Australian trail runner Kirra Balmanno loves an extreme challenge, taking on multi-day endurance runs from Switzerland to the Himalayas; nothing is out of reach for this ultra-mindful runner. Having been selected twice for the Trail Running World Championship Australian team, Kirra is still most proud of becoming a qualified veterinarian.
How did you start running? I started out playing tennis and found the passion for running in high school. Running ultras was a natural progression from the joy that came with running in my teens and a way to test my endurance that didn’t seem to have an upper limit.
Why do you run now? Running brings so much to my life. I wouldn’t say it defines me anymore, but it definitely enhances me. I could list a million reasons of why I run now but essentially, it makes me a better person. Endurance running has a way of stripping us down to our core and revealing our true nature, showing us how much discomfort we can handle and ultimately leading to growth.
Some of the best friendships and deepest connections, I have made through running. It’s taken me to many of the most incredible and inaccessible locations on Earth. It’s essentialism, keeping me in tune with my body, awareness, breath and the environment like nothing else can.
What was the most important race you’ve run to date? There are two standouts. The Bogong to Hotham in Australia was my first real taste of mountain running. I completely flopped. Safe to say it was my worst race ever in terms of position and time, but I learned the most, was deeply humbled and hungrier than ever to improve myself on that type of terrain and race style. It shone a light on my weaknesses and gave me so much awareness of where I needed to improve.
Racing UTMR was really important for me too. It was a huge step up in distance and technicality. I learned a lot about racing longer and I also just had an incredible amount of fun. It’s one of my favorite places in the world and I had two of my best friends there crewing for me which made it extra special.
What is your pre-race ritual? I like to have freshly washed sheets on my bed the night before the race, I shave my legs, wash my hair, paint my nails and listen to good music.
What do you think about while running? Sometimes I’m in this mindful state and not thinking much at all, just going with the rhythm of my breath. My most creative ideas come to me here. Other times, I’m solving problems or contemplating existential questions. During harder training sessions, I focus on the task at hand and try to pull all of my focus into the moment, relaxing through the pain and maintaining good form.
What is your go-to training meal? Brown rice and chana dal – cooked together in the same pot – before a workout with a bit of fruit and cinnamon or afterwards with some tempeh and veggies.
How do you recover after a tough run? A protein + banana smoothie followed by a ten-minute leg soak in cold water. One of the perks of living in the alps is the abundance of cold lakes, streams and waterfalls to dunk into after a hard session.
What song is your go-to for the run? I don’t often listen to music when I run. The exception would be during an intense speed workout where I need to mentally psyche myself up. It’s always changing and is really eclectic. Some metal, punk rock or electro is generally on the run playlist.
If it’s a flat recovery run on a double day, a podcast or Coffee Break German or French is my go-to for simultaneous learning.
Who is your “team”? I have an amazing group of friends in Innsbruck that are always up for a wild adventure in the mountains and are an incredible source of inspiration and support. There’s no lack of energy in our training runs and we all lift each other up, as does my coach, Roman Evarts. He keeps everything real with his honesty and sense of humor and is a massive inspiration to me.
Apart from endurance sports, what is your passion? I have this obsession with personal growth. Life to me is a beautiful gift and I strive to live in a way that honors that every day. I’m a relentless learner and doer and a sucker for a good self-help book, inspiring podcast or deep conversation. I’ve taken ten days of silent meditation and reflected while I’ve run solo for days in the Himalayas. I love to delve into the mind and continually try to understand and develop it to its fullest potential.
I also care deeply about our environment and those without a voice. My work as a veterinarian helps me to give back in a way that resonates with my compassion for our earth and all the living things that make it the incredible place that it is.
What was the best piece of running advice you ever received? Before my first 100km ultra – “No matter how bad you might feel at a particular point, you’ll come back out of it”. It’s a lot like what meditation teaches us, that everything is equanimous and that change is the only constant.
What advice do you have for someone who wants to follow in your footsteps? My path has been a lot about carving my own way and going in the direction of my own values and goals, so to follow in my footsteps, I would recommend not following any footsteps but to embrace your own sublime uniqueness.
Why On? On does things differently.It’s a brand that has truly carved its own way.I’m incredibly grateful to be a part of such a creative, entrepreneurial team that thinks outside the box and has such strong and resonating core values. Plus, everyone at On is SUPER lovely. Oh, and Roger
What’s your favorite On shoe and why? The Cloudventure Peak. It’s just really fun to run superfast on flow single track in this shoe because of its responsiveness and light weight. I like to get the white as dirty as possible!
What’s your favorite item of On apparel and why? The Performance Long-T – it’s made for the Alps. Just the right amount of warmth for a high alpine trail in the summer and makes those cold winter runs much easier.