FKT: Ben Mercer - Georgia Loop (GA) - 2019-03-19

Route variation
Standard Old DRT route
Gender category
Finish date
Total time
11h 19m 28s
GPS track(s)

Today on Tuesday, March 19th I established a new FKT on the Georgia Loop. I tried to honor the original route and avoided the recent reroutes on Duncan Ridge Trail. 

I ran CCW from Woody gap and received aid at the following:

Wolfpen Gap

Hwy 60 (Little Skeenah Creek)

Three Forks

Horse Gap




Full report:

Some people have a problem finishing what they start. I have a problem starting things I commit to, especially races. In Spring of 2017 I signed up for three races and dropped all of them due to nagging injuries and will. After wasting a lot of money by not toeing the line, I’ve developed a phobia of races. While not racing, I’ve still been motivated to get outside and train just for the sake of training. This is why the idea of running a route or an FKT became incredibly interesting to me and better, yet, I can run it whenever I’m ready.

So I went into Spring 2018 with the goal of running the Georgia Loop for an adventure run. Without running anything further than a 50k the thought of going after the FKT wasn’t on my radar. I was looking for the experience and I had a pretty good day (13:15’30). A time which I am still completely happy with.

Fast forward a couple months after my first attempt I decided to sign up for Pinhoti 100. Per usual, I was unable to get what I thought was adequate training in and I was dealing with a minor foot injury. So I pulled the plug on another race. Shocking.

After dropping Pinhoti and then hearing about the reroute on Duncan Ridge, the Georgia Loop came to the forefront of my mind. After a couple lackluster years of not racing, I felt I owed it to myself to put forth my best effort and I wanted to honor as much of the original route as possible. So I knew I had to get started on the project as soon as possible.

I trained for about sixteen weeks leading into this effort and focused on vertical feet and time as opposed to miles. A typical week ended up being 50-55 miles with 12-15k in elevation gain and probably 10-12 hours. Outside of that, I got out on Duncan Ridge once it February to make sure I could still follow the old trail. 

I decided to make my attempt in March after daylight savings in hopes of capitalizing on cooler temps and a longer day. Then I watched the weather for weeks looking for a weekday that was preceded by at least three to four consecutive dry days. With hiking season in full swing, a little rain, can turn some of the AT into a muddy pit. So yesterday was the day that checked all my prerequisites.

Tuesday morning was cold, dry, and windless and the high never got above 55.


AT/DRT: 1:20’38

Wolfpen Gap: 1:47’58

Mulkey Gap: 3:16’48

Hwy60 (Little Skeenah Creek): 5:54’39

Toccoa River (Swinging Bridge): 6:37’01

Three Forks: 8:09’16

Coopers Gap: 9:40’09

Gooch Gap: 10:35’30

Woody Gap (Finish): 11:19’28

I learned a lot between last year’s attempt and this year. One thing was certain that if I wanted to come near Richard Schick’s time I couldn’t spend much time with my crew. Last year my cumulative time receiving aid was nearly an hour. This year I cut that to maybe to five minutes. When I saw my crew I switched bottles, stuffed my pockets with gels, pounded some water and soda and kept moving. My nutrition was not super targeted but I tried to take in about 300 calories an hour between tailwind and gels. I also took a couple electrolyte caps every few hours to mitigate any cramps.

Although the day was a huge success, it didn’t come without it’s hiccups. Early in the day, I took bad spill which has left me with a welt and road rash about the size of my palm on my right thigh. I also went out a little too hard which I paid for climbing out of Mulkey gap where I started bonking. This lead me to contemplate DNFing. Luckily, after sitting on the ground for maybe forty-five seconds, I convinced myself to just start hiking and get to hwy 60 where I would evaluate how I felt. By then, I was up on my splits and I knew I had a good shot at my goal if I hit Three Forks between 8 and 8 and half hours. 

The day was pretty much the classic ebb and flow for ultras. Big highs and very low lows but I just kept trying to plug away and get it done. Highlights were talking to all the backpackers starting their Northbound journeys. The conversations were incredibly brief but I was always sure to wish them well on their through hike. I tip my hat to anyone who completes any of the long trails. What badasses. 

To wrap this up I’d like to thank my friends and family for their support and all the local trail runners for the kind words and feedback. It means a lot. Also a big thank you is owed to Richard Schick for devising that adventure run all those years ago. His time really gave me something to shoot for and it’s an honor to have my name alongside his and Horton's. 

Happy Trails,

-Ben M.