The C&O Canal Towpath runs about 184.5 flat, unpaved miles from Cumberland, MD, to Washington DC. It is described on the Bike Washington website. Most FKT interest has been by cyclists, which makes the route a little unusual for this site.
The supported cycling FKT is 11h41m held by Paul Gruenberger and Ralph Olinger set October 1994, starting in Cumberland. Paul Gruenberger also claimed the unsupported record time of 12h36m set in September 1991, but this was superseded by Chris Shue who rode it in 11h37m on May 19, 2017. Shue's trip report is here: https://chrisshue.com/2017/05/26/surviving-the-canal/ & his Strava track is here: https://www.strava.com/activities/996047551
As far as pedestrians, the legendary Park Barner ran the whole thing (about 300km) in a race in 1976. His time was 36h48m14s, as reported by Nick Marshall in a 1977 article in the Washington Post. The article says this about Barner's run: "Despite facing sub-freezing temperatures last year, Barner ran the length of the canal in 36:48:14, including several hours of sleep after he'd run 122 miles, a period of dehydration when his handlers missed a rendezvous point along the wooded trail and about 50 miles of making his way through a pitch-black night with a flashlight!" More of Barner's remarkable ultrarunning career is detailed here (following his induction into the American Ultrarunning Association Hall of Fame in 2012).
Hey Guys, I just wanted to make sure I announced here as the website moved but September 1, 2018, I am planning to attempt to break Park Barner's record. You can follow me at: https://share.garmin.com/michaelwardian
I will also be posting on social media: Twitter: @mikewardian
I really appreciate you guys hosting this and all the support.
Hi everyone, I am planning on an unsupported adventure down the C&O canal from Cumberland to DC starting Friday, November 2, 2018. I agree with Justice Douglas that "The stretch of 185 miles from Washington, D.C. to Cumberland, Md., is one of the most fascinating and picturesque in the Nation," and I am surprised that this route does not seem to be more popular. Note that I plan to obtain all of my drinking water from the water pumps that are maintained by the NPS every 5-7 miles at the hiker/biker campsites along the canal. These pumps are open approximately 8 months of the years. I hope to jog/hike/crawl/maintain forward progress for the duration and finish in around 50 hours. I have previously done 50 miles of the canal in 8 hours on foot, but I have also struggled and failed to move forward at all after only 75 miles. I had considered doing the canal self-supported, as there are hotels relatively close and relatively cheap in Hancock, Williamsport, Shepherdstown, and Harper's Ferry not to mention the 24-hour Sheetz in Hancock and Williamsport, but I think the continuous nature of this route along the river merits a continuous and un-supported approach. Thanks to Mike Wardian for his insight and everyone else that is part of this site! Steve Andrews