An FKT is known as Fastest Known Time. You can visit the website fastestknowntime.com to look up routes, follow certain athletes, find out record times, and plan your own attempt at a new course record. There are different categories and lots of guidelines and verification standards to follow to confirm your run/walk/hike. This website is quickly becoming a really popular place for runners all around the world and pushing athletes from amateurs to professionals alike to train and shoot course records. It has really become popular since the pandemic closed a lot of races. It has allowed a lot of runners to still train and shoot for lofty goals.
Courses can be road and paved or unpaved dirt trails. The routes need to be at least 5 miles long or at least 500 feet of vertical climb in elevation. You can submit trails that are not in their system. Believe me, there are many that are not on record yet. With the thousands of trails out there, you can imagine how many great possibilities there are for people to be competitive and set an FKT. I just finished and successfully set an FKT this past weekend on the White Pine Trail in Michigan. There were a few reasons why I chose this trail as my first attempt. One, it was already registered by the website as as recognized trail. Secondly, it had a record on it. In fact, the record was beaten less than a year later by another person. Now I had something to really train and shoot for. It wasn’t going to be easy. Lastly, this is a well known and popular trail near where I live. I know there will be many to follow who will break my time and I wanted to give the next person something more challenging to shoot for.
The previous two guys were young and in their prime. Though I will admit they were not very experienced in ultra running. As a Master’s runner, this was going to take some serious training, focus, and preparation. I have previously run a 100 miles before and it took me over 22 hours. I was going to have to complete this 94 mile trail in less than 15 hours and 35 minutes. With my learning experiences from my first run, I dove into some serious training.
What does it take to set an FKT on a trail like the White Pine Trail? Months and months of consistent training is important leading up to your attempt. What might be even more important is the fact I have years of training that has prepared me for this type of distance and pace. I did some very high mileage weeks but I also varied my workouts. Not everything was “long” runs. I also did interval (high intensity) training, tempo runs, and fartleks. It is important to work on your VO2 max by get your heart rate into the anaerobic threshold and max heart rate zones as well from time to time. I did this a couple times a week when I could. I also had very slow recovery pace runs, some steady runs, and the traditional “long” runs in each week.
My max week was 160 miles. I ran well over 100 mile weeks for quite awhile and I tried my best to slowly build up. However, I did encounter a major roadblock in my training. No matter how careful we can be, injuries are seem to be just one workout or event away. This is something you always have to be ready for. A muscle on my right side deep in the buttocks and hip region had gotten injured. It seemed to have surfaced out of nowhere. I didn’t see it coming. It might have been a piriformis injury but could have easily been something else as well. My training was hindered for a full month. It affected many other areas of my body as well like my lower back, quad muscles, and right knee. It was a very painful and slow road to recovery and I watched my fitness level drop. I was fortunate to have about five weeks to slowly get back into running and try my best to get back on track before my FKT attempt. I had to be aggressive about rehab which included some light stretching several times a day, massage, heat therapy, healthy eating, and easy strength training.
An FKT also takes a lot of planning. Studying maps, planning out stops, nutrition, and working with others on logistics (if you have your run crewed and supported). You also need a solid race strategy with other alternatives if things don’t go as planned. I spent time on picking out my gear, dialing in on my hydration and fueling, solving problem areas that might cause blisters, chafing, and cramping. You do these things in practice runs time and time again.
Then there is all the other little things that I did that add up. I worked hard to drop some weight, eat healthy, stay aggressive with recovery after each hard workout so I could push harder on hard days, be disciplined to go easy on easy days even when I felt great, strength training/weight training, and work on my mental toughness.
Even if you can do all these things there is still race day. Few are disciplined and motivated enough to do what I did for months on end. Then you get to race day and you have to put it all together. The biggest obstacle will be your mind because you have already done all the training. Your mind will tell you that your hurting, your tired, that your goal doesn’t matter anymore, and you will be tempted to change your plans. Every ultra runner has these lows. The ability to manage “pain” and “solve issues” on the trail are most critical on race day. You have to keep moving forward. Be patient, be steady, and keep fighting. If you develop a crew, find people who are very positive, will do and get you what you need.
Lastly, don’t always believe all the articles you read out there. I think most articles on marathon and ultra running are for “beginners” and they really write from a safe and conservative stand point. Don’t be afraid to train hard! Don’t be afraid to take on killer workouts! Don’t be afraid to dream big!
I honestly gave up mentally on my FKT attempt with about 26 miles left. My pace was still ahead of time but I was slowing down fast. I was walking a whole lot more and I couldn’t imagine running another marathon on top of having just done 68 miles. I remember reading an article about how people don’t negative split ultra runs. In fact, it’s good to simply limit the drop off of pace. I am here to tell you it is possible to negative split even when you think you are DONE! I was in a valley and struggled physically for a few miles but I ran the last 21 miles way faster than I ran my first 21 miles when I was most fresh. In fact, over 22 minutes faster! Listen, anything really is possible. Have you been running long enough and pushing hard enough? Go get your FKT!