success for Kilian is not measured on the binary scale of winning or losing as it is for most world-class athletes. Despite experiencing severe dehydration and a diminutive spot on the podium he considered his third-place finish at Western States in 2010 a success, more so than some of his previous wins. "For me, a loss is if you don't enjoy a race."
Following this third-place finish in 2010, Kilian rented a car and road tripped south through California then diagonally northeast to Boulder, Colorado. He stopped along the way to run the Grand Canyon rim-to-rim-to-rim.
"How fast?" I asked.
"About seven hours," he replied. If he was aware of the current record of 6:59:56, held by American ultra-runner, Dave Mackey, he gave no indication of it. Nor, perhaps, did he care.
Passing through Las Vegas, Kilian made friends with a group of people on the street. He ended up partying with them till dawn. When I ask him about it he replies, "The most interesting thing about a race is not just to run, run, run. It's also about knowing the area and getting to know the people and culture of that area. I wanted to discover the country and Las Vegas is very interesting."
"So what did you guys do?" I asked.
"I don't remember."
It is this lesson that the young mountaineer stresses most in both his words and actions.
Speed is important.
Hard work is important.
But stopping to smell the roses is most important of all ... even if it involves waking up in the back seat of your car in the Bellagio parking garage.
Kilian's road trip took him, lastly, to Boulder, Colorado, where he spent a week with Scott Jurek and his recent Western States rival Krupicka.
Jurek got to know Kilian briefly during his time in Boulder, teaching him the art of slack lining and showing him some of the local trails. "Kilian continues to set the bar high and motivates the sport of trail running to rise to a new level," says Jurek. "He motivates us to set our sights higher and find a new dimension of potential."
Kilian is a once-in-a-generation athlete, unifying the trail-running community across race distances, countries, languages and continents. "He knows how to be a student of the sport, using science to fuel peak performances," Jurek continues, "but at the same time appreciate the artistic and deeper aspects of the sport."
We haven't seen the full extent of what Kilian is capable of. We have only seen the beginning of what will become a legacy.
Rickey Gates of Aspen, Colorado, recently took top honors in his first ultramarathon, the Canadian Death Race, setting a course record in the process.