FREEDOM in a Pandemic

Another summit in Norway with Abelone.

In recent weeks, as restrictions on travel, social distancing and borders open, it has somehow felt that living in the times of a Pandemic is a little like toeing the line at Big’s Backyard Ultra. Instead of running loops around a yard, we wake up each morning for another loop of 24-hours not knowing where the finish line is and when it will come.

Covid-19 for us runners is a very unique ultramarathon.

In all honesty, I do believe that ultra-runners are somehow better adapted for the challenges that a Pandemic brings. Mental fortitude and resilience have come to the fore and when restrictions were really tough, runners rallied with running at home. Virtual suddenly became the next big thing. It filled a gap and brought people together from all over the world in a mutual coming together to enjoy a love of sport and community.

The impact on work has been huge for all and the consequences of this will continue on for months and years on personal levels and business. It’s a sad time.

But early on, I accepted that 2020 would be a wipe out. Being somewhat of an OCD character, this took a little time to adjust too. My year of work was planned out. The schedule was timetabled and suddenly, it was gone… What was full, soon became empty. I have felt my moods swing with positivity and at times I have wanted to put my head in my hands.

But quarantine and social distancing, in all honesty, was no big deal for me. I actually feel that I have social distanced most of my life and sport has only reaffirmed that.

Yes, I enjoy the company of friends. Yes, I enjoy a trail run with company. Yes, I enjoy a beer and a meal with others and yes, I have missed my family.

The summit os Slogen, Norway in July with Abelone.

But I am good alone, in isolation and finding my own footing. Time on the trail has always allowed me to switch off, think, contemplate, plan, work out problems, come up with solutions and form ideas.

When running with others, I am often asked, ‘Are you ok? You are quiet!’

‘I am perfect; I am just out of the office and soaking up the time,’ often my reply. 

In recent months, or should I say for the whole of 2020 so far, I have immersed myself in a new life in Norway with my girlfriend, Abelone.

Little did we both know in February after being at The Coastal Challenge in Costa Rica that we would spend 24/7 for the coming months together. I laughed early on saying, ‘Well, this is one way to find out if this relationship will work!’

It has been the best thing to come from a Pandemic.

FREEDOM is something I always had being self-employed but the freedom to do ‘my’ adventures was dictated by travel and a hectic work schedule. Freedom often only really came in the middle of the year when I would block off some time in Summer and then December, which I would treat as sacred and my opportunity to explore and adventure.

2020 has seen my diary flipped with little or no work and constant adventure. 

Here is Scandinavia, we were very lucky with Covid (exception coming from Sweden who handled things differently,) particularly in Norway, cases were low, death rates were low and although social distancing was required, our freedom was not impacted. In all honesty, many locals confirmed that the trails in Norway had never had so many people on them in March, April and May. No doubt helped by some amazing weather. 

Scandinavians love the outdoor life and Covid only emphasized the need for space, outdoor adventure and exercise. A wonderful mental and physical prescription that all doctors should prescribe. 

I am used to travelling when I like, eating in restaurants, meeting friends when I want, and I am used to being surrounded by people at a race. Some would say I was free.

But was I?

August is here and I am now looking back at social interactions in 2020 since March and lockdown.

  • I have seen no family.
  • I have seen 4 friends in Norway.
  • I have run on the trails with Abelone and one other person who we had to social distance with.
  • I have interacted with 3 members of Abelone’s family.

And that is it…

So, my freedom was and is still certainly impacted upon and I relish the opportunity to hug a friend, travel back to the UK and see my Mum and my son and equally embrace them like never before.

But no work has allowed me a freedom of time, not financial, to do what I want.

Adventure is on the doorstep for us all.

Now, here in Norway we have a pretty big doorstep. At a third larger than the UK, getting around Norway can take a while but with just 5.5 million people in contrast to 66 million, finding space and social distancing is no problem. Hardanger, Stranda, Romsdal, and Jotunheimen have all been on our list and even 1,2 or 3-day adventures from home have become regular.

Just yesterday, we ran 15km from home, wild camped in an isolated location and then ran 15km home.

I have always been a lone wolf with adventure. At best, I have shared an experience with just one or two others. I like my pace, my schedule and my itinerary and am somewhat inflexible, yes stubborn with changes and I do like to plan. I can see Abelone roll her eyes now…!

Photo ©JanNyka

The escape of outdoor life has always provided me with an energy. I even got that with my work, often hiking out for hours on a trail to sit and wait, alone, for runners to come. 

So, what am I saying?

The Pandemic is rubbish, for sure. Is it going away? I hope so, as soon as possible, but as I said at the beginning, currently we are all running loops at Big’s Backyard Ultra and nobody knows how many loops are to go and when the finishing will come. 

One thing we do have, albeit at varying levels depending on where one lives in the world, is freedom to explore from home. So, embrace what you have and do not think or focus on what you do not have or what you cannot do.

It’s no surprise that FKT’s have never been more popular. 

Many have said, ‘I cannot wait for life to return to normal!’ I agree to a certain extent, normal would be good… But then again, was normal good?

Will life ever be ‘normal’ again, or, are we looking at a new normal?

I don’t have answers.

But I will keep running the loops and enjoy the newfound freedom I have for now.

*****

Have you found freedom in 2020? I would love to know.

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Summits of my Life – Kilian Jornet

Summits of my life – Kilian Jornet has a new project.

Tune in to a LIVE BROADCAST 1800hrs CET HERE

Kilian’s Quest will be no longer and the new project?

It will start this year, 2012 and commence to 2015. It’s a new departure that will see Kilian attempt to improve the record ascent and descent of some of the most iconic, high and complicated world’s mountains.

His adventure will start with Crossing Mont Blanc. The first one will be on skis going from Champex to Contamines taking in some of the major peaks of the massif and of course, those peaks will be followed with some crazy descents. Apparently he will be undertaking this trip with two companions. His second Mont Blanc crossing will be from Courmayer to the summit of Mont Blanc.

This will be the challenge for 2012 and one assumes that he will then concentrate on his running and skiing for the remainder of the year before his plans continue in 2013.

2013 will see attempts on key European Summits. He will start in Russia and Mt Elbrus. Following this he will go to the Cervino and then finally he will go to Mont Blanc and attempt the record set in 1990 for the PA Goblet. Arguably the Cervino will be the toughest challenge, Bruno Brunod still holds the time of just under 3hrs 15m for this tough and technical mountain.

In 2014 he will go to America and attempt two high peaks, one in the North and one in the South. In the north he will attempt McKinley and in the south he will attempt Aconcagua in South America.

The culmination of this ambitious project will be in 2015.

As you can imagine, if you are going to finish a project like this, you may as well finish on a high! Yes, the highest point – Everest. Kilian plans to go up and down 8488 meters as quickly as possible.

This project confirms that Kilian is like a river. Ever moving, ever bending and flexible to changes. He is possibly one of the most gifted athletes ever. A natural runner, skier, cyclist and so on…

He loves a challenge and this new project takes him to a whole new level of personal development. He is still so young that one but can’t help wonder what incredible achievements he make in his lifetime.

Kilian will not undertake these challenges alone and will have a pool of resources available to him. He will also call on several people to help facilitate, one of whom will be his sister. Other names are to be confirmed.

Check out the website HERE

From Kilian’s website, updated 29/05/2012 17:58pm:

Good evening!

Today I am here to put forward a new project I have had in mind for some time. When I was a child, I had a photo of Cervino on my bedroom wall, I read Mesner’s books and I used to flick through my parents’ photos searching for mountains to dream about. This project has its roots in that time but it has been dormant until today.

Summits of my Life is a 4-year project, in which we intend to run the length of the world’s greatest mountain ranges, trying to climb and descend some of the most spectacular mountains in the world as quickly as possible.

By no means does this project mean that I am leaving Trail Running or mountain skiing behind. On the contrary, given my passion for mountains, I want to pioneer the most alpinist part of my being and I believe I am now ready to attempt this.

The project will start off this summer with two itineraries at the birthplace of Alpinism, where the very first climbers began to dream of reaching summits. Both will be in the Mont Blanc mountain range. The first will be on skis from Champex to Contamines, reaching some of the most important summits and doing some of the most spectacular descents. Stephane and Mateo will ski alongside me. The second will be from Courmayeur to Chamonix reaching the summit of Mont Blanc, ascending the Italian southern face and descending the northern face.

In 2013 I’m going to attempt to break ascent and descent records of the most important summits in Europe, beginning with the highest, Mount Elbrus, in Russia. The next one, Mount Cervino, is possibly the most difficult to break, with an impressive time of 3h14m achieved by Bruno Brunod. At a technical level and in terms of risk taking, this mountain will definitely be the toughest. The last attempt in 2013 will be to do Chamonix-Mont Blanc-Chamonix, for which P.A.Goblet’s record has held since 1990.

In 2014 we are going to cross the Atlantic to reach the two highest American summits: Mount Aconagua in South America with its nearly 7,000m altitude and famous winds and Mount McKinley or Denali in Alaska, a summit with especially tough weather conditions.

The target for 2015 will be to climb up and down Mount Everest as fast as possible

I am a competitor. I like to compete, to go beyond, to search for my limits. This is the reason why this project is based on striving to break records and to do fast ascents of those mountains that mean most to me. But records and times should only be important whilst running. Once back at the bottom, they should vanish. They serve to stimulate you, to find the limits inside yourself; they should be a mere intrinsic motivation. This is why this project is not only about breaking records or climbing up and down mountains fast and with little equipment. It is also about transmitting values. I don’t mean to say they are the right values, the ones to follow, but they are the ones I was given and those I want to pass on.

Violoncello player Lluís Claret once told me some words I will never forget. “The voice of many people is in your sound…Our sound, our voice, is also the testimony of those we have admired and loved, those who have influenced and taught us.” Mountains have taught me a great deal, I owe them who I am, and also those who showed me the way to know the mountains, those who took me there and those I took there. They all filled my life with certain values, and it wouldn’t make sense to break records without them.

The team taking part in this project is equally small. Apart from myself, there is Sebastien Montaz, who is going to shoot the films with little equipment, trying to find spectacular images. Here is a video he has prepared to show you the philosophy underlying the films he intends to shoot during this project.

Apart from Seb, there is the Lymbus team, led by Jordi, who will be in charge of all communication with the media and who will find the way to make this project possible.

In some mountains I will count on the help of good friends and renowned alpinists, Jordi Tosas and Jordi Corominas, whom I totally respect and trust. I thank them for their experienced guidance.

Likewise, and although this is an entirely personal venture, the brands which are supporting me know about the project and will be backing me in my challenge. On some occasions, and given the particular nature of the project, very special equipment will be required which we will work on together with these brands. I also thank them for their trust and support in this endeavour.

Given the magnitude of this project, we are looking for a main sponsor to help us guarantee that it will be carried out. Over the last months, efforts have been focused on technical aspects. As of now, an important challenge begins which is to find the resources to carry it out. But, as we always say, willingness can move mountains.

This is an open project because you never know what tomorrow might bring, let alone the next 4 years. Many friends, local guides, people from the different regions will give me a hand with the routes, logistics, training or cheering me on at each challenge. We won’t pick the best or fastest alpinists or managers. Instead, those who accompany us will be friends and those who have trained and shared adventures with me.

Simplicity is the other value I wish to put forward. There is no doubt that technique and technology aid man to reach far and run fast but what for? Walter Bonatti distinguished between “Man’s alpinism” and “Technique’ alpinism.” We’ll try to be as naked as possible in the presence of nature, with the least possible equipment so as to feel and face the mountain with no intermediaries. Great means are not necessary to do the things that fill one the most. The simpler the means, the more personal and greater the value we lay on them.

The idea I will try to convey throughout all this time is that we are part of this world, just one more part, no more or less important, just like any animal, stone or tree. We are all equally significant. “The Earth is not an inheritance from our ancestors, but a heritage for our children.” (Indian proverb). We’ll try to be as silent as possible in the mountains, so that our steps are hardly heard, and as ecological and economical as possible.

And finally, a sentence by the great writer Pablo Cohelo, “There is only one thing that stops dreams from coming true; the fear of failure.” I am aware this is a very ambitious and hard project. But one must be ambitious, know where the hazards are and risk failure. Without trying, dreams remain dreams, and we’ll never know who we really are. In the end, we’ll understand the dream is not about breaking records, but rather about the ways to reach the summit, and failure isn’t about not reaching the summit or stopping the chronometer a few minutes later, but about not being able to take this path.

To finish this presentation, I’d like to show you some images. There will be very few of us on the mountains during the ventures, but we’ll show you what the mountains and the people we meet teach us. So at the end of each season, in October-November, some short films (5-8 minutes long) will be displayed on our website. And during the autumn, a longer film will be produced summarizing the experiences of each season.

To start with, and as an image is worth a thousand words, here are some images that will show you better what I mean.