Fastest Known Time of the Year Awards!

What were the most inspiring, difficult, fast, or just plain ‘out-there’ FKT’s last year?  A panel of 27 runners reviewed the 22 Nominees (selected from the hundreds of FKT’s reported last year), voted for their top 5, and the Results are below.  A hot discussion this year was the widening gap between Unsupported and Supported efforts – some people did their whole route solo, while others utilized ‘race-level’ support for the first time – they had pacers the whole way, while carrying only minimal food or water themselves.  And as always, there were blazing fast runs on very popular routes, along with some insane efforts in the backcountry lasting over a month.  How does one decide which to vote for?  Which style of FKT won?  Read on!


Coastal Trail#4 (tie) 
California Coastal Trail OKT, (Self-Supported) California
Natalie Larson;  44d,18h,40m;  8/20-10/4
The CCT combines wilderness, beach, and urban running/hiking for 1,200 miles along the coast of CA.  An OKT (Only Known Time), Larson’s Self-Supported trip was an adventure in every sense, and was documented by satellite tracking and an evocative, complete report.
The voters said:
“It’s not the time she set as the audacity of the project: A young woman running alone though urban, suburban and wilderness. Her trip report reminds me of why I started doing FKT’s.”
“Love the pioneering spirit and solo pursuit – the best kind of FKTs.”

#4 (tie)  
Grand Canyon Rim-to-Rim (N-S), Arizona
Alicia Vargo;  3h,19m,23s;  11/8
While the Rim-to-Rim-to-Rim (R2R2R) has been a major target for decades, the R2R has seen relatively little interest.  The previous women’s best (set S-N) was done as part of the R2R2R.  Vargo gave the R2R a serious shot on its own, which may inspire more women to go after this logical route.
The voters said:
“The Grand Canyon attracts strong performances. Alicia’s time is solid.”


AshleyNOzark Highlands Trail, (Supported), Arkansas
Ashley Nordell;  2d,10h,46m; 10/27-29
Nordell has the fastest time Overall (Women & Men).  The previous best was also by a woman, Jenny Foster, 2d14h25m (2009).
The voters said:
“Faster than any men!”
“Solid effort and overall FKT!  What’s not to love?”

Grand Canyon R2R2R, (Supported) Arizona
Cat Bradley;  7h,52m,20s;  11/15
The R2R2R is one of the most classic routes in the world.  Bradley made it a major goal, and turned in an excellent result, besting besting Bethany Lewis’ 2011 FKT by more than 23 minutes.
The voters said:
“Badass time on a highly contested, ultra-classic route.”
“R2R2R is becoming as supported as a race, especially the way Cat did it.  But still it is a fast time and it’s impressive.”
“Elite run by an elite ultrarunner with elite crew and pacers – like a ‘Pro-FKT’ – but awesome”
“I loved her comment that WS100 (which she won) didn’t matter, only the Canyon mattered. I think comments about support and pacing are irrelevant for this route.”

Cat B

John Muir Trail, (Supported), California
Darcy Piceu;  3d,7h,57m ; 9/15-17
Piceu smashed the 10-year-old FKT of Sue Johnston by a whopping 12 hours.  There was some controversy because of a small and unintentional route finding error:  Piceu (and pacer Betsy Nye) took the Mist Trail part of the way down into Yosemite Valley, very near the end.
The voters said:
“I Would’ve ranked her higher, but IMO knowing the official Trail and successfully staying on route are part of what differentiates FKTs from marked courses!”
“She just blew away the competition. Yes a route-finding error, but since she didn’t gain any time, I excuse this digression.”
“She broke a long-standing record, and even threatened the men’s record. It was a huge leap in what’s possible for women.”



Bryan Williams#5 (tie)  
Colorado Trail, (Supported) Colorado   
Bryan Williams; 8d,0h,30m; 8/26-9/3
Williams took the Collegiate West option, which is a little longer (83 vs. 78 miles), with more vertical gain and a generally higher altitude, than the Collegiate East route taken by other FKT trips.  Nevertheless, he beat Scott Jamie’s 2013 time by over 7 hours.
The voters said:
“Bryan had his sights set on the CT for sometime. Like Cat, he did is recon, his homework, then sheer drive got it done.”
“I recall Scott Jaime talking about that pain and suffering that will be required to beat his time.”

#5 (tie)  
Presidential Traverse, New Hampshire
Ben Thompson; 4h29m55s; 7/6
This popular and logical route traverses the Presidential Range in NH.  Since 2009 the FKT has been traded back and forth several times between Ben Nephew, Ryan Welts and Jan Wellford, often beating each other’s times by just a few minutes.  Ben Thompson took nearly 5 minutes off of Nephew’s 2013 time.
The voters said:
“This is classic FKT stuff: a strong local community of talented guys and gals constantly challenging each other to take it up a notch!”

#5 (tie) 
Colorado’s Highest 100 Peaks, (Self-supported/Self-powered), Colorado
Justin Simoni; 60d,14h,59m,42s (OKT); 7/18-9/16
Following on 2014’s self-supported / self-powered tour (and FKT at the time) of Colorado’s 58 14ers, Simoni upped the ante to include the highest 100 peaks in the state; he biked to then climbed every official summit over about 13,800’.  The high 13ers are more obscure and some are technically more challenging than the 14ers. Simoni biked 1,720 and hiked 624 miles, and gained enough vert to get into outer space – 247,810′ by foot and 136,374′ by bike.
The voters said:
“Innovative, badass, logistically over-the-top challenging… just WOW.”

Simoni copy

#5 (tie)
Matthias copyLA Freeway, Colorado
Matthias Messner; 16h,59m; 8/6
The LA Freeway links Longs Peak with South Arapaho Peak in Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park and Indian Peaks Wilderness.  The route follows the crest and summits all the peaks, traversing roughly 34 miles, mostly above 12,000’ elevation, and requires numerous sections of 4th and 5th Class climbing.  While this was envisioned by Carl Pfiffner in the 1950s, it wasn’t completed in a seamless push until 2002, when Buzz Burrell did it in 2 days with a bivouac.  Messner was only the second person to complete the LAF, and he set an entirely new standard by doing the route in only 16h59m.
The voters said:
“My intimate knowledge of this route makes me one of the few that will understand how amazing this time is. I could see this time standing for a decade and we shouldn’t wait that long to acknowledge it.”
“An amazing time on an almost mystical route!  Absolutely world class.”
“This is an extremely niche route that I hope will gain greater prominence (it’s SO GOOD!), but will always be limited by its technical nature and locals-knowledge needed to really kill it. Which is fine. That’s what FKT’s are all about, really.”

Holy Nolan’s OKT, (Supported), Colorado
Andrew Hamilton;  71h,32m;  6/29-7/2
Hamilton is the undisputed King of the Colorado 14ers, holding the FKT for CO 14ers (all 58 peaks).  This was his 3rd Nolan’s finish, and he holds the FKT for doing the Nolan’s route Unsupported.  Here he added Holy Cross, to link up all fifteen 14ers in the Sawatch Range in one push that added about 25 miles of on & off-trail travel to Nolan’s.  Besides being the first to finish “Holy Nolan’s”, he set the Nolan’s FKT in the process (which was later superseded by Iker Karrera.)
The voters said:
“Cleans up the entire range in one go. Mind-blowing endurance.”
“I always wondered why the Nolan’s folks left the Holy Cross straggler… this guy finally did it!”


Iker-Karrera-Grand-Raid-2Nolan’s 14 (Supported), Colorado   
Iker Karrera;  47h,40m;  8/1-3
A Colorado classic that has attracted international attention, this is a very sturdy route: 14 summits over 14,000’, about 100 miles, 44,000’ of vert, and half off-trail.  Iker bested Andrew Hamilton’s time from June (see above) by 6h2m, which included significant time spent being lost.
The voters said:
“It’s all about route finding and game-time decisions when shit hits the fan (which it will when there is no trail).”
“This is number one for me because it’s a super demanding, physically and mentally, requiring a sense of adventure and braving the elements, and it’s very prestigious.”
“Iker didn’t bring the massive Euro support machine, but rather slotted himself into the local culture and ethic. He’s humble, and he’s really good.”

John Muir Trail (Supported), California  
Francois D’Haene;  2d,19h,26m;  10/14-17
The 2017 UTMB winner smashed the previous supported FKT by over 12 hours, running the route northbound, and was the first person to complete the route under 3 days. His approach was unusual in that by choosing to run in mid-October he gave up daylight in exchange for cooler temperatures and easier access to hiking permits for the area. He also had pacers the entire way, probably a first.
The voters said:
“I didn’t vote for Francois D’Haene’s JMT, because it seemed “too supported”, maybe beyond the spirit of FKTs for a true wilderness route.”
“Huge advancement here; will pacers the entire way be the new norm on the JMT?”
“Francois crushed it with a brilliant combination of athletic ability, unmatched support, and a unique approach of doing the route in October.”


Appalachian Trail, (Self-Supported), East Coast
Joe McConaughy;  45d,12h,15m;  7/17-8/31
The AT has a long history of very strong efforts, with the men including David Horton ’91, Pete Palmer ’99, Andrew Thompson ’05, Scott Jurek ’15, and Karl Meltzer ’16, all Supported. “Stringbean” bettered them all while going Self-Supported, being 10 hours faster than “Speedgoat” from the previous year.
The voters said:
“World-class ultra-runners with support, and he beat them self-supported.”
“No one to feed him, no one to massage him, no one to pop his blisters, no one to do his laundry, no one to shop for his food – #1 no brainer.”
“Joe McConaughy pulled off an FKT on the AT without any of the normal hoopla that seems to accompany modern ‘ultra-runner’ attempts.”
“Everyone who finishes this thing in an FKT-style effort is necessarily a hollow shell by the end. To keep taking care of oneself with no help throughout that entire process should not be underestimated. The clear winner.”



Democracy works!  None of the 23 Voters came close to picking all 10 winners (a famous now-former FKT holder came closest :-).  Utilizing a diverse group of voters is a brilliant way to decide – all personal favorites and biases are erased through democracy, and the result reflects the whole community.  The Tie for #4 Female is a great example:  Natalie spent 44 days solo hiking/running the entire coast of California in a true personal adventure, while Alicia (with two friends minutes behind her) smoked the Rim-Rim in the Grand Canyon in a little over 3 hours – and these two received the exact same number of voting points (30)!

For the first time, two non-American citizens nabbed the #3 and #2 spots for Men (the Ultra Runner of the Year Award is only for NA residents, while the FKTOY is open to anyone; the route itself has to be in NA).  Our experienced European correspondent had an interesting perspective:

“Here in Europe, most of the FKT attempts on iconic routes such as the GR20 in Corsica or the Pyrenean Traverse are big operations. Kilian, François, Julien … they all pushed limits using multiple pacers, aid station crews, change of equipment. Which makes me wonder, will a European will come after the AT FKT in the years to come?  Sub 40 days supported by brands like Salomon w/ pro film crew?  Is it a good or bad evolution?”

So which is better:  Supported or Unsupported?  Long and hard, or short and fast?

The community has spoken:  Those distinctions do not matter!  What’s cool is cool; we are inspired by verve, vision, and commitment no matter the distance, and badass is badass, no matter how you do it.

Your Comments are welcome below!  And 2018 is here – what do YOU have planned?

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9 thoughts on “Fastest Known Time of the Year Awards!

  1. Congrats to all! Although, I need to say that Justin Simoni only tying for 5th with his gargantuan undertaking with the Highest Hundred shocked me. Totally ranked #1 IMO.

  2. Congratulations to all those who dared to put down a solid time on the lines of their dreams. Mostly, I’m humbled to be counted among these other fine projects listed here, especially as I know how many other silent crushers there are out there doing their own thing, by their own “rules”.

    This isn’t a prediction, but definitely my own opinionated view on what I hope the future will bring to these FKTs. My hope really is that times will continue to go down, but support crews and support in general will be kept to a minimum, dependent on the routes involved. It seems to me that the cleanest of lines are done with as little use of aid as possible, and laying siege to a route is a bit too antithetical to me, given that all these challenges are done in Wilderness (or Wilderness-like) settings.

    Dare to go it alone as much as possible, bringing only that which you find essential – that is the zen-like secret to moving fast, init?

    For example, having the AT record fall to someone who got ‘er done self-supported shows that a following-along support van isn’t required to put in a fast time. The bar to entry is lower and playing field leveled as someone can do this alone with just their wits and a rucksack, as I think it should be. This isn’t to look down on previous fast times on the route – who know what was possible if not for others to try with a bit more of a framework of support? But little by little, like freeing an aid line in rock climbing, we can go purer and perhaps faster the simpler we make it.

    I myself do gravitate towards much longer challenges than say, crossing the Big Ditch a few times. There’s something to be said about given up so much certainty when the challenge goes from hours to days to weeks to months. Committing towards forward motion despite unknown future conditions takes something that’s forged deep within one’s heart – something that burns brightly, but is tempered to endure. The challenge becomes less a race with an abstract time goal, towards more of an internal contemplative state, willing yourself to keep going.

    Of all the nominated projects (and despite my natural indulgences), my vote would have been cast for Matthias Messner’s LA Freeway time. Seeing such a obvious line in the sky when viewed from the east, and knowing just enough of what the terrain is all about, I’m quite impressed it was all pulled together in such a scorching time. Of all the projects listed, it’s the one I’d love to try myself (for an FKT or not – probably NOT!) Matthias is *fast*. Chapeau!

    Whatever your own tastes are, I wish you all good luck, good fortune, and safe travels in 2018 and beyond!

    • Good thoughts! Yup; it’s not an adventure if you know what’s going to happen, is it? When the priority is reducing the time, then the next priority becomes reducing the adventure. Followed to it’s logical conclusion, one then might as well be in an organized race. Such is the natural evolution of sport: as the variables are taken out in order to achieve a result, other people go in the opposite direction, and re-commit to not knowing what’s out there. Or in there. IMHO, this is the excellence of FKT’s: one can always find personal meaning, unique to them. And others will be inspired by it.

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  4. Super impressive performances, so many hours behind the scene to prepare, or alone on such remote trails, thank you for highlighting and recognizing them this way!!! Go UD!

  5. Congratulations to all the winners and to the many others who are not listed here – you are all inspiring! As to the question of long and hard or short and fast, I lean towards long and hard, but both are equally impressive. It’s kind of like comparing the miler to the marathoners; both are fabulous and usually, one cannot have the same success in the other’s event. We are all built differently.

    As for supported or unsupported, I definitely lean towards unsupported. For supported, the runner still has to cover the distance on their own, and the effort and ability to do that cannot be overlooked, but it seems that as more support is provided, the adventure is gone and the athlete just has to run. This is fine, but it certainly would stink if the athlete missed the record because his crew got lost and they didnt meet up when planned and the athlete is left standing around not sure what to do. For example, I need water, food, clothes, etc., for the nighttime, I cannot go on without it so I must wait.

    In the unsupported world, all of the above falls upon the athlete to plan for this and more importantly to adopt to the situation and relay upon his survival skill and mental capacity to deal with everything and still go on. To me, that’s the accomplishment, the adventure, the joy!

    But regardless of which way you choose, the most important thing is to keep moving…

  6. Interesting list, but maybe write earlier that a requirement for this award thing is the route to be in the US.
    Lots of people outside US is probably reading this too, and will find it weird that only routes in US are included…..

    • Yes. We intend to expand the FKTOY Award to International. The only reason it’s currently confined to North America, is the existing judges cannot understand what is taking place elsewhere, so their evaluations could not be fair. Stay tuned!

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