Fastest Known Time of the Year Award

The Fastest Known Time of the Year Award is back for the third year. FKTs are now a fundamental element of running: the best runners in the world along with the middle-of-packer, people are creating their own adventures, learning about new routes, and in the case of this award, getting very competitive and throwing down some really fast times.

As always, these “winners” don’t actually win anything. Except the respect of their peers, which might be the best prize there is. The intention of the FKTOY is to create more community, by learning from and growing with each other.

In keeping with the self-driven ethic of FKTs, the durations of this year's top ten covers a huge range. Some were run on buffer trails while some required 4th class scrambling, and voters awarded both supported and self-supported efforts. In other words, quality, excellence, and inspiration are what mattered.

See for yourself. Click on the links, and discover a cool route you may want to do … or not want to do ...

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#5: Clare Gallagher (Trans-Zion) & Nate Bender (Montana 12ers)

The Trans-Zion, which is to run E-W (or W-E) on trails across this National Park, has quickly become one of the more hotly contested routes in the West (#5 Female FKTOY 16), with many big name runners taking a shot. Clare used her training for the cancelled TNF50 to knock 25 minutes off the FKT.

Clare said:

I lost my sanity with a half mile to go, thinking I was done, but obviously I wasn't because we hadn't reached the sign yet. Full on delirious finish line! Favorite parts: shadow/sunlight East Canyon descent with Hayden (Hawkes), Hop Valley with Brendan (Davis).

Voters said:

  • Clare took a big bite out of a very competitive FKT.
  • Clare's time is closer to Hayden Hawks’ male FKT than Taylor's is to Jim Walmsley's male R2R2R time.
  • Still more time to take, but glad to see people working hard.

Follow Clare Gallagher: on Strava, @clare_gallagher on Instagram, and on her website clare.run.

A new project requiring much planning and scouting: climbing all 27 summits in Montana (all located in the Beartooth Range) over 12,000’. These mountains are rough, with few trails, endless rock hopping, tricky route finding, bad weather, challenging scrambling, and few access points for support crew.

Nate said:

I loved that the route was intimidatingly long, rugged, and steep — so steep!, I loved that it was entirely contained in the wilderness, and almost entirely off-trail (of the 100 miles, only about four are on trail). To me, the idea that I could set out from the first trailhead and for a hundred miles not see a sign of civilization more substantial than a tent made the route incredibly aesthetic and appealing. I spent the summers of 2017 and 2018 scouting the route, logging more than 180 hours, 340 miles, and 126K vert over eight scouting trips.

Voters said:

  • The CO and CA 14ers have been done for decades, the NH 4000ers, the ID 12's... but here’s the first completion of the MT 12's in one push!
  • I put this at #3 for the creativity aspect of it, the choose-your-own-adventure aspect, and all the scouting involved.
  • The MT 12’s are surprisingly different than the higher CO or CA 14ers … many of these are really remote, and infrequently climbed.

Follow Nate Bender: @10peaksbeforelunch on Instagram, and on his website 10peaksbeforelunch.com.

#4: Annie Weiss (Ice Age Trail) & Andrew Hamilton (Colorado 14ers Winter)

Annie took the overall FKT by 12 hrs on this long and scenic tour of Wisconsin starting near Minneapolis, MN, dropping south below Milwaukee, then finishing up by Green Bay.

Annie said:

The 21 days I was out there it was kind of like "Groundhog Day". You get up, you run, you eat, you run, you eat. When I finished, I was like, now what do I do? "She rotated through 8 pairs of shorts, 19 shirts, 8 sports bras, 30 pairs of socks and 6 pairs of shoes. She touched 30 of the 72 counties in the state. If a McDonald's cheeseburger is 300 calories, Annie would have needed to eat 380 of them in the last 3 weeks to BREAK EVEN on calories.” -- husband Brian.

Voters said:

  • A relatively unknown person, who persevered with a really good run!
  • Overall FKT and ~55 miles a day for 21+ days.
  • Annie is on my list because she has the Overall record, and this is stout and long.

Follow Annie Weiss: @ani_weiss on Instagram, and on her blog, therunningwanderer.com.

Photo: Kristine Hinrichs

Andrew "King of the 14ers" Hamilton became the first person to climb all 58 Colorado 14ers in a calendar winter. While staying home to watch his kids every other week.

Andrew said:

It was a little different than the 14er record, when there’s this huge let down when you’re done. You’re going for 10 days straight: go, go, go, go, and then you are done. Collapsed. Your body swells up; you’re in total pain. This record was different because the effort was metered out over a long period of time. I got to the top and I was like, Okay, great, I’m done. (And)I’m not much of a winter sports guy ...

Voters said:

  • The amount of time and luck that it took to get this right is staggering.
  • This one made me gasp.
  • The commitment to do this in winter is unreal, yet Andrew is the one to do it - he’s done every CO 14er at least 7 times and many 20 times.

Follow Andrew Hamilton: @andrewhamilton14ers on Instagram.

#3: Candice Burt (Wonderland Trail) & Joe Grant (Nolan's 14)

The Wonderland Trail circumnavigates Mt Rainier, and Candice didn't like that the Unsupported FKT was held by a team, so she went and beat it solo. About 6hrs, 41mins slower than the Supported FKT.

Candice said:

I’m really stoked because I decided to suck it up and show that the FKT could be broken again solo. I knew running solo was the challenge I needed to face my fears. My fear of not meeting my goal, my fear of the dark, of running into mountain lions (like I did in 2012). When we face our fears we take away their power and claim it for ourselves. How did I deal with almost 10 hours of navigating and running in the mountains by myself in the dark? I forced myself into a situation where I had to get through fear to overcome it.

Voters said:

  • Burlier than people think.
  • Candice is an engaging ambassador for women and FKTs; I hope this has a ripple effect to bring more women in.
  • One of the best pure long trail runs in the country, done in classic sleep-in-the-back-of-your-truck style.

Follow Candice Burt: @runcandicerun on Instagram, @runcandice on Twitter@runcandice on Facebook, and on her website, wilddefined.com.

Nolan's has become a classic test-piece for mountain/ultra runners (#3 Female FKTOY 2016; #3 Male FKTOY 2017), with endless 3rd class rock and monster vert. Joe's Unsupported time is 3 hours slower than Alex Nichols' Supported time, which was set simultaneously (but in the other direction), and 4 hours faster than Andrew Hamilton's previous Unsupported best.

Joe said:

I never doubted that I was not going to go to the finish. I wouldn’t say it was strange, but it doesn’t often happen that you have 100% resolve. I never thought of dropping out. It wasn’t so much of “I’ve got this!” It was more of an “I’m bonking out of my mind right now, completely losing my shit, I’m really down … how can I figure out what to do to keep going and get myself to the end.”

Voters said:

  • I’ve a soft spot for the Unsupported efforts.
  • Nolan's is this odd length where Supported vs. Unsupported doesn't affect the time that much, but going Unsupported is much more badass.
  • This thing can still go so much faster. Arrogant and controversial, I know.

Follow Joe Grant: @alpineworks on Instagram, and on his website alpine-works.com.

#2: Taylor Nowlin (R2R2R) & Aurelien Sanchez (John Muir Trail)

With the TNF50 Mile cancelled due to fires/smoke, there were 3 attempts at Rim to Rim to Rim in the Grand Canyon (#2 Male FKTOY '16) in one week. First, Ida Nilsson shaved 23 minutes off Cat Bradley's excellent time from a year ago (#2 FKTOY '17), then 2 days later Sandi Nypaver missed Ida's time by less than 4 minutes, then just 3 days later relative newcomer Taylor squeaked in 3mins, 18secs under Ida's time!

Taylor said,

Thank you to Tana Seaford for crewing me when I got to the North Rim, Jim Walmsley and Jess Brazeau for getting me to dig deep those last 800m, and my boo Nico Barraza for helping me get all the logistics together for this (not to mention coaching me and pacing me on South Kaibab) then ordering me pizza after. I am thoroughly impressed and inspired by the R2R2R runs that Cat, Ida and Sandi put together and thankful I had the opportunity to do the same!

Voters said:

  • The 1-2-3 of Nilsson, Nypaver and Nowlin was amazing and super fun to watch. The R2R2R is about as competitive as any short FKT gets, and Nowlin beat some of the best.
  • For better or for worse, this seems to have become the single most prestigious single day FKT in North America.
  • A very impressive time on a route I've done several times.

The JMT has been one of the premier FKT routes for years (#2 Female FKTOY '16, #1 Female FKTOY '17, #2 Male FKTOY '17), so any new FKT is automatically notable. On his third try and a mere 8 days after he DNF'd on his second attempt, Aurelien demolished the Unsupported FKT by 7 hours, and set the second fastest overall time, behind only François D'Haene's remarkable, fully supported 2017 run.

Aurelien said:

I finally trade my tears of suffering for tears of joy … I start crossing many people on my way, all looking at me very weirdly, while I run in a very strange way, being dirtier than a pig, having my lips bloody because of the sun, my eyes red ... I see they do not understand what I am doing here.

Voters said:

  • He seems to have done it basically by not sleeping: "Exhaustion is coming, and the trail starts to personify himself. He became an old wizard with a long white beard, taking the name of Sir Donohue. He is making everything for me to fail and to slow me down, being never-ending, steep, technical … I start to hate him so much."
  • There was something maniacal about Aurelien's quest for this FKT. I wonder if the effort might have damaged him psychologically which is maybe an under-discussed aspect of FKT culture?
  • "Holy shit" is what I thought when I read this, especially since François is the only one who beats his time. This is un-freaking-supported!

#1 - FKTOY 2018 winners: Alyssa Godesky (Long Trail) and Karel Sabbe (Appalachian Trail)

Alyssa took 5 hours off Nikki Kimball's 2012 FKT on this super classic trail. The Long Trail is the first long-distance trail in the US, with construction starting in 1910, completed in 1930. It runs the length of the state from the Massachusetts border to Canada, and goes over all the major summits. These original New England trails were not constructed for stock animals so never employed switchbacks like all the western trails; instead they go straight up and down the mountainsides.

Alyssa said:

The Long Trail was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. The terrain is so variable - unless you’ve spent time on this trail it’s hard to describe - it changes every few hundred meters - it’s soul-crushing. ...The process is going to be the reward. Whether you get the record or not, you’re going to learn so much, you’re going to invest in yourself, and that is a great thing to do. There’s nothing stopping you, because you get to make it your own. It’s like your own version of The Amazing Race - you get to do that yourself with FKTs. (Listen to Alyssa on the Fastest Known Podcast).

Voters said:

  • Shaving 5 hours from the legendary Nikki Kimball is very worthy.
  • Lots of crew and pacers was a tiny turnoff for me.
  • This is a long standing route with history and with an impressive time to an incredible athlete (Nikki Kimball) who held it since 2012.

The “Belgian dentist” attracted international attention on his AT, and he took more than 4 days off what already was a highly competitive FKT, established by a long succession of some of the best ultra-runners in the US. "The Appalachian Trail Conservancy’s vision is to 'connect the human spirit with nature'", and they seem to be succeeding - the AT was the #3 Male FKTOY '16 and #1 Male FKTOY in both 2017 and now 2018.

Karel said:

FKTs have really become my speciality. If I were to do UTMB now, I may not be in the top 20 or even close. But these multi-day, very long efforts, I appear to be good at; there’s a big mental aspect to it. I’m a thru-hiker, which is more comparable to these big FKTs … the UTMB is short, it’s like a sprint. ...I start to hit my stride after 2,000 miles. (Listen to more of Karel on the Fastest Known Podcast).

Voters said:

  • Karel had a great plan, experience, gumption, and simply did not have a bad day. People kept saying “He’ll slow down in the White Mountains”, but if anything he sped up!
  • Everyone seemed shocked how fast this was, and yet it was not shocking to Karel; he and crew simply deconstructed what it took to do it.
  • Duh. Kinda changed the game.

2018 FKTOY Wrap-up

Another inspiring year. Everyone should click through these links and learn about the best trails and routes in North America - this essentially is a "bucket list" for every long distance runner, not just for the few that want to take a crack at a new FKT.

What to expect for 2019? Just more of the same: people going outside, learning, growing, and finding what is meaningful to them.

(Very) Honorable Mentions

Every FKT listed here (in chronological, not voting, order) also received votes, and were often called out by voters for being exceptional:

Female

Kate HaleLongs Peak North Face (CO)

Patricia FrancoMt Whitney Mountaineers Route (CA)

Kristina FolcikWhite Mountains Hut Traverse (NH)

Patricia FrancoMt Elbert (CO)

Alicia Woodside & Tara Berry - Howe Sound Crest Trail (BC, Canada)

Sarah KeyesJoshua Tree Traverse (CA)

Male

Nick ElsonHalf Dome, Yosemite (CA)

Alex NicholsNolan's 14 (CO)

Nick Clark & Cam CrossSangre de Cristo Traverse (CO)

Jason Antin & Erik SandersRainier Infinity Loop (WA)

Cody LindIdaho 12ers (ID)

Nick PedatellaCollegiate Loop (CO)

Kyle RichardsonLA Freeway (CO)

Patrick CaronPemigewasset Loop (NH)

Jeffrey ColtWhite Mountains Hut Traverse (NH)

Mike WardianC&O Canal Towpath (MD to DC)

Ryan TetzCalifornia Fourteeners (CA)

Ryan GhelfiWonderland Trail (WA)

Anton KrupickaLongs Peak Duathlon (CO)

Ajay PickettSuperior Hiking Trail (MN)

Lee BerubePresidential Traverse (NH)

Christof TeuscherGrand Canyon R2R2R X4 (AZ)

Witt WisebramArizona Trail (AZ)

Tim Freriks, Eric Senseman, & Jim WalmsleyGrand Canyon R2R2R.alt (AZ)

Hors Categorie (beyond category)

Heather Anish AndersonCalendar Triple Crown of Hiking - Pacific Crest Trail, Continental Divide Trail, Appalachian Trail in one calendar year

Pete Kostelnick - K2K - Kenai Penninsula Alaska to Key West Florida - 5,384mi, 98days.

(Both these efforts are terrific, and neither was submitted as an FKT.)

FKTOY: How does the FKTOY process work?

  • There were 22 voters this year, representing as much gender, geographic, and age differential as practical.
  • A nominations list was created, based on notable submissions to this site.
  • This list was sent to voters for review
  • Voters ranked their top 5 for each gender.
  • Points were awarded based each voter's top 5: #1 votes received 5 points, #2 received 4 points, down to 1 point for the voters’ #5 choice.
  • The votes are totaled; high score wins, Top 5 for each gender receives special recognition.
  • Voters also made comments, which form the basis of this story.
  • The award is for the route, the FKT, not the person (different than Ultra Runner of the Year in this respect).
  • There are only two awards: female and male.
  • There is no actual award, except the big one: the respect of one’s peers.

FKTOY Rules

In keeping with the spirit of FKTs there are almost no rules. Except:

  1. Be honest, state what you did, complete the official route (if there is one), and document it with a GPS track, at the minimum.
  2. The FKT must take place in North America (in order that voters can properly understand it).
  3. The FKT can be accomplished by anyone of any nationality.
  4. Supported, Self-Supported, and Unsupported are separate FKT styles (see Guidelines), but considered as equal and together for the FKTOY.