- Author: Kilian Jornet
- Reader: María del Carmen Rivero
- Date: 2/28/2012
Correr o Morir the hyperbolic title of this book that sounds as it could belong to a possible thriller prepares the reader for a fast-paced book, with crisp prose, written by very young but very experienced mountain runner, Kilian Jornet from Catalonia. He is also a ski mountaineer and a long distance runner.
The book is part journal-part autobiography and part manual on how and also why try to become a world-class runner. It also offers a glimpse on why he is compelled to practice an extreme and dangerous sport of mountain running-a sport that few attempt. While the book is specifically about mountain running some of the techniques and mental abilities the young athlete demonstrates and explores can be used for any other sport or activity that requires a lot of training and determination. It is ultimately a book about discipline.
The short book (about 190 pages) is basically divided into two parts. The first part how is love for the mountain and running started at an early age. His idyllic childhood living near the Pyrenees where his father was a park ranger in Andorra can cause severe envy to most readers. He basically lives in a state of nature surrounded by beautiful mountains and the state park as his backyard. His early habitat is what makes him so familiar with the nature and the many mountains he will later climb. He does most family errands running around the surrounding mountains and almost learns to ski before walking. They are some of the best chapters of the book.
The second part mainly deals why he runs and the different races he has been in culminating with Mount Kilimanjaro in the last chapter. The camaraderie and also the fierce competition among participants of this sport, his family’s help in his pursuits and his relationship with a former girlfriend are all explored. His relationship to city lifemainly Barcelona are also mentioned.
He terms his adventures as the Skyrunner Manifest-manifesto de Skyrunner –the reference being to the high altitude (at least 2,000 meters) endurance races that he has won three times. However, Jornet never mentions his accomplishments; very similar to his almost mono maniac pursuit of running and of all endurance sports, he is very focused on the book about narrating how it feels to run, to train and to win. He does not bother the reader with his many records as to not disturb the psychological training he is trying to convey to his audience of potential would be runners or athletes.
The reader will have to look elsewhere to find about his many accomplishments, or already be one his followers. The most recent accomplishment, and the last race mentioned in the book, is Mount Kilimanjaro. He now holds the world record for the fastest time in finishing this race. He casually omits this detail and continues exploring why he runs. This is quite extraordinary in someone who holds so many world records at such a young age. Jornet is only in his early 20’s. Most technical terms of his trade are omitted from the book too. Jornet comes off as a very pleasant, humble, low-key young man who also happens to be an extraordinary athlete, and now, a pretty good writer. This is one of the strengths of the book and makes it an interesting read- for sport aficionados but also for a wider audience. While extreme in his athletic pursuit, is anything but in other aspects of life. He displays a lot of common sense and intelligence in many of the decisions he makes and how he plans his races.
The book, originally published in Catalan, and translated in Spanish is an easy, approachable prose to read and translate.
The book might be improved by having a map (or route) of the many races he mentions in Northern Spain, California and Africa. He jumps (or runs) a bit from one race to another one in the second part of the book without much explanation. Some photos would also add to the reader’s experience. I believe the original includes some photographs.
Overall, it is a good read-especially for a niche market of extreme sport fans, outdoor aficionados and Kilian Jornet’s many followers.
However, other readers can appreciate many aspects of his book like his drive, his discipline and especially Killian Junet himself. Also, the autobiographical and journal style of writing makes this book very reader-friendly too. His internal dialogue and challenges and ultimately why he runs have a wider appeal for any professional or aficionado of any other craft. Jornet writes at the end of the book: Una carrera es como una obra de arte; es una creación que, a parte de la técnica y del trabajo, necesita de la inspiración para poder terminarla. Pero también es efímera, porque, igual que un mandala budista, se disfruta durante su creación y en el momento más álgido, en el punto en el que se ha conseguido su perfección, desaparece para siempre y será imposible volver a crear la misma carrera”. And on to the next race. . .