Weekend Warm-Up: Kilian Jornet is ‘Nnormal,’ and Also Isn’t

Kilian Jornet has been designing gear since he was a toddler.

Is there any other age group you would expect to produce the most radical outdoor equipment concepts?

Moments into Sketching the Future, Jornet references one of these embryonic designs. It’s a pair of shoes with attachments for skis, crampons and other specialty ice attachments, and a robust set of wheels for “if you wanted to go to the roads.”

The shoe company he started as an adult, Nnormal, isn’t there — yet. But as Jornet explains, actualization of dreams is a progressive pursuit, more so than a finish line.

It’s a familiar modality for any athlete.

“Most of the time you will not achieve what you are looking for,” he says. “But that should not stop us.”

Hasn’t stopped him.

No ultrarunner has produced more successful results. As Jornet’s longtime friend (and, recently, Nnormal ambassador) Dakota Jones puts it, “He’s transcended adjectives at this point. He’s best runner in our sport.”


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A post shared by Kilian Jornet (@kilianjornet)

His worst regret

Jornet apparently floats above it all, occupying a notably consistent state that’s equal parts clear-eyed, candid, and childlike. It’s almost no wonder that the last thing on his list is limiting the footprint of his waste.

“The worst part” of his 15+ year career? The fact that he’s ragged out somewhere around 200 pairs of shoes, and doesn’t know where any of them wound up. He rankles at this waste because he’s concerned about his young daughters’ future.

gazing downward in a shadowy room

Photo: Screenshot


So he seeks to build a shoe that lasts longer. In some ways, there couldn’t be a more normal guy behind Nnormal.

Watch Jornet comfortably switch contexts throughout Sketching the Future. As typical experienced runner guy, he recounts races and critiques his performance. As casual witness to environmental shifts, he makes it clear that he wants to participate in solutions.

Then as an explorer, he craves to push his own limits — which is something the film seems to want to do, too.

Moving beyond racing

“Jumping to the unknown, it’s something I have been searching for as an athlete — many times,” he says. During his prolonged focus on racing, “probably the easiest thing was to [say] ok, let’s keep on focusing on these distances where I feel very comfortable. But that’s very boring and that’s not progressing.”


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A post shared by Kilian Jornet (@kilianjornet)

For me, Sketching the Future reaches its crescendo too early. The full film didn’t make me want anything except to sit across the table from Jornet while he opens his childhood notebooks and explains the protean ideas inside.

But the narrative won’t let it happen. The fact that the warp-speed creativity of a toddler culminates in a “Nnormal” black running shoe hits more stoically than I’d like.

Yes, it’s an accomplishment for Jornet and the design team that the shoes stand up to hundreds of kilometers of racing. But that, too, reflects a very adult reduction of variables.

Kilian Jornet holding shoe

Photo: Screenshot


Still, the narrative is competent, and Jornet’s force of personality is mostly enough to carry it. All those who know that “most of the time you will not achieve what you are looking for” likely will not be stopped.

Sam Anderson

Sam Anderson spent his 20s as an adventure rock climber, scampering throughout the western U.S., Mexico, and Thailand to scope out prime stone and great stories. Life on the road gradually transformed into a seat behind the keyboard, where he acted as a founding writer of the AllGear Digital Newsroom and earned 1,500+ bylines in four years on topics from pro rock climbing to slingshots and scientific breakthroughs.