A few weeks back you may have read our little satirical article on 18 Dumb Things Ultra Runners Say and Do. The article was satirical in nature, pointing out some of the funnier things in our ultra lives, and one of them was FKTs.
Over the last few years, FKT, or Fast Known Times have risen in popularity. Or rather, let me rephrase that, it’s simply that the Interwebz has given this genre of running more of an audience.
FKTs, if we’re honest have always been in existence and the reality is that before FaceSpace and Twitter gave every man and his dog their 15 minutes of fame, FKTs for the most part involved some pretty serious undertakings with little more than a pen and a piece of paper to record your time on.
Now, Strava has made everyone a hero of their own backyard with the handing out of ‘Crowns’ to anyone that can dream up a route. That’s totally cool, as it helps to increase competition between friends and there’s a lot of fun to be had. I know of numerous dumb people, myself included who have set up a segment with the specific goal of ‘racing’ a mate just for bragging rights between the only two people to run that route. The really dumb thing is though, having set-up this segment, my mate is currently kicking my arse… I am indeed a dumb ultrarunning, FKT chaser. It is fun though 🙂
BUT, we’re not here to criticise the FKT in this article, we’re here to show some appreciation to some seriously good FKT undertakings of recent times that deserve a big nod in the right direction and some genuine trail positivity. As well as try to understand a little more as to why people head off to run them.
One such recent undertaking, was a note I received from one of our readers, Stephen Rae. Down in the remoteness of Tasmania, and following on from Stu Gibson’s awesome Western Arthur’s loop, Jen Boocock, Jen Sprent and Stephen became the first and fastest to complete the Port Davey and South Coast Track.
Now we know just how long Stu took for his FKT, a massive 10.5hrs for 40kms. These guys ran 164k in just over 48hrs, with the first 20k taking on the same route as Stu’s before winding around some amazing mountainous and rarely travelled tracks to Melaleuca.
They continued trek to Cockle Creek (Australia’s most southern road), taking them through some of the worst muddied conditions on the track for some time. This double track run usually takes 16 days for hikers, so you can see how well they did.
The event was the brainchild of Jen Boocock as an awareness and fundraiser for Climate Council Australia and their ongoing research into Climate Change, altogether they raised over $13,000. All three runners will be backing up for TNF100 in May.
We also mentioned Stu’s FKT around the Western Arthurs Pass. Stu kept his run pretty private and as someone who prefers to be that way, I totally respect that and keep this brief. I haven’t interviewed Stu in any way for his run, but he did mention it as we chatted briefly before his Six Foot Track record-breaking run. Again this is a phenomenal run, given the remoteness of the trail and the sheer volume of time it takes to cover ground. When you think that Stu averaged 4:16kms over the entire course at Six Foot Track, for him to be ‘crawling’ at 4kms an hour on this track shows you just how tough it is. I’m sure there is plenty of rock scrambling and mud to wade through, but this must count as one of the toughest FKTs going around in Australia, as well as the route that Stephen as his friends took.
Among some of the leading FKTs you’ll find in Australia are ones on established tracks such as The Great North Walk in NSW, the Great Ocean Walk down in Victoria, The Heysen Track in South Australia and then there’s the Bicentennial track that runs from down in Victoria all the way up through to Queensland. So why do runners take them on? Why not simply race along the track in already established runs, such as many of the above that we’ve just mentioned?
For many, the FKT as a special allure that a race can’t provide. The FKT is about (in the main) a solo effort or run with mates, a kind of solidarity and understanding of the toughness of a run that you’re about to embark. There’s also a sense of responsibility, BUT with accountability. And that last word is very important indeed. When you embark on a FKT, it’s you and the trail. There’s no luxurious checkpoints filled with coke and Anzac biscuits a few kms up the road. You’re out there on your own, in some cases for days. You need to and have to be prepared for the worst case scenario to happen. You have to be accountable for what you’re about to do on the trail.
There’s also no added pressure of a race. You’re the one ultimately determining the pace at which you wish to travel, although some might say that with the rise of the Interwebz and the competitive nature of FKTs, this is changing somewhat as people seek to better times previously laid down by others. In addition to this, the competitive element of FKTs could also lead to some questions from local authorities as to whether ‘races’ as now being established on trails that previously haven’t had races, or permission granted. Is it a form of racing, but without the baggage and red tape of having to deal with local authorities. Not in the strictest sense of the word, no. However there is some irony in the way in which a FKT is measured, versus the intended outcome of for most runners, which is mainly a battle against one’s self, rather than others.
So how do you go about setting a FKT? Well we’re not here to tell you what to do. The beauty of a FKT is that you’re the one that decides what you do and when, but there is more and more information being posted and FKTs also have their own place on the web too. If you’re interested in finding out more, this website, the fastestknowntime.proboards.com has lots of information as well as FKTs posted on there too. I also know of one in New Zealand too. So if you’re after more information, pay that site a visit and see what’s what.
As we said, FKTs have been around since the dawn of man. As children, I’m sure we all used to have specific runs up hills or to the end of the street. I remember a run around a ‘block’ I used to have at my home village back in the UK when we were 11 or 12. There’s nothing new in the FKT, it’s just that we’re now seeing the scene becoming more established with the likes of elite ultra athletes going off to find their own personal nirvana, and none other than the big guy, Kilian Jornet is a leading proponent of that right now.