Sunday, August 25, 2013

FKT Fever

This last 6 months has seen some inspiring and unbelievable Fastest Known Time (FKT) attempts. The most eye popping was Kilian Jornet's ascent and descent of the Matterhorn in under three hours. The footage I have seen is spine tinglingly exciting and scary. Links below. Other notables are Rob Krar's Rim to Rim to Rim traverse of the Grand Canyon in just over 6 hours for the 42 miles, and Hal Koerner and Mike Wolfe 3 day completion of the entire 220 miles of the John Muir Trail.

Kilian Jornet on his way to a FKT of 2,52 for the Matterhorn
There are three 'categories'; Supported, where you have crew to look after your nutrition, hydration, feet and mental welfare. Self supported, where you can stash goodies on route, in advance. Unsupported, or Alpine style, where you only have what you run with, plus any natural water on route (ie not raiding a store!). For longer distances both supported and self supported seem the most common, as most trail runners, especially in the US, consider even running shorts a hindrance and too much weight! Shorter distance, probably up to 50 miles, unsupported seems the default choice.

This subject vexes and excites me. There's something unnatural about seeing how quickly you try and get from point A to B on a beautiful trail or mountain that just longs to be enjoyed and savored. Surely races are for racing? However, trail runners especially,  myself included, seem to like the idea of completing a 'hikers' trail quickly. I'm trying to work out the exact appeal and whether it's a 'healthy' appeal. Is it a 'You take how many days to hike it?' type of condescension? Is it just the challenge of covering often tricky terrain quickly? Or maybe the chance to take in a trail you wouldn't have the time or patience to hike, and would never get to race? The nearest 'long' trail to me with a FKT is the Wildwood trail, covering 30 miles of Forest Park. It's an easy trail to run, un-technical and not that hilly. I've now run it three times and am down to 4,12 one way. The one way FKT is 3,38 and both ways 8,48. I wouldn't have the patience (and maybe time) to cover all of this trail in one go, so to run it and see the experience the variety of flora and fauna in a morning is special. HERE is my blog on this weekend's run.

This weekend's attempt to at least get in the same ballpark as the Wildwood FKT
Whatever the motivation I think FKT attempts are going to continue to increase in popularity which could lead to issues over perceived damage to the environment, mass use of trails and runner safety. Already there are rumors that Rim to Rim to Rim unsupported attempts will be outlawed after concerns over runner safety.

In South Africa the parks have been reluctant to accept trail runners as 'legitimate' trail users, believing their effect on the environment is higher than other users. The more enlightened race organizers are either providing trail upgrades or undertaking impact studies to prove the contrary. As the FKT movement grows, there needs to be an awareness of any potential negative reaction to increased attempts and therefore use of the trails. I'm surprised there isn't already a 'trail runner' category of permit for parks, but maybe that's not far off!

Killian's Matterhorn record HERE
Koerner and Wolfe's JM Trail FKT HERE
Rob Krar's Rim to Rim to Rim FKT HERE


  1. I'll have to find my own route for a FKT, I do have one to Macclear's (about 58min from the Nek), and than I will have to run Platterklip some time without running 90min's to get to the start...

  2. Some amazingly inspiring stuff happening out there this year in FKT land. Sounds like you are well on your way to beating the Widwood FKT, Ian.

    I think Its time to start a few more FKT's on Table Mountain. there are so many good routes that could be run,documented...and FKT'ed.