FKT’ing versus Racing

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Mark hikes the last 100 yards of the Pitchell FKT

Recently I’ve been dabbling in the world of FKT’s (fastest-known-times). An FKT or speed record is an attempt to run the fastest time on a section (set course) of a trail or route. My pull towards racing is waning these days and the challenge of trying an FKT has added some fresh excitement and new running goals in my life.

What makes an FKT more challenging than a race? For me it is two-fold. There are no race day carrots and excitement. You better come motivated because it is just you and the trail (ok maybe your crew can cheer you on your way). The other challenge is staying motivated when you get tired and start to slow down and question your sanity. It is much easier to DNF when you are just out there on your own as opposed to running in a big race. You have to bring a no quitting mindset to your FKT attempt or else it is just simply too easy to call it a day when the going gets tough. Believe me it will get tough at some point. You usually have no competition out there to keep you chugging along. There is no finish line hooplah if and when you finish. Hopefully you have some crew to cheer for you at the end of the trail but there is no awards ceremony, no tape to break, and no finish line camaraderie.

What makes an FKT easier than a race? It is easier on your wallet for sure as there are no race entry fees to fork over. You can start at any time and any day you wish. Although I do suggest you carefully plan it since you may have to be mindful of any crew helping you. You will need to be considerate of their time as well. There is less pressure to succeed in an FKT than at a race. However this can also be the reason for many DNF’s. What is shared between an FKT and a race is you can still have multiple goals. If the FKT is not going to happen then a solid finishing time and having some fun out there should never be under appreciated. The same is said for racing — it is not all or nothing (my wife is laughing at this statement, for not practicing what I’m preaching).

How do you establish an FKT? There are basically 3 types: supported, self-supported and unsupported. Make sure you know which one is appropriate for your challenge. You need to start with stating your intentions in advance. Be respectful to those who have the current FKT and tell them what your intentions are and on what day you are making your attempt. It is best to have someone there (crew) as a witness to your accomplishment. Lastly document as much about your FKT as possible as soon as you can. Photos and video are good to use. Don’t wait too long and rely on your memory. Unlike a race there is no chip timing and no one there to record your time but yourself. Be honest and respectful to those who came before you.

It seems the popularity of FKT’s is growing. Even if you don’t set a new speed record, there is great pride in knowing you completed the course you attempted. A lot of runners already have their own mini- FKT’s, as they try to lower their fastest time on their daily stomping grounds. I’ve got a couple of my own routes in mind that I would like to see how fast I can run. I was worried that once my competitive racing days were over that I’d be unmotivated and have a hard time coming up with new challenges. Exploring the world of FKT’s has helped to keep me rejuvenated and motivated a little while longer.

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