The Simple Beauty of the FKT
Photos: Les Morales
The beauty of the FKT (Fastest Known Time) is that they are made for everyone, wherever and whenever you want.
You can go after big, audacious ones like the Grand Canyon Crossing or the Zion Traverse, routes with stacked leaderboards featuring legit pros and legends from around the world.
Or, you simply send a local route, long or short, to test your mettle and fitness.
Better yet, you can battle a friend across a traverse that is little known to most, but on the rise in popularity and prestige. As I did just a couple weeks back, besting Kris Brown’s unsupported Los Padres Traverse FKT by 32 minutes.
Not only do FKTs inspire you to train and empower you to take on challenges in Mother Nature, but they can push you to the brink and beyond typically alone or with a few close friends, in a race against yourself and the clock, no other competitors present.
While different from traditional racing, FKTs still provide the participant with a solid test of their limits in the trail and ultrarunning world. There are times to chase as short as only a handful of miles like the Mount Whitney Mountaineers route ascent, or as long as a thousand miles or more like the Ice Age Trail of Wisconsin.
There is no right or wrong way to do an FKT, in fact, typically each route offers a chance to claim the crown unsupported (carrying all your own nutrition/gear from beginning to end, filtering water), self-supported (utilizing pre-dropped supplies along the route only), supported (just about all the help you can take), mixed gender, multi-person teams, and oftentimes even a certain direction or alternate route choices. The options are nearly endless.
Can’t find what you’re looking for? If not an all-inclusive enough pursuit yet, you can even create and submit your own route to post a time on. Once it’s live, others can find it and start submitting efforts as well.
Perhaps one of the greatest advantages of running a FKT in any of the aforementioned formats is that you can go on any day or start at any time you want. There’s no ‘race date’ set in stone, with a crack of dawn depart required. If the weather is bad, but is clear later in the day and you’ve charged your trusty headlamp and don’t mind running in the dark, you can punt your attempt into the afternoon and evening. If a storm front comes in and sits for the whole weekend on your home town mountain range, pivot the date to the following weekend or later in the month. Sprain your ankle or catch a stomach bug? Give yourself a chance to rest up and choose another date in the months to come.
Many of the learnings from experiencing long distances on foot are the ability to find comfort in vulnerability, and an FKT attempt is no different. You’re forced to problem solve without the support of traditional event logistics. Often alone and with minimal support, your mind, body, and soul get stretched incredibly slim. All for very little fanfare dependent most likely on your interest, or lack thereof, with sharing it online. Otherwise, an FKT can be nothing more than a blip on the radar. And that’s fine too. An FKT is truly what you want to make it, nothing more and nothing less.
While races require registration fees, in-person competition, and other perks, yet understandable fees, FKTs are virtually free, or whatever they cost you for gas to the start and for your crew, food to fuel your way through the wilderness and perhaps a small donation to the FastestKnownTime.com website that hosts all the records.
FKTs are for us all, but please, declare your intentions with a post on the boards so others can follow along, encourage a friend to give one a go, and when you’re done (whether successful or not) do share your insights and experience so others can learn. Start small to test your skills and build towards a bold, historic route or dream up something new. Of course, enjoy the time spent outdoors thoroughly, moving through Mother Nature with respect for the land and immense joy of passing through its graces as safely and swiftly as you can.