FKT: Shaun MacLean, Jessica Dahn - Pioneer Footpath (NL, Canada) - 2020-10-10

Route variation
one way
Gender category
Mixed-gender team
Start date
Finish date
Total time
8h 50m 18s
GPS track(s)

Pioneer Footpath - October 10th, 2020 - TRIP REPORT

A few weeks before starting our run, after having hiked the trail over three days I reported back to Shaun that I expected we could run the Pioneer Footpath in 10 hours. His response was simply "Ok, let's set a 9 hour goal then." I spent a bit more time analyzing the mixed terrain and followed up with a belief that if we both had the best day, with the most ideal conditions we could hit 8 hours and 30 minutes.

We set off just before 7:30 AM, the sun rising ahead of us and wind at our backs. Having driven through a snowstorm to get to Pinware the day before, we were feeling pretty lucky to have the blue skies overhead.

Section 1 - L'Anse-au-Clair to Forteau, 14km, technical terrain

The first 14km was the section I had worried about the most. I anticipated the slowest pace, and the highest chance of getting lost in this section. But we breezed along the coast, floated over the slippery moss and tricky rock sections. All was well, except my stomach, but I had anticipated some issues there. We arrived at our first checkpoint 15 minutes ahead of our 'ideal' plan. Looking back this should have been a sign that maybe we started off too fast.

Section 2 - Forteau to L'Anse Amour Lighthouse, 14km, mixed pavement, gravel roads, rocky beaches & sand dunes.

After a 6km paved road section, you hit some technical rocky beaches followed by sand dunes, stream crossing and gravel. Things felt good here and we moved along at a steady pace. We arrived at our second Aid Station, 27km into the route, located at the beautiful Point Amour Lighthouse.

Section 3 - L'Anse Amour Lighthouse to the Top of the Battery, 17.7km, Sandy ATV trails, very little pavement, some gravel, some bog, a steep climb and gradual uphill moss meadows.

We were now behind the 'ideal plan' and this took a toll on my mental game. Shaun on the other hand was going strong, he would check in with me from time to time, perhaps sensing where my head had gone. Arriving into L'Anse Au Loup we had 2km through the Town before we began the very steep climb up the Battery Trail. Somewhere in there I found the good again.

On Brook Road, where the climbing starts, we were expecting to see our support crew at the trailhead, but instead found construction and a giant hole in the ground. We jumped over a trench and started climbing up the side of the hill. This is where I made a mistake in our navigation, I continued up the hill into the woods thinking we would easily find the trail once we started our way up. I was wrong, and we spent a lot of time pushing our way through brush and spruce to get ourselves back on track. When we got to the top of the steep section, Shaun noted that it had taken a toll on him. We pushed on, but our pace was slowing and the excitement and adrenaline from the morning was starting to feel pretty far gone.

With 1km to our 3rd aid station we decided we would take a full 10 minutes to sit, have some soup, and rest our feet before the final 15km. At this point the tables had turned and Shaun was suffering from stomach issues, and perhaps some mental struggles as well.

Section 4 - Top of Battery to the Finish in Pinware, 14.5km, big ATV downhill, mixed pavement and coastal rocky trail, overgrown brush, stream crossings and some beach rock.

After our break, our support crew was now able to follow along closely as we weaved in and out from the highway. Running had now changed to what I liked to call a shuffle. Thinking back on it, even though we weren't moving fast through this last section, it feels like it all happened pretty quickly.

When we finished the final section of pavement and had 4km of trail left, we shuffled on, our average pace only slowing slightly. The final 2 kilometers has 3 stream crossings and the final kilometer is extremely overgrown. We checked the time and knew that if we continued on pace we would come in under 9 hours. We picked things up a bit then, and as we fought our way through an overgrown creek crossing and up a hill we saw Sara running towards us. She was excited, someone had cleared and marked the rest of the way to the finish and there was a bridge for us on the final, large creek. We pushed more, faster than we had been able to run for a long time. Arriving at the end, to the best support crew and two local men who had heard of our endeavour, cheering us in.

60.52km, 8 Hours 50 minutes 18 seconds