There are over 2,000 FKT routes recorded on FastestKnownTime.com. In the last three years the popularity of FKT challenges has grown immensely. They allow any person to challenge themselves and get creative with both routes, logistics, and training. As opposed to traditional races, Fastest Known Times offer more flexibility and creativity.
The term FKT is a relatively new term, but one created to encompass all of history. Eschewing the use of “Record” for a specific route and instead using the term “Fastest Known Time” acknowledges the unknowns involved with historical record keeping. An example of this is before it was called the John Muir Trail, the route was called the Nuumo Poyo by the Paiute Tribe. With the modernity of timekeeping, some iconic routes may have been done faster in unrecorded history.
FKTs are the new craze, but what are they?
A Fastest Known Time (FKT) is the completion of a trail or route in the quickest recorded time. It is similar to a course record but with added freedom and variables. An FKT can be achieved at any time of year and in any direction, as long as the previous FKT time is broken. With the increase in interest, the guidelines have also tightened. FastestKnownTime.com offers the following criteria to be considered an FKT:
- 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
- Motorized travel for the sole purpose of linking important features may be allowed, for example during the Colorado or California 14ers.
The website encourages people to create their own unique but also notable FKTs, “The route is notable and distinct enough so that others will be interested in repeating it.”
Fastest Known Times are essentially challenges established by hikers and runners for others to test themselves against and specifically train toward. There is less red tape than a traditional race and a unique aspect of timing and scheduling that is unavailable in organized events.
Where did the term FKT come from?
Buzz Burrell and Peter Bakwin are the pioneers of the term FKT and Peter Bakwin now runs the website FastestKnownTime.com. The two of them completed the John Muir Trail in 1999 in a time that was faster than anything they could find in their research. With the knowledge that there may well be a faster time previously done on the route, they dubbed their attempt a “Fastest Known Time.” The idea grew to encompass more iconic routes that varied greatly in length and significance.
For years FKTs were simply kept and recorded on a simple looking proboard (discussion-style site) but a new website launched in the last three years now gives it a more pro look. The idea has taken off and has been adopted by people both proud of their specific regions and areas that may otherwise go unnoticed on a national level.
The types of FKTs
Within Fastest Known Times (FKTs), there are three main types: Supported, Self-Supported, or Unsupported. Each type has its advantages and unique challenges, but is also defined by its own requirements (FKT Guidelines).
Supported FKTs can involve any level or prearranged support. Pacers can be involved in the attempt as well as established aid spots or resupply help. A supported FKT is similar to an ultramarathon in the pre-established locations of support from outside people. Any level of support makes the attempt a Supported FKT. The major requirement for Supported FKTs is that they must be all self powered by the person attempting to break the record.
Self-Supported FKTs mean that the FKT is a completely self-reliant effort. No pre-arranged people or supplies can be involved, but resupplies in towns or post offices can be incorporated into the attempt. Most longer FKTs are self-supported because they require resupplies along the way. Even getting into town cannot involve hitch hiking or the use of a vehicle. This means that even if the resupply location is off trail, the participant must hike (or run) the bonus miles. This is sometimes called “Thru-Hiker Style.”Unsupported FKTs take place without all of the support that can be received in the previous two styles. An Unsupported FKT involves carrying all the food and supplies one needs for the route and obtaining no external provisions. The sole exception to this is that water may be collected along the route from natural sources.
How are they tracked?
For years the tracking of FKTs was difficult at best, but now with GPS it is recommended that those attempting an FKT track their route and progress in order to submit an easily verified completion. In order to maintain as much inclusivity as possible, this can be done on anything from a phone to a watch to a more complex device.
Finding FKTs or creating your own
Anyone can create their own FKT route assuming, “The route is notable and distinct enough so that others will be interested in repeating it.” The website actually encourages the finding of unique routes (especially through nature) and for individuals to create their own challenges. Recently created routes range from connecting natural landmarks and linking up peaks to established loop trails. The possibilities are plenty, and the satisfaction of creating a route, completing it, and submitting it is hard to surpass. It is the act of taking an idea and turning it into an accomplishment. As Buzz Burrell says of completing FKTs, “Own what you did. Let everyone else make up their minds about what it means.”