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 Kilian’s take down of the Bob Graham Round, the infamous peak-bagging route in the Lake District, which sees runners aim to complete the approximately 100km distance, with around 8,000m of climbing in less than 24hrs. Kilian smashed this (and the previous record) with a time of 12hrs 53mins. That’s just silly.
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.