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François D’Haene: The Ultra Spirit on Competition, Winemaking & Running Mountains

By October 10, 2022No Comments
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Episode #709

FRANÇOIS D'HAENE

THE ULTRA SPIRIT ON COMPETITION, WINEMAKING & MOUNTAINS

Most elite athletes approach their craft through the lens of competition. It’s about mastering metrics and quantifying results. Today’s guest finds that mindset limiting—missing the point altogether.

Meet François D’Haene.

One of the greatest (some say the greatest) ultra-distance trail runners in the world, French superstar François is a former physiotherapist turned winemaker who has collected 36 victories and 51 podiums across some of the most prestigious and challenging races in the world. His palmarès include taking victory at UTMB an astonishing four times, a record only recently matched by Kílian Jornet this year. In 2017, François clocked the fastest-ever traverse of the 210-mile John Muir Trail. And in 2021, he won the Hardrock 100, one of the most difficult trail ultras, breaking the overall record previously held by Jornet.

Beyond the glow of ultra superstardom, François keeps things simple—a lifestyle that prioritizes his family as a dad to three. And an approach to sustained excellence that values community, connection, and nature over race results and rewards.

It’s this disposition—a rare balance many athletes of his caliber struggle to master—that I find most compelling. And it’s the focus of today’s fascinating exploration.

“When it comes to ultra-running, it’s better to be well-balanced and enjoy what you do every day than focus on competition.”

– FRANÇOIS D'HAENE

Today we explore the elements of François’ mastery.

We parse his humble and grounded approach to craft—and how this mindset has contributed to sustained success and career longevity at the highest level of sport.

In addition, we discuss the principles that drive him, the details of his training regimen, the allure of nature, advice for tackling your first ultra, and many other topics.

But more than anything, this is a conversation about the tension between the rigors of pursuing mastery and the value of important life experiences beyond the parameters of sport.

As always, the podcast streams wild and free on Apple Podcasts and Spotify. I should say up front that François’ French accent can be a bit thick at times, but if you listen closely and aren’t tempted to increase the playback speed, you should be able to follow him just fine. Captions are available on YouTube if you want to capture every word.

Note: this conversation was recorded on June 30, 2022. On July 15, 2022, François placed 2nd at the Hardrock 100, 14+ minutes behind Kílian Jornet.

I thoroughly enjoyed my time with François—may this exchange leave you equally enriched.

Peace + Plants,

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