What is a FKT or Fastest Know Time?
Back in June, my birthday was coming up and my husband asked me how I wanted to celebrate. We live in California, so a lot of things still feel really weird or are only partially opened up due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Because of this, my usual answer of going to dinner and a movie was a did not sound very fun or relaxing.
I started to brainstorm about doing a special "birthday run" I instead. I tossed around the idea of running my age in miles or km, but that would have been a pretty big mileage jump for me right now. As much as I love doing challenges and pushing myself, my overarching running goal is always to stay as healthy as possible, so that I can run as often as I want to. Suddenly upping my long run from 12 miles one weekend to 33 miles or even 20mi (33km) did not seem like a wise idea. I kept brainstorming and I remembered hearing about "Fastest Known Time" or "FKT" routes and thought it would be fun to see if I could get a "FKT" for my birthday.
If you have never heard of a "FKT," you are not alone. It is relatively new "thing" in the running space popularized by Peter Bakwin and Buzz Burrell when they set the Fastest Known Time on the John Muir Trail in 2000. Around 10 years ago, they started a website to track FKT's all over the world. You can search for existing FKT routes and see the fastest times for each route here:
My family and I were going to be in the Monterey, CA area the weekend of my birthday, so I went on the FKT site and searched for an existing FKT route to try to go after. To my surprise, there was not an existing route within an hour drive of Monterey. Since there was not an existing route, I decided I would make my own route and submit it to fastestknowntime.com as a new route. This is the fun part about FKT's. If there is not an existing route in your area, you can submit it yourself. There are some rules about what qualifies as an FKT route. Here are the guidelines of what qualifies as an FKT, directly from fastestknowntimes.com
What qualifies as an FKT?
The route is notable and distinct enough so that others will be interested in repeating it.
Routes may be of any distance or time duration (although anything less than 5mi long or less than 500 feet of climbing would have to be special).
Races: We generally don’t track FKTs for race routes, since the race websites do that, and race results aren’t normally reported to us. But, an FKT set in a race is still an FKT (Supported).
Routes may on any surface - road, trail, off-trail.
We have a few Routes between very iconic landmarks, such as buildings or bridges, but we generally do not accept these because there are usually too many possibilities, and also we have found that most are not of general interest (few repeats).
There are a few cross entire State and cross entire Country routes; we will limit them to one per State and Country.
The focus is on running and hiking in order to be thorough, accurate, and reliable. Climbing, cycling, paddling, skiing, and other sports are great, and we may establish separate categories for them in the future, but not at this time. One may use any means of self-propelled travel during the FKT attempt, provided that:
At least 50% of time must be running and/or hiking, vs. other sports.
Ropes may not be employed for more than 10% of the Elapsed Time, and climbing grades 5.8/5a and harder even without a rope are considered climbing, not running or hiking.
Motorized travel for the sole purpose of linking important features may be allowed, for example during the Colorado or California 14ers.
If you completed a route but came up short of a new FKT, definitely post a comment on the route page letting everyone know what you did. However, do not submit a new FKT because unlike Strava's leaderboards, for example, there are no second or third fastest listings; only the fastest, posted chronologically as they were completed.
April 22, 2020 Note: It's great that people are out doing fun local routes! However, in order to provide you with a list of high-quality routes that are useful to the most people, some might not qualify as FKT routes. We are a "bucket-list" of the best routes in the world!
Many FKT's are multi-way or all day adventures. I chose something that was shorter, but had good amount of elevation gain. I thought it would be a good route that other runners in the area could easily try to go repeat on a weekend morning and try to beat my time. There was no guarantee my new FKT route would be "approved" but I thought it would be a fun challenge no matter what.
I decided to run Toro Park's "1800" trail. The "1800" trail rises from sea level to 1,800 feet and there are beautiful views at the top. There were also good instructions on the Toro Park's website about which trails to follow, so that helps make the trail easily repeatable by someone else.
The day I set out to do the run was perfect weather wise. It was nice and cool with some cloud cover. I ate some oatmeal for breakfast before leaving and took a Vespa and some Nuun Endurance on the drive to Toro Park. I made some rookie mistakes for sure, since I do not do much trial running. For example, I brought too much water a long. It was slowing me down because my hydration pack was so heavy. I stopped and dumped about half my water out very early on. I also was very nervous about going on the wrong trail, so I would stop and read the signs very carefully which cost me some time in the end. I also stopped to use the bathroom at one point at the very end of the trail, not realizing I had less than half a mile left until I was back at my car. That would have saved me a few minutes!
The "1800" trail, starts along a creek and you have some nice shade for about a mile. After that, you would be in hot sun with no shade on a sunny day and going straight uphill for the next 2 miles, so be prepared if you ever attempt it. I was lucky to have cloud cover, so it was not bad. Some parts of the climb up were pretty steep and a little sandy. Right before I reached Ollason Peak, which is the top of the "1800" trail, I climbed above the cloud cover. At the peak I was looking out over the clouds down to the valley floor. It was very pretty and cool feeling like I was above the clouds, but it did block a good part of the view. I took a few quick pictures and headed down the trial. There were some steep points going down, but nothing too bad. I had written down which trails to follow to do the "1800" loop and everything was well marked.
All in all it was a really fun, beautiful run and changed things up from my normal daily running routine, which is exactly what I had wanted.
I submitted the route and my time to fastestknowntime.com and it was accepted! So I now officially have a FKT. Now someone try to go beat my time 😉. I would love to go after an existing FKT route after I am done training for the Marine Corps Marathon.
FKT's are booming right now because of COVID-19 and so many running races being cancelled. Their site has received way more new routes and FKT attempts than normal. It's just a small team over there that reviews and inputs every entry, so if you do submit a FKT, please consider making a donation to the site along with your submission.
Have you ever attempted a FKT? Have you ever heard of a FKT before today? Let me know in the comments.
Below are some pictures from the day: