FKT: Nathan Broom - Palmetto Trail: Swamp Fox Passage (SC) - 2024-01-14

Route variation
one way
Gender category
Start date
Finish date
Total time
8h 22m 32s
GPS track(s)

I’ve been visiting the SC Lowcountry my whole life and lived here a few years in my youth, but I’ve spent very little time in the woods down here. Today was about 80,000 small steps toward remedying that. I was visiting my parents for the holiday weekend, and they were gracious to indulge my desire to spend a day on the trail. I ran unsupported, with Dad transporting me to and from the trailheads, and Mom preparing roast beef and rice and gravy for the end of the day. Looking forward to that meal nearly reached the level of support in the last few hours.

The weather was excellent, starting out around 40 and overcast, and warming up to 60s and sunny. It has been a rainy start to the year, which made for almost unlimited water filtering options–and very wet feet. I dodged puddles until about mile 13 (starting from the Awendaw trailhead), and then embraced the wet feet. There were dozens of mandatory wading sections, never deeper than a foot, but sometimes extending for 100 feet of trail. I wore hiking-weight Darn Tough socks and Hoka Speedgoats. The shoes drained decently and the socks felt fine wet, but they did hold a good bit of water.

I was operating beyond my fitness at this distance, and that showed in my pace as the day progressed. For a flat trail, I enjoyed the terrain. The forest here is very different from my home in Southern Indiana, and I enjoyed progressing from pine, to beech and oak, to water tupelo and cypress in the wetlands, and back again. Big respect to Kevin for running this in August. I don’t know how to calculate a time adjustment for the heat index he experienced, but surely it would be counted in hours, not minutes.

I managed to get bit by a snake somewhere around mile 10 or 15. I never saw the snake, and I thought I might have just stepped awkwardly on a stick–but sure enough, before going to bed I checked out a sore spot just above my achilles and noticed two fang marks. It must have been a dry bite, because I experienced no effects of venom. I don’t know how to advise other runners to avoid this risk, but I do want to share that it exists on this trail. For what it’s worth, I had near-constant cell phone coverage all day (Google Fi).

I ran with two half-liter flasks, one of which was fitted with a Salomon filter. I filtered at mile 20 crossing a small branch and again at the bridge over Cane Gully Branch just before mile 39. I’ve read that the year-round water sources in the southeastern half of the trail are brackish and not suitable for filtering, but this time of year, after ample rain, there was fresh water everywhere. In this weather, about 3 liters of water was sufficient for me. Calories came from drink powder and prepackaged endurance-specific junk food… about 2300 calories total, for about 270/hour.

I had an experience on the trail that felt novel to me. I was carrying my filter flask in a tunnel pocket in the back of my vest, and I was a bit worried that it might fall out. Somewhere around mile 11, I suddenly got a clear image of the filter flask in my mind, prompting me to feel for it–and find it missing. I turned around and it was lying 20 feet behind me on the trail. I must have felt or heard it fall out, but my mind seems to have processed the sensory input differently than it usually does and showed me an image rather than giving me a more typical “thought.” I love those moments on long trail days when I experience the world in a different way than I’m accustomed to.

There appears to be a race on this trail, so anyone considering a supported FKT attempt should do some research and make sure they can improve on the best recorded race times. I’m thankful for everyone who imagined, planned, funded, built, and maintains this trail, as well as those who have run it before and shared their experiences. As my fatigue accumulated toward the end of the day, I found myself wondering why I don’t either choose goals that are better within my abilities, or get my abilities up to the level of my goals. But even though I can’t say I finished this trail in high style, I did finish it, and it’s pushing my limits that is one of the most captivating parts of chasing FKTs for me.