Movement is Life: Take This Physical Therapist's Island Tour

Ever thought about taking the ol’ neighborhood loop to the next level?

Ultrarunner, XTERRA champion, and physical therapist Sergio Florian did. 

Instead of putting another race on the docket, he headed out his front door to run the entire perimeter of O'ahu in Hawaii.

Here's what happened...

When COVID cancels your race... go for an FKT

COVID cancellations over the past two years put many a runner’s big race plans on indefinite hold. 

Been there, done that? How did you handle all the race cancellations?

  • Some wallowed in self-pity
  • Others turned their living rooms into home gyms
  • Some ran circles around the block
  • And one group did something completely different....They turned their race dreams into something a little more personal: the pursuit of a Fastest Known Time (FKT). 

Living on the island of O'ahu in Hawaii, Sergio Florian started planning an FKT to put all his racing and training to the test.

A week before attempting a FKT around O'ahu, Sergio wrote the following on his Instagram profile: "Rite of passage. In seven days I’ll attempt something that scares me. Something that will push me to my mental and physical limits. It will be a journey into the unknown for me. -Where will my head go? -How will my body respond? So many unknowns. What I know for sure is that this is a privilege. Whether it’s a mile or 135 miles, we must all be grateful for this ability to be in motion."

FKT = No race required

During COVID lockdowns, FKT’s stood out as the closest thing runners could find to a traditional race in the era of isolation.

Why? They strip away the hustle and bustle of the racing scene.

But they keep the friendly rivalry and individual effort that lie at the heart of racing.

No crowds, cheerleaders, or competitors to be found – just you versus the clock (like this runner's FKT)

With help from his coach, family, friends and the running community, Sergio Florian decided to go for an FKT around the island of O'ahu in Hawaii, a distance of miles.

The experience also gives runners a greater sense of autonomy over their running.

FKT hopefuls have the freedom to choose:

  • Places that mean the most to them
  • Courses that highlight their unique skills
  • Schedules that fit their needs. 

There are no superficial barriers for an FKT like:

  • Race fees
  • Lottery slots, and..
  • Qualifiers to stand between runners and the goals that they pick for themselves.

All that matters is their own determination to accept the challenge. 

The Fastest Known Time (FKT) database received over 4,500 entries in 2020, and nearly 4,000 more in 2021.

The FKT frenzy

The Fastest Known Time database received over 4,500 entries in 2020, and nearly 4,000 more in 2021. 

Sergio Florian of Kaaawa, Hawaii was one of those who needed an outlet for his competitive energy. 

  • He decided to attempt an FKT circumnavigating his home island of O’ahu. 
  • The route covers 135 miles of roads around the perimeter of O’ahu. 
Sergio Florian holds the FKT record for running around the entire island of O'ahu in Hawaii.

FKT: 135 miles around O'ahu in Hawaii

Florian started from his own house at 8am on February 27th, 2021 and finished in 27 hours, 15 minutes, and 28 seconds according to data from his FKT submission

“I wanted a challenge, and my coach encouraged me to try it,” Sergio says. “He was my partner in all of this. We trained hard, we had the numbers, and we went for it.” 

Sergio Florian is an XTERRA champion, ultrarunner, triathlete, and physical therapist.

Experience + support

This Altra Running lover is a decorated XTERRA champion and accomplished ultramarathoner.

His coach and members of his community made all the difference between this FKT and his regular race experiences. 

“It’s a small island and community," says Sergio. "Running the FKT there felt so supportive. People around me watched the whole thing, and I got so many messages saying that it had helped them get back into running.”

Florian came into his FKT attempt with plenty of endurance experience to lean on.

“I participated in the XTERRA World Championship every year for seven years straight and won my age group 5 times,” he explains.

“The world circuit allowed me to compete with some pretty elite athletes.”

On top of his stacked XTERRA resume, Florian has finished the Honolulu Hurt 100 three times in 33, 27, and 25 hours respectively. 

The Oahu Circumnavigation route in Hawaii is approximately 135 miles on paved roads.

Circumnavigate the island

Each of these experiences had one thing in common that led to his endeavor around the O’ahu perimeter: 

“They were races held in my backyard," says Sergio.

Florian first immigrated to Hawaii from Argentina 15 years ago to pursue Physical Therapy, and hasn’t looked back since. 

“The weather here is just conducive to movement,” he says. “The Vitamin D makes people happy and energetic. A lot of athletes come here to train. There’s a reason that the Ironman was born here.” 

So when shutdowns changed the nature of training and racing...

Florian used that love and understanding of his surroundings as an athlete to help shift his focus. 

He knew he was lucky enough to already be in the perfect place for exploration and challenge, no matter the lack of official events on the calendar. 

While Florian triumphantly nabbed the O'ahu FKT, he still hit roadblocks along the way that put his success on the line.

The home court advantage

His history on O’ahu gave him the knowledge and comfort he needed to run the first 100 miles with relative ease, but even this paradise of an island shows its dark side when the sun goes down.

“The last 35 miles really got me,” Sergio remembers.

The overnight slump

“I started shivering and got very cold, and my body locked up," says Sergio. "I was used to the heat all day, and then I turned a corner at night.” 

The only weather patterns that really shake things up on O’ahu are rain and wind, especially after dark when the temperature drops dramatically.

“The variation throughout the day and night is what gives this area its challenge," he says. "The windchill factor changed things for me, and I didn’t bring enough warm clothes.”

His pace slowed overnight, but never to a halt.

Florian managed to get back up to par as soon as the sun cooked up fresh warmth in the morning.

Breaking the record

He beat the previous record with 5 whole hours to spare. It wasn’t long until he began thinking about possibilities for the future, either.
“I think it’s doable in 24,” he reasons. “I’d seriously consider trying it again.” 

Dr. Sergio Florian is a physical therapist and founder of the Wellness Neuro and SCI Clinic in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Movement is life

Dr. Sergio Florian helps a patient at the Wellness Neuro and SCI Clinic.

Fueled by gratitude

Sergio Florian: "Love this island and all it stands for."

Florian draws on the strength he finds in his clients as they embark on their healing journeys.

He sees his clients as admirable athletes in their own right.

The way that they dedicate themselves to recovery through all the pain and heartbreak that comes with fighting for the simple joys of movement motivates him to forge ahead.

“You fall into deep holes during endurance events, but you know that if you keep stepping forward you’ll be that much closer to finishing," says Sergio.

"For my clients there is no finish line – their story continues. When I’m struggling, because these events put you in such low places mentally sometimes, I start to empathize with my clients. I do it for them.” 

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Lucie Hanes
Eagle, CO

Ultrarunner, rock climber, occasional artist, fond of good wordplay. Small human on big adventures with big goals and big feelings.


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