For over a decade, Peter Bakwin, a Physics PHD out of Harvard, has been custodian to a new type of record. The concept, which is now hosted at fastest known time after a surprisingly successful original life as a proboards.com forum, is simple: to track the fastest historic instance of self-propelled travel through an established or significant route or trail.
Because there is no formal governing body for the category, the criteria for including a route aren’t precise. The website notes that the route should have “some interest & integrity, be it aesthetic, historical or otherwise,” adding that the route must be “notable and distinct enough so that others may be interested in repeating it.”
Routes can cover any distance or duration over any type of surface. The route may not officially be a race, and at least 50% of the elapsed time must be either running or hiking (swimming, climbing, skiing, etc. aren’t counted).
The Burden of Proof
To have an FKT included on the site, Bakwin’s team requires thorough proof. The original data file from the runner’s GPS is the biggest item, but links to Strava (or other activity reporting), trip reports, and photo files from the trip are also accepted.
For well-known routes, runners are asked to announce their intentions in advance and offer real-time tracking (which can be shared privately with the site administrators rather than publicly posted). These security measures are meant to stem the controversy that arose from several less rigorously documented early FKT efforts.
Fastest Known Time of the Year Award Criteria
The Fastest Known Time of the Year (FKTOY) Award is now in its third year. The honor recognizes the best 5 FKT runs of the year among men and women, with an important stress on the idea that the run itself is being honored, rather than the runner. To ensure the voters can fully understand the candidates, only FKTs on North American trails are taken into consideration.
22 members of the FKT community were selected for the voter committee this year. Each received a list of nominees and was asked to rank them all; when the rankings were tallied, the top scores won. While there was no direct scoring, voters were asked to consider several criteria:
- How long had the previous record stood?
- How competitive is the trail?
- Did the run establish a better style or new way of attacking the trail?
- Was it dangerous?
- Did the attempt leave any negative effects?
FKTOY Award Runners Up
As of January 18th, 2019, FKT had already announced 5th place through 3rd place for both the Men’s and Women’s categories.
Photo Credit: “Fastest Known Time” of the Year Award Winners
- In 5th we have Clare Gallagher’s Supported 48-mile Trans-Zion trip in 8:01:24, which shaved 25 minutes off of the previous FKT.
- 4th went to Annie Weiss’s 12-hour improvement on the previous Supported Ice Age Trail FKT (for any sex). The 1,200-mile trek took her 21 days, 18 hours, and 7 minutes, covering about 55 miles per day.
- The voters gave 3rd to Candice Burt, for her 95-mile Unsupported assault on the Wonderland Trail. The trip took 1 day, 4 hours, 45 minutes, and 31 seconds.
- Taylor Nowlin’s Supported Rim to Rim to Rim run in the Grand Canyon set the women’s record in 07:25:58, shaving 3 minutes and 18 seconds off of Ida Nilsson’s previous record less than a week after it was set.
Photo Credit: “Fastest Known Time” of the Year Award Winners
- The committee handed 5th in the men’s field to Nate Bender’s 4 day, 6 hours, 44 minute, and 19 second journey over the Montana 12ers (all 27 summits in Montana with a peak over 12,000’). The award comes in recognition of the creativity and enormous planning and scouting load that Bender undertook: his run was the first ever attempt to hit all 27 Montana 12ers in one route.
- Andrew Hamilton’s Colorado 14ers Winter Route FKT took 4th, as he became the first person to climb all 58 Colorado mountains with summits over 14,000’ in a single calendar winter. The effort took 85 days, 15 hours, and 37 minutes in total.
- Joe Grant’s run over the Nolan’s 14 route took 3rd. You might call the trail a little bit of a legacy: in 2016, Megan Hicks’s run of the same route was good for 3rd in the Women’s FKTOY, and in 2017 Iker Karrera’s excellent showing there took 3rd in the Men’s.
- Aurelien Sanchez traversed the 223-mile John Muir Trail in 3 days, 3 hours, 55 minutes, and 10 seconds. In cutting 7 hours off of the previous Unsupported time for one of FKT’s most infamous trails, Sanchez made a serious case for first.
And the Winners Are…
- Alyssa Godesky’s 5 days, 2 hours, and 37 minutes time on a Supported run of the 273-mile Long Trail came in 5 hours faster than Nikki Kimball’s 2012 record. With this vote, the committee hoped to recognized the historic import of the United States’s first long-distance trail, which was completed in 1930.
- Karel Sabbe’s run of the 2,1890mile Appalachian Trail in 41 days, 7 hours, and 39 minutes was nearly 5 days faster than the previous record on what was already considered one of the most highly competitive FKT trails.
Ultra Runners Lead the Pack
It should come as no surprise that there’s serious overlap between the ultra running community and the Fastest Known Time movement. There are a limited number of distance runners in the world capable of setting solid FKTs, and the best of these runners have scored sponsorship and endorsement money by taking on the effort for high-profile trails. Here are a couple of other big names in endurance running who hold major FKTs.
Jim Walmsley, who recently made waves by qualifying in the Aramco Houston Half Marathon for the Olympic trials, holds seven active FKTs. Walmsley, the reigning UltraRunning magazine Ultrarunner of the Year since 2016, whom is also ranked #1 in the world by the International Trail-Running Association’s Performance Index, made history by moving down to the half (his first time in more than a decade) and qualifying on his first attempt. His impressive list of FKTs, includes the men’s Supported Grand Canyon R2R and R2R2R routes, and the Unsupported FKT for the Grand Canyon R2R2R alternate route.
Photo Credit: Jasmin Paris winner of the 268-mile 2019 MONTANE Spine Race
Jasmin Paris, the overall winner of the 268-mile 2019 MONTANE Spine Race, is no stranger to crushing records in the mountains. She set the women’s Support FKTs for the Paddy Buckley Round, Ramsay Round, and Bob Graham Round routes (UK’s Big 3) all in 2016.
Darcy Piceu holds 7 FKTs, including the female Supported FKT on the 223-mile John Muir Trail—the route credited with popularizing the FKTs in the first place—for which she took 1st in the 2017 Women’s FKTOY Awards. The hardware fits in quite nicely with her course records in more traditional events at the Bighorn 100 and Bear 100.