Books Run or Die

Published on October 21, 2014

Run or Die

Run or Die sounds like a provocative and binary choice, but for an athlete like Kilian Jornet – and ‘athlete’ barely begins to describe him – we suspect it is really is that reductive. The records he hasn’t yet smashed as an ultra-runner are undoubtedly both on his list and within his capabilities.

Born and raised in the magnificent Catalan Pyrenees, Jornet grew up amongst the mountains that remain his play-things and his prowess (he broke the ascent/descent Matterhorn record last year in a time of 2hours, 52minutes) makes an interesting nurture/nature study.

In Run or Die, translated by Peter Bush, Jornet eloquently, almost poetically, recounts both his childhood and nascent talents and a number of his incredible accomplishments including the Tahoe Trail Rim record and his crossing of the Pyrenees in a mere eight days. But beyond being a simple journal of adventure there is wisdom and thoughtfulness that is likely to stay with the reader just as long. Take this as an example: ‘There is no perfect way for every runner, but everybody has his perfect way of running.’

Jornet is relatively humble about his abilities but recognises how fortunately he has been with the opportunities that have presented themselves – there is ego of course, no great athlete can compete without one, but for Jornet it is self-contained; he really battles only against himself, he wins or (rarely) loses on his own terms. The results are as refreshing as they are impressive.

Run or Die inspires and impresses. The majority of us will almost certainly never achieve anything like the feats of which Jornet is capable, but we can all learn and continue to learn as we forge our own paths as runners.

Run or Die (ISBN-10: 0241004853) by Kilian Jornet is published by Penguin Books/Viking, RRP £12.99 paperback, £7.49 Kindle – available from

Follow Kilian Jornet on Twitter @kilianj and follow Penguin Books @PenguinUKBooks

Until Friday October 24 you can win a copy of Run or Die in our free prize draw – details here.

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