As always, Kilian Jornet was brave in his ambition. Stepping from his comfort zone of the mountains and onto the track for the first time, Jornet set a torrid pace through the early stages of the Phantasm 24-hour running challenge at a quiet track in Måndalen, Norway, not far from his home. Unfortunately, after running 134.8 kilometers in 10 hours and 20 minutes, the onset of sharp chest pains and dizziness forced Jornet to withdraw from the project he has been targeting for nearly a year.
ALL STARTED AS PLANNED
With temperatures hovering around the freezing mark, Jornet and fellow Salomon athlete Sebastian Conrad Håkansson put down a blistering early pace wearing the new Salomon S/LAB Phantasm road running shoes, and quickly left the four other Norwegian competitors behind.
Jornet ran the first 10km averaging 4:16 per km (6:52/mile) and finished the first 42.4 kilometers (106 laps or about a marathon distance) in 3:02:23. Just after the 10-hour mark, is when things went sideways. Halfway through his 338th lap, Jornet went to the ground and was quickly attended to by race officials and medical personnel.
“I was feeling pretty good, with the normal ups-and-downs of a long race like this,” Jornet said. “My body felt good, my legs felt good and then, suddenly, I felt two intense pains in my chest and started to get very dizzy and very exhausted. The medical people came to me and checked me out, and said it was best to go to the hospital.”
Just like that, Jornet’s night was over much sooner than he intended.
“In the hospital they ran a number of tests to try to determine what it was,” Jornet explained on Saturday after being released from the hospital. “They don’t seem to think it is anything too serious.”
FROM KILIAN’S MIND TO A REALITY
The Phantasm 24 challenge—organized by Salomon for Jornet after he presented his goal of running for 24 hours on a track—was postponed by nearly a month due to an injury Jornet suffered in training, and then pushed back another week due to bad weather.
“I got this idea about a year ago to run for 24 hours on a track so I went to Salomon to help organize the run,” Jornet said. “I wish it went differently, but it’s still fun to explore different things and new projects. So I want to thank Salomon and Suunto for supporting the project and everyone who helped organize the event, from the track volunteers to the community in Måndalen and the people at the track club. I think it was colder for the volunteers than for the runners.”
Temperatures were colder than expected (around 0 degrees C and below) during the 24 hours, but Jornet didn’t see that a major hindrance.
“Of course it was cold and the runners had to wear more clothes, but I prefer that over running when it is very hot,” Jornet said. “I think logistically it was more of a challenge for the organizers who had to put salt down on the track. I had planned to do the project five or six weeks earlier, but had some injuries and then bad weather that pushed it further back. And with COVID going on it would have been very hard to move the race.”
KILIAN WAS NOT RUNNING ALONE
The race included only athletes living in Norway due to COVID-related precautions. In addition to Jornet, five Norwegians, all with top ultra-distance pedigree, took to the starting line at 11 a.m. Friday morning. Three of the six starters managed to complete the entire 24 hours, but all five Norwegians lived up to their Viking reputations.
Harald Bjerke was the winner, running an incredible 232.2 kms (144.1 miles).
“I’m hurting everywhere,” Bjerke said as the clocked ticked down on 24 hours. “The only motion possible is to keep jogging.”
And so he did, completing 580 laps of the track in the end.
Jo Inge Norum finished 2nd, with 219.2 kms (136.2 miles; 548 laps) completed after 24 hours. Simen Holvik was just behind Norum, having run 208.13 kms (129.3 miles; 520 laps) when the final gun sounded at 11 a.m. Saturday morning. Didrik Hermanson did not complete the entire 24 hours, but still pulled off a heroic effort, running 174.8 kms (108.6 miles; 437 laps).
After running much of the early laps with Jornet and leading the race for a number of hours, Håkansson completed 100 miles in 12 hours and 46 minutes to smash the Norwegian 100-mile record before stepping off the track for good and saying he was proud of his effort. His final tally: 161.2 kms (403 laps). He was still there Saturday morning to congratulate his follow runners on finishing the entire 24 hours.
“When Kilian came to us nearly a year ago with this project of running for 24 hours on a track, we understood the kind of challenge he was taking on,” said Bruno Laroque, Salomon’s Global Sports Marketing Manager. “Of course, the outcome is not what we hoped for, but we trust Kilian and the months of preparation and research he puts into everything he does. It was certainly a huge risk for Kilian to put himself in this new environment and we are proud of his efforts and the amazing determination shown by all the competitors in Norway. Thanks to all the people who made it possible and to the running community for all their support before and during the event.”