Tuesday, July 31, 2012


Now I know I have just got a lot of ultra runners attention but non ultra runners are probably confused. Why is this such a big deal? Firstly Killian Jornet is arguably the number 1 ultra runner in the world today so this is quite a coup...........kind of.
          Killian is at present involved in a rather unfortunate 'scandal' in that whilst winning the Speedgoat 50 k last week he 'cut the switchbacks'........shock, horror, why did he commit such a violent crime? The internet is rampant with indignation, opinion and judgement. How could an athlete of such super star status cut switchbacks???.........and what on earth does that mean???

     I shall explain; when running up or down a hill the trails often go in a zig zag pattern to control the route and preserve nature. This is a switchback. In the USA you have to stick to the trail and not cut across them because it gives a potential unfair advantage and also damages the ecosystem. These are the rules in the USA but this event was part of the Skyrunner World Series, an international mountain endurance running competition, and their rules say you can 'cut' switchbacks and take the quickest route from marker to marker.  So who was right, well Killian said he didn't know about the US rules....only problem with this is that he was warned during the race and he continued to do it. But who warned him, was it a credited official and did Killian, who is Spanish, truly understand.....  and furthermore others were seen doing it.
    The organiser, Karl Meltzer, a well respected ultra champion in his own right had a difficult decision to make. He decided to give Killian the win but not the prize money and Killian gracefully accepted this. The prize money was divided amongst  the others. Many people agree with Karl, many do not, the latter believing that he should have been DQ'd (disqualified). In Europe you can cut switchbacks and I have done it......but I have to say it always feels wrong....and though you may gain a small advantage you run the risk of falling down a rabbit hole or injuring yourself due to the speed of descent. When climbing it takes more energy to cut a switchback but you get to the top marginally quicker. Then of course there is the enviromental question of disturbing nature by not sticking to the marked trails.
     Its a fierce debate which might seem trivial to some but in the ultra world its serious stuff. No doubt this story will run and run (so to speak). When I ran the Way to Cool 50k in California this year I had no idea about these rules, luckily I didn't 'cut' anything but I would have been devastated to be DQ'd if I had. Still atleast we all now know so there are no excuses from now on.
      So what of Killians house. As I was walking down the garden path it zig zagged down the hill and I noticed Killian cutting across the garden....I thought mmm he's at it again cutting switchbacks even in his own garden.........the man's obsessed!
         Anyway we have just made an offer to Killian to buy this most beautiful house. We await his decision with eager anticipation...........
  PS..........Did I mention that Killian is the name of the local property agent :)


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