FKT: Tom Mayell - Griffith Park Loop (Los Angeles, Ca) - 2020-05-30

Gender category
Route variation
Standard route
Finish date
Total time
3h 14m 44s
GPS track(s)

Photos on Strava.

I arrived at Griffith Park at 5:30pm on a Saturday to attempt the 15-mile Griffith Park Big Loop, hoping to do it in 3 hours, finish by dark, and break the fastest known time of about 4.5 hours.

The park was partially closed due to Covid-19, and park rangers were blocking the road to the Merry-Go-Round, so I parked by the LA Zoo and jogged about a mile to the starting point at the Merry-Go-Round. Here I started my Strava timer and, after a few minutes of wandering, found the Mineral Wells trail and began running counter-clockwise.

I followed the route and guidance set by Christophe Stahl, who set the fastest known time of about 4.5 hours in 2014. I carried a small knapsack with some fruit and nuts - no water.

The first challenge was a bit of route-finding 3 or 4 miles in, just before Toyon Canyon. After passing the graveyard, the route ascends a narrow washout that was overgrown with nettle and yellow monkeyflower. I hopped over the nettle and wondered when someone had been here last.

I emerged onto the paved road briefly and, after some route-finding confusion, I ascended past Toyon Canyon and was thrilled to be back on familiar trails. I jogged and hiked up to Mt. Lee, having a snack on the way. On the singletrack Mt. Chapel Trail I leapt over a thick brown snake covering the entire track. I knew it was a snake straight off from the yellow pattern - diamond, maybe. I leapt over it with a yell of fright and did not slow down.

I rested for only a minute atop Mt. Lee before heading to the Griffith Observatory section. I felt good, a little tired, but I went off-route twice and sapped some energy retracing my steps back to the route. (You can see my route dog-ears by the Observatory.)

I knew the 2 water sources were coming up, but I admit I wasn't sure if one of them was at the Greek Theatre or the Observatory, and I was a bit busy route-finding, so ultimately I missed 1 water source. Which did not turn out entirely well for me.

I passed the observatory. It was about 7:30pm and night was falling on the east side of the park. At the Joe Klass water stop, the water fountain was dry. I drank from the sink in the bathroom but the water tasted so horrible and metallic that I couldn't drink much (I'm not exaggerating - this was sour water).

At this point, I was mentally okay but physically breaking down. Both of my legs were cramping up. Even jogging downhill was painful. My left hamstring / groin in particular was seizing up. I was out of fruit and water, so I had some trail mix and continued on.

The final few miles were slow and painful, as the cramps worsened and I quickly went from thirsty to nauseous. Thankfully they were mostly downhill, so I hobbled down, running and walking. On the long ridge descent, with Glendale in full view, I crossed a coyote sniffing the ground at an intersection in the trail. I greeted him with "Coyotayyy." He noticed me and very slowly turned to trot up the smaller, offshoot trail, and I tried to take a photo but failed. Some minutes later - perhaps 20 - I heard coyotes howling from back where I had seen the lone coyote, and I later thought I heard a horse neighing a distress call, but then again I was by this time starting to have compulsive thoughts about stopping to lay down.

Down by the Golden State Fwy I stayed on the Cadman Trail too long and ascended an extra ridge by accident before connecting with Lower Beacon. My extra Cadman segment is the only place where I diverge from Christophe's route significantly. Realizing my mistake at the time, I continued on rather than backtrack, reasoning that I was doing an extra 150 foot of vert up an overgrown trail, and otherwise basically paralleling the actual route, so I soldiered up the hill along the Freeway and connected back with Christophe's route minutes later.

I soon limped back into the Merry-Go-Round parking area and found my original starting starting spot to complete the loop. I was dehydrated, sore, and nauseous, but thrilled that I had run 16 miles at a higher effort than I had ever put in before. I didn't check to see if I had the FKT, as I became quite sick from dehydration (and exertion?) after the run, but after a couple hours and some water/bananas, I recovered to tell the tale!