FKT: Jonathan Frentzel - White Clay Perimeter - 2023-12-24

Route variation
Standard route
Gender category
Start date
Finish date
Total time
4h 55m 43s

Ever since this FKT route was created, I've wanted to run it.  I knew I would never be able to carry enough water during the summer months for an unsupported run so I had to wait until it was a bit cooler.  I'd run the first 10-20 miles several times over the summer and knew I'd have to have a good outing to get the FKT.  About two weeks prior, I decided that, if it was good running weather, I would go for it.  I was entering the peak phase of 50k training so this was my best shot.  My only anxiety was about taking a wrong turn.  The day before the attempt, I downloaded the Rungo app so I could get turn-by-turn audio directions as I went.  That eased my mind a bit.

The weather called for temperatures between 36F and 48F on the morning of the run which was perfect.  I was a bit surprised when it was raining in the morning, but it was light and didn't last long, although it did make certain parts of the run muddy.  I set off just before sunrise so that I wouldn't have to worry about carrying a headlamp.

I took advantage of the first few paved miles to bank some time, running a low 7 minute per mile pace.  As soon as I turned onto the single track at mile 2.5, my pace dropped a lot.  Partially due to the conditions, but mostly due to the first real climb of the run.  The route had some ups and downs until reaching the White Clay XC course at mile 4.5 where it flattened out a bit.  Side note: the text-to-speech app pronounced "white clay ex see" as "white clay ninety" because it thought it was reading roman numerals which I found funny.

Miles 7 through 8.5 were on the Tri-State Trail which was my favorite part.  The single-track flows nicely.

Mile 11 is where I first got to run along the White Clay Creek.  I saw a bald eagle flying 20-30 feet above the creek and then perch on a tree along the path.

Miles 13 through 15 featured some hills but I know them well so tried to pace myself.  I power hiked up a good portion of Vaughn's Trail to save energy.  I was relieved to get to the Penndel Trail which is nice and flat.  I saw a Great Blue Heron perched on a tree across the creek and stopped to get a picture but it flew off before I could get my phone out.

The next 5 miles are run on the Wendel Cassel, David English, and Whitley Farms Trail.  While beautiful, they are tough miles and were the most taxing on me.

Miles 20.5 through 22.5 are asphalt and downhill until Papermill Park which is flat.  I took advantage by running my fastest split of the day in this section.  Near the end of Papermill Park is a bathroom with a water fountain.  I think this might be the only water along the course.  I was all set so I ran on by.

The next 2.5 miles were in Middle Run which I am not very familiar with.  I was nervous about this section because there are a lot of crisscrossing trails.  At mile 24.5, I came to a wye in the trail that wasn't announced as a turn.  I wanted to double-check the directions on my phone, but I guess the jostling in my vest counted as incorrect password attempts and I was locked out.  I stood there for two minutes deciding if I could wait five more minutes for the phone to unlock or take a chance.  Knowing that this was a perimeter run helped me figure out the general direction I needed to go.  Within a minute or two, I saw the Pike Creek Bible Church which told me I was going in the right direction.

Miles 25 through 29 were on the grounds of the Judge Morris Estate.  I had run this trail a bunch of times recently so a few miles of known terrain put me at ease.

Miles 29 through 32 were foreign to me.  There were quite a few hills and my pace was creeping up.  Before this point, my overall pace had me on target to comfortably get the FKT.  My projected finish time was now about even with the FKT.  I wasn't ready to panic yet but knew I was going to have to start working harder.

At mile 32.5, I turned onto the pavement at Possom Hollow Road and was able to pick up the pace.  I knew there was only one hill left, then downhill from 33 until the finish.

The push through Redd Park was tough but measured.  I knew I could get the time if I didn't blow up.  Just after mile 34, through the barren trees, I could see the Newark Reservoir which signals the finish line.  The toughest part of the entire run was when I needed to turn and run the opposite direction on the trail.  I briefly considered walking but knew I had to keep pushing.

There was a huge sense of relief when the reservoir came back into sight.  My watch was ahead on mileage so I couldn't tell exactly how much distance was left, but I knew I was close.  I left the woods behind and tried my best to pick up the pace on the asphalt path.

This route ends with a pretty significant, half-mile downhill.  I could see the finish but I was still a few minutes out.  How long would that downhill take?  I thought I was ahead but couldn't be sure.  I started to bomb it down the hill and finally knew I had the FKT a few hundred yards before the finish.


Water/Nutrition:  I consumed two 500ml bottles of Tailwind (shoulder bottles) and one 16 ounce bottle of water (handheld).  I had two Maurten bars, one Honey Stinger Waffle, and a few Clif Shot Bloks.  I had another 1.5L of Tailwind in my vest, but the hose was kinked from the outset and I didn't get to drink any of it.  I didn't want to take the time to fix the issue.