If you’ve kept up with running news in the past two years, chances are you’ve read or heard about Fastest Known Times (FKT), which grew exponentially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
A Fastest Known Time is a running speed record on verified routes all over the world.
Want to test your toughness on a favorite trail and go for an FKT?
In this article, FKT record-holder Brynn Cunningham will show you how to pick your next FKT route.
A list of the routes and the records are kept on www.fastestknowntime.com.
If you’re curious about creating FKT routes, read on...
Once upon a time, I thought Fastest Known Times existed only for the longest trails, such as the Appalachian Trail or Pacific Crest Trail, both thousands of miles long.
Then, I read about a Fastest Known Time established on West Virginia's 24-mile North Fork Mountain Trail.
First, I set my sights on the Big Savage Mountain Trail, a 17-mile point-to-point trail across a mountain ridge in Maryland.
I planned it as a tune-up for a North Fork Mountain Trail FKT attempt, planned for March 28, 2020.
In the meantime, as I awaited the day when traveling to the North Fork would be safe, I began perusing the Fastest Known Time routes page and FKT guidelines and discovered the following:
The FKT website provides a detailed description outlining what qualifies as a route.
To prepare for setting routes, I read it thoroughly.
What stood out most from the guidelines was this phrase:
Still, it’s a subjective statement, right?
How are we to know what the FKT authorities consider “bucket-list” worthy?
There was only one way to find out: by trial and error.
On Tuesday, April 21, I threw on running shorts in a hurry, laced up trail running shoes, drove the short distance to Bear Run, and ran the Red Loop followed by the White Loop, 5.47 miles in 49:50, a 9:07/mile pace.
When I got home, I submitted them to be verified as new FKT routes.
Neither one qualified. They were:
In my email exchange with the FKT authorities, they asked the following:
The answer: Yes.
Consequently, the next day, I ran the 11.5-mile Bear Run Black Loop as fast as I could and submitted it as a new route and new FKT.
Happily, the route was approved.
Read the Bear Run Black Loop Fastest Known Time Trip Report here.
After that, I had a solid understanding of what “bucket-list” routes were and established two more new records and routes, ones I know like the back of my hand:
Then, I ran some already established routes:
Now, fast forward to June 2022.
The summer edition of Trail Runner magazine arrived in my mailbox.
“Meet the Women Making FKT History” was one of the headlines on the cover. I flipped to the story, titled “Women Who FKT.”
From the article, I learned:
Needless to say, I became inspired once again to chase FKTs, this time in the name of all women runners.
Besides, even if I do live on the opposite side of the country as the Women Who FKT, I felt compelled to do my part for the movement from my small corner of southwestern Pennsylvania.
As a result, I…
Established one new route that I still plan to run this summer:
Ran an unsupported group FKT with Trail Run Tribe ladies Andrea Detwiler, Amanda Love, Keli DeCarlo and Lauren Worrell:
Ran a solo, unsupported FKT on an already established route:
And established two new, local routes upon which I set the first solo, unsupported female FKTs:
Or do you know someone who might be?
Then keep reading…
Over the last couple of years, I've learned a few things about FKT attempts and records.
Want to chase your own FKT record? Here's what you need to know...
It's pretty simple. If you want to attempt an FKT, start here:
The FKT site states that a route must be “at least five miles long or at least 500 feet of climbing.”
The North Fork Mountain Trail, Baughman Trail, Sugarloaf Trail and Pine Knob to Whitetail Trails all get their appeal and allure from the amount of climbing they boast.
Even the less-hilly routes I’ve established have much more climbing than 500 feet.
Often, trails enjoyed by the masses are what makes a route a “bucket-list” item, something to check off your own personal running bucket-list.
Before I established some of the local routes listed in the article, I Googled them to see how many search results they had on the Internet.
If there were lots, I had a feeling it would be verified as a route, and so far, that has proven to be true.
Have a local gem you think others will like or want to run for time? Then give it a try.
Run it, submit the route, and see what the FKT editors tell you. You never know unless you try, right?
Besides, if it doesn’t get verified in the end, what’s the loss?
At least you got in a good run, right?
Furthermore, trying and not succeeding will give you an idea of what routes might or might work, so you’re better prepared the next time you create and submit a new route.
...whether it’s for the difficulty, views, quality running terrain, scenery, popularity, or all of the above?
If you think it would be appealing to your best running pal, or if you would take an out-of-town running friend seeking a good challenge for a run on the route, it might be worth trying to submit it as an FKT.
Take it from me: FKTs don’t have to be long in distance or take months of planning, if that’s not your thing right now.
For an average trail running working mother-of-two-boys who dedicates time to other pursuits (mountain biking, white water kayaking, yoga, backpacking, camping, Tae Kwon Do, skiing), the short, local ones suit life just right.
They might suit your life just right, too.
So go ahead, take on some new running challenges, share this with your running friends, and chase those FKT dreams.
Thank you, Women Who FKT, for the renewed inspiration.