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Breaking 30: climbing 1,000m in 30 minutes or less

In this Salomon Running video, viewers will see elite Swiss runner Rémi Bonnet chase the elusive 30-minute barrier for a vertical kilometre

Photo by: Instagram/salomonrunning

You’ve likely heard of people trying to break 30 minutes in the 10K, but what about the 1K? In a video from Salomon Running, Swiss ski mountaineer and trail runner Rémi Bonnet tries to do just that and run a sub-30 vertical kilometre (VK). Bonnet runs on the course of the Fully Vertical Kilometre, a race in Fully, Switzerland, that has captivated many trail runners, including Kilian Jornet. Remarkably, the Fully VK covers 1,000m of elevation gain on a course with a total length of less than 2K. This is a brutal run, and to break 30 minutes makes the task all the more difficult, which is why Salomon followed Bonnet in his attempt. 

The 30-minute barrier

At the time of filming, only two runners had broken 30 minutes in Fully. In 2014, Italy’s Urban Zemmer ran 29:42 on the 1,920m course, and three years later, his compatriot Philip Goetsch smashed the record with an incredible 28:53 showing. A handful of runners have recorded sub-31-minute results on the climb (including Bonnet, who had a PB of 30:38 on the course, and Jornet, who ran 30:33 in 2016), but no one else had run under 30. 

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The route follows a retired railway track that climbs into the Alps, and while the official race wasn’t held in 2020, Bonnet wanted to give the run another shot this year. Ahead of his attempt, which he ran in June, Bonnet said, “I think this one is more mental than physical. For sure you have to be fit, but if you’re strong in the head, you can go farther.” As a two-time Skyrunning VK world champion, Bonnet has proven that he has both physical and mental strength, but he would need to take that to the next level to break 30 minutes. 

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Running solo

In the video, Bonnet starts his run with little fanfare, and he sets off up the Fully course all alone. He hits 600m of elevation gain in 18:14, and while he’s in good shape at this point, he says this is the hardest part of the run. “You know you are more than the middle, but you still have 400m and your legs are completely burned.” At 800m, his time is 24:34, and he’s finally starting to look tired. Two-hundred long metres later, he collapses at the 1,000m mark and stops his watch at the agonizing time of 30:09. He looks at the camera and says, “Never again.” 

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Luckily, Bonnet apparently has a short memory, because less than a week later, he returned to the Fully VK course and ran it again. After missing out on the 30-minute barrier by just nine seconds days earlier, he made the appropriate adjustments his second go around, finally breaking 30 with a 29:53. It should also be noted that in September, Jornet travelled to Switzerland to attempt the Fully VK once again, and he, too, broke 30 minutes, running 29:51. The two runs extended the short list of sub-30-minute runners in Fully to just four.