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A word on setting ultra running FKTs

by | Apr 8, 2023

This article was read 3639 times. Enjoy!

A word on setting ultra running FKTs

Introduction

The world of ultrarunning has seen a recent surge in the trend of setting FKTs (Fastest Known Times). FKTs are essentially records of the fastest time taken to cover a specific route or trail, usually unsupported, self-supported or with limited support. The routes are usually long-distance, remote, and involve a lot of elevation gain and technical terrain. This trend has caught the attention of both elite runners and amateurs, as FKTs represent a unique challenge and a chance to explore new trails and landscapes.

In this article, we will delve into the world of ultrarunning, explore what FKTs are, how they have evolved, and why they have become so popular. We will also look at some of the most famous FKTs, the records that have been broken, and the reasons behind their success. Finally, we will discuss the future of FKTs, and whether they represent a new paradigm in ultrarunning.

What are FKTs?

An FKT, or Fastest Known Time, is a record of the fastest time taken to cover a specific route or trail. It is essentially a time trial, where a runner sets out to complete a particular route or trail as fast as possible. The routes are usually long-distance, remote, and involve a lot of elevation gain and technical terrain. They are typically unsupported, self-supported, or with limited support.

The concept of FKTs is not new, and runners have been setting records for specific routes for decades. However, it is only in recent years that FKTs have gained mainstream attention. The rise of social media platforms such as Strava, Instagram, and YouTube has allowed runners to share their FKT attempts with a wider audience, leading to increased interest in the sport.

The Evolution of FKTs

The history of FKTs can be traced back to the early days of ultrarunning when a small group of runners would gather to race each other on challenging mountain routes. These races were often informal, with no official timing or support. Over time, these informal races evolved into formal events, with official timing, aid stations, and a larger number of participants.

However, despite the growth of formal ultrarunning events, many runners continued to seek out new and challenging routes to run. These routes were often unsupported, meaning that runners had to carry all their own supplies and navigate their way through challenging terrain. The first known FKT attempt was made by Ted Keizer in 1981 when he ran the John Muir Trail in California in just under three days.

In recent years, FKTs have become more popular, thanks in part to the rise of social media and technology. Runners can now track their progress using GPS devices and share their experiences with a wider audience on social media platforms. This has led to increased interest in FKTs, and a greater number of runners attempting them.

Why FKTs have become so popular

There are several reasons why FKTs have become so popular in recent years. First and foremost, FKTs represent a unique challenge for runners. Unlike traditional ultramarathons, which are typically held on marked courses with aid stations and support, FKTs are usually self-supported, with runners carrying all their own supplies. This adds an additional layer of difficulty, as runners must carefully plan their nutrition, hydration, and gear to ensure that they can complete the route safely and efficiently.

Secondly, FKTs offer runners a chance to explore new routes and landscapes. Many FKT routes are off the beaten path and offer runners the opportunity to experience nature in a unique and challenging way. This sense of adventure and exploration is a big draw for many runners.

Finally, social media has played a significant role in the popularity of FKTs. With the rise of platforms like Strava and Instagram, runners can share their FKT attempts with a wider audience, creating a sense of community and inspiring others to attempt their own FKTs. Social media also allows runners to track their progress and compare their times with other runners, creating a sense of competition and driving runners to push themselves to their limits.

Famous FKTs and Records

There are many famous FKTs and records, each with its own unique challenges and characteristics. Here are just a few examples:

  • The Appalachian Trail: The Appalachian Trail is a 2,200-mile trail that runs from Georgia to Maine in the United States. The FKT for the trail is held by Karel Sabbe, who completed the trail in just 41 days, 7 hours, and 39 minutes in 2018. The trail is known for its rugged terrain, long climbs, and challenging weather conditions.
  • The Pacific Crest Trail: The Pacific Crest Trail is a 2,650-mile trail that runs from Mexico to Canada, passing through California, Oregon, and Washington in the United States. The FKT for the trail is held by Joe McConaughy, who completed the trail in just 53 days, 6 hours, and 37 minutes in 2014. The trail is known for its long, hot stretches through the desert, as well as its steep climbs in the Sierra Nevada and Cascade Mountain ranges.
  • The Wonderland Trail: The Wonderland Trail is a 93-mile trail that circles Mount Rainier in Washington state in the United States. The FKT for the trail is held by Mike Foote, who completed the trail in just 18 hours and 45 minutes in 2015. The trail is known for its steep climbs, technical terrain, and unpredictable weather conditions.
  • The Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc: The Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc is a 171-kilometre ultramarathon that circles Mont Blanc in the Alps, passing through France, Italy, and Switzerland. The FKT for the route is held by Kilian Jornet, who completed the route in just 20 hours and 26 minutes in 2018. The race is known for its high elevation, steep climbs, and challenging weather conditions.
The Future of FKTs

As FKTs continue to gain popularity, we will likely see more records broken, and more runners attempting these challenging routes. However, there are also concerns about the impact of FKTs on the environment and local communities.

Some FKT routes pass through sensitive ecological areas, and runners must take care not to damage the natural environment or disturb the local wildlife. Additionally, the increased traffic on some FKT routes can cause erosion and other environmental damage, leading some trail organizations to place restrictions on FKT attempts.

There is also concern about the impact of FKTs on local communities. Some FKT routes pass through private property or indigenous lands, and runners must respect the rights and traditions of these communities. Additionally, the increased traffic on some FKT routes can be disruptive to local residents, leading some to call for restrictions on FKT attempts.

Conclusion

FKTs represent a unique challenge for runners, combining the endurance of ultrarunning with the adventure and exploration of mountaineering. While FKTs have been around for decades, they have gained mainstream popularity in recent years, thanks in part to the rise of social media and technology. As FKTs continue to grow in popularity, it is important for runners to respect the environment and local communities, and to ensure that their attempts are done safely and responsibly. With the right mindset and preparation, FKTs can offer runners a chance to push themselves to their limits, explore new routes and landscapes, and inspire others to do the same. FKTs are a way for runners to challenge themselves in new and exciting ways, and to connect with other like-minded individuals who share a passion for endurance sports and adventure.

Overall, the trend of setting ultra-running FKTs is likely to continue to grow in popularity in the coming years. As more and more runners take up the challenge of setting FKTs, we are likely to see new records broken, and new routes explored. However, runners need to approach FKTs with a sense of responsibility and respect for the environment and local communities. By doing so, we can ensure that FKTs continue to be a source of inspiration and adventure for runners around the world.

Patrick Michel

Endurance Runner – Marketing Strategist

Patrick Michel is a Montreal-based endurance runner specializing in long-distance multi-stage charity ultra runs. For almost two decades, he has inspired many to engage in running, get fit and grow stronger physically and mentally. He has also written many articles about running.

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