Contemplating the Fastest Known Time

What’s Up With That?

Recently a woman hiked the entire Pacific Crest Trail (over 2,600 miles) in 61 days. The average hiker who completes this trail usually takes 6 months to do it.

Recently a couple men completed the 211 mile John Muir Trail in something like 5 days. A hike most people do in a couple weeks.

These are just two examples of the quest for the Fastest Known Time.

Over the past few years I have noticed more and more references to this phenomenon known as the “Fastest Known Time” or FKT. The origin of the FKT is well documented, and if you are interested you can search the Web.

I do not support or advocate the concept of the FKT, nor do I discourage or object to it. It exists, whether or not anyone likes it or dislikes it. But I do have a few concerns about the concept.

DEFINITION

The FKT refers to hiking or running a trail or route in the backcountry. Or that is what it seems to mean. There is no official governing body, no committee, no association; just a few folks claiming they have the FKT over a given route or official trail. I kind of like this – the lack of governing bodies.

There is a website dedicated to FKT – you can look it up via Google.

There are three categories of FKT’s

  • Supported – means someone helped you by bringing you food, or carrying some of your gear, or hiked with you, etc., etc.
  • Self-supported – means you had to obtain food or other necessities along the trail or route. You did this without the help of others. It does not mean you hunted and gathered food, but you did not carry everything you needed from the start, and stopped somewhere along the route to obtain supplies, which could be shopping at store for food.
  • Unsupported – means you left at the start of route with everything you needed in your pack. Apparently it is allowed to stop along the way and obtain water or probably hunt, fish, or gather food.

HOW DO YOU ESTABLISH A FASTEST KNOWN TIME?

  • Announce to the world that you are going to try and set a FKT for a defined route.
  • You get to pick the route or even define a new route no one has “officially” traveled.
  • Or you can pick a well known route, one that has had many FKT attempts. Those trails may be difficult to establish a new FKT, as there have been some very good athletes on those trials establishing the FKT.
  • So it is easy to secure a FKT. Just find a trail or a self-defined route that no one has claimed as a FKT. Go hike it and the FKT is yours! If no one has already claimed they have done your route with a FKT, you automatically can claim you have established the FKT.
  • Then somehow you document it. No documentation rules are established.

This is your chance at fame; your day in the sun; your place on the stage.

WHY WOULD YOU WANT  TO OWN A FASTEST KNOWN TIME?

I don’t know why.

Is it ego; self-actualization; self-esteem; lack of self-esteem?

Several years ago I read about a distance runner who was pretty good. Not the best in the country, but close. This runner was not quite the caliber of those before him who had set national records, but he was a good runner.

So his coach decided they would work on setting a record, but the runner really couldn’t break any of the existing records. Well low and behold, his coach found an obscure record at a distance that is almost never, ever contested – the 2,000 meter race. Now, 800 meters; 1,500 meters; 1,600 meters; 3,000 meters; and 3,200 meters are all common races found in high school or college and professional racing. But no one ever races 2,000 meters. However, the record for this event was obtainable by this runner. So a race was set up, competed, and a new record established. Silly? I think so.

Some FKT’s are just like this 2,000 meter race.

If someone goes out and sets a world record in some distance race like the 1,500 meters; 3,000 meters; 5K; 10K, Marathon or similar, – I am impressed.

It means they are the best of the best in the world at something many people try to accomplish. The distance and time must be validated and meet the requirements of established committee. The record is verified.

Keep in mind that I have read about some FKT’s that are pretty impressive.

And I applaud those efforts. But is it really important. Is it important for us to read about these adventures and take notice? Did the owner of the FKT do this to push their own limits, or for a bit of fleeting public recognition? Does it even matter? I guess only each person who attempts a FKT can answer that.

DO FKT COMPETITORS MISS THE WILDERNESS EXPERIENCE?

I don’t know the answer to that either. That answer can only be answered by the individual on the trail. Does one see and experience more of nature when hiking 8 miles per day, or 16 miles per day, or 24 miles per day, or even more miles per day? Do they see more detail by walking slower, or do they see more by covering more territory? Do they miss anything by hiking at night (as many FKT’s attempts include)?

Each person needs to establish their own priorities and goals when it comes to wilderness travel. Each of us is different, and our reasons for hiking are probably different.

IS IT FUN?

Some FKT attempts have included minor injuries, sleep deprivation, hallucinations, vomiting, etc. Are these fun things to experience on the trail, or just minor inconveniences along the way to setting a FKT? Is a FKT attempt fun? Do folks who attempt FKT’s really enjoy pain and agony, or is it worth it only if you can stand proud and say you have a FKT? I don’t know that either.

CONCERNS

There are a few trails near my house that I hike less frequently than I once did. The reason for this is that they have become popular and crowded. One special trail, the Desert Skyline trail has become a mess. Years ago this was a faint trail, requiring good navigation skills since the trail is not maintained. The Internet and one author together and individually ruined the trail. Now it is attacked by hordes on the weekends, and most sections of the trail are now easy to find and follow – these are the sections that used to be difficult to find – heavy use has changed that. And the sections that used to be easy to follow? Those sections have become difficult due to minions of idiots and morons populating the trail, who cannot follow a simple trail, who cut switch backs, and who make their own trails in order to set some sort of personal record to get to the top.

The trail has been killed by publicizing it.

My only concern about FKT’s are their rising popularity and the possibility of hordes of “wanna-bes” descending upon wild places and doing damage. The wild places that the wanna-bes would probably not normally visit, but a chance at fleeting glory to own a FKT changes that.

Especially worrisome to me are the FKT folks visiting remote areas that are rarely visited or publicized, which could become popular just for the selfish goal of a FKT; resulting in an area that is no longer remote, necessitating access limitations by government agencies and the implementation permitting personnel and policies.

I am not worried about a bunch of people going out into the wilderness and seriously injuring themselves or dying. That is their choice if they want to put themselves at risk. My only objection would be to use my tax dollars to rescue anyone. It is up to the individual to decide if they have the skill, knowledge, and experience to complete FKT. If they don’t and they die… so be it; just as long as I don’t have to pay to recover their body from the wilderness.

A LIST OF MY OWN FASTEST KNOWN TIMES

I have hiked a few routes that probably have not been completed by others, at least not in a long time and along the exact same route. These are my secret places that I don’t want to publicize. Oh, other people go to these places, but they are not popular places and need to be kept this way and many do not have trails. So I can claim I was the first to hike the route.

If I have hiked a route no one else has, then it is a Fastest Known Time. All I need to do is document it. The world of the Web will accept it. I will have my day in the sun. I will be famous, even if it is for a fleeting moment, or only in my own mind.

Sorry, I’ll pass on this fame and glory. It’s silly. I don’t have a FKT List to publish.