Today we are reviewing the book written by the most dominating ultrarunner of his generation. Run or Die by Kilian Jornet is his story. In this book review, what will be essential to remember is that this is his story as a young man of 24. His age makes the feats that he accomplishes even more impressive and adds layers a depth to understanding his writing.
I picked this book up because I am interested in the world of ultrarunning. I follow the events but have never participated in an ultra --- yet. I know who Killian Jornet is and have seen or read about his exploits. Go to YouTube and watch a video of this guy running down a mountainside, and you will see how incredible he is. He has a mixture of athleticism and branding, which reminds me a lot of Dean Karnazes.
Overall, this book left me wanting more. I will describe it in detail below so that you can make your determination.
I found much of the writing to be overly artistic and poetic passages. They are very zen, flowing, and beautiful. But, yet they seem forced. I'm a history and science guy, so this writing doesn't always raise my skins' hair. But, it may be precisely for you. It's important to remember that Kilian wrote this book in his native Catalyn and what we read is the English translation. So, what we read may be the fault of the translator. Additionally, I don't know if Kilian used a ghostwriter, but the ghostwriter overdid it if he did.
What you get in this book is a lot of climaxes. What you don't get are the backstory and the rising action. Each chapter in the book is a remarkable exploit of the 24-year old Kilian, including running up Mt. Kilimanjaro, crossing the Pyrenees, the UTMB famous race, and the circumnavigation of Lake Tahoe. You are in a battle with Killian as he conquers these events. But what you miss is the lead-up. You leave this book with no question how remarkable of a runner Killian is. But the reader wants is understanding how did he get that remarkable? What was his training? How does he think about the world? You get glimpses of his worldview in the early chapter with his mother and his cross-country skiing or mental fortitude during UTMB. I believe a backstory book would be fascinating.
I chalk some of my comments because Killian was 24 when he wrote this book. Think about your worldview when you were 24. If you are like, it was self-centered and petty. At 24 years old, Killian is more concerned with the event's climax instead of the buildup. His relationships with people are not nuanced and developed as they will be later in his life. And as a result, you get some passages where you scratch your head with naivety. Even the book's title, "Run or Die", is a head-scratcher. There isn't anything that extreme in his running that is on the verge of Death.
Overall, there are themes in this book worth knowing. As the book progresses, you see Kilian mature somewhat. It seems that he understands that running is an inherently selfish sport, but there is a more considerable team effort that involves family, friends, and event volunteers on race days. If you want to learn more about ultrarunning, this book illustrates the sports in the extremes giving you a taste of how challenging these events are. Some of you may be turned away, while many others, I suspect, will be intrigued. Lastly, you see history at its early stages with this book. Since the book's publication, Kilian has gone on to many more exploits on film and races. Reading this book gives you a feeling of Killian at the beginning, which helps you appreciate the journey that much more.