Fastest Known Times vs Races

Wide Angle LensThere are many changes occurring in ultrarunning racing right now, and some of these changes are making the pursuit of Fastest Known Times (FKTs) on various trails more attractive than traditional races.

Race Fields
The ongoing problem of small fields is not improving for the vast majority of races. A related issue is the lack of a distinct competitive field in many popular races. Small fields picked by lottery end up disappointing runners of all levels. The advantages of FKT’s on this topic are obvious, there is no lottery, and if you are hurt on “race day” you can postpone your race for as long or short as needed. You may not have as many people to run with, but running a FKT with a group is also an option. A perfect example of this is a large group Gary Gellin has brought together to go after the Tahoe Rim Trail FKT this summer.

Race Logistics
Ultra races used to be relatively simple adventures. A prime example of the recent changes in logistics is The North Face Bear Mountain 50 mile race. For the first couple of years, you could drive up to the start/finish area, drop bags were found quickly, and the course was a single path of orange ribbon. Now, that it has turned into a 2-day festival of races for which you have to park at a remote lot to catch a shuttle by 4:20 am. It may take them quite a while to find drop bags, and the last few miles of the course are marked by five different colors of ribbon. 50-mile runners also have to deal with passing runners from other race distances. Many will try to race you despite the fact that you are running 1-2 minutes per mile faster. In contrast, for a similar FKT, I can start in the daylight, run a course that is easier to navigate, not have to depend on shuttles to get to and from my car, and deal with much less traffic on the trail. Another relevant advantage to FKT’s is picking a day with good weather. I think many people underestimate the effects of weather on performance, and sometimes health. Despite what seemed to become a race between Dakota Jones and Max King at the Grand Canyon a few weeks ago, they were about 40 minutes slower than Dakota’s solo FKT that was run in cooler temperatures. Maybe they were tired, but if you need a better example look at Boston 2011 vs. 2012.

Race Fees
The increase in race fees cannot be justified for many runners. There are many examples of races that are more expensive simply because the race organization has been outsourced to a management company. Whether the race costs $20 or $100, the only thing I am getting from the race is Coke and Gatorade, and maybe some food after. While some races donate funds to local charities, I’d prefer the option of doing that, rather than having it be an integral part of the race fee. Most of my FKT attempts are inexpensive, with the exception of the somewhat large speeding ticket I won on the way to one trail. I was anxious to get going.

Trails
No matter where you live, many of the best trails in the US will never become races. This is definitely true in the Northeast. After running routes like the Great Range Traverse, Pemi Loop, Presidential Traverse, and the Devil’s Path, it is hard to get excited for multi-loop ultras on inferior trails. There are times in some races when I realize that I would never choose to run on the race course if I lived in that area. When you add in the logistical expense issues, FKT’s are hard to beat.

This topic is relevant to the recent discussions about the difficultly of European races compared to US races. While some have pointed out that there are plenty of smaller US races that have very challenging terrain, this may not be obvious to runners who have only done a few ultras and/or choose to run on easier terrain. Since most of us don’t race that often and spend most of our miles training, FKT’s are an additional source of challenging terrain. Many of the FKT’s in the Northeast have similar climb per mile rates as the European races, and the footing is actually worse. I will admit that running down a couloir in the Alps that had a cable bolted on one side for safety was a bit scary, but not as bad as climbing up the Huntington Ravine Trail on Mount Washington. If anyone wants to work on their downhill running, trying to run down Huntington would be a good challenge. If you do it, definitely get some video.

Some of my own challenges in continuing to justify races are due to the facts that I have a time consuming job and my desire to spend time with my family. These are likely to be common issues for many readers of iRunFar. Yes, my wife and son enjoy watching me race, but the constraints imposed by the logistics of many races make this difficult. I’ve had several races where I signed up weeks or months before that I’ve been unable to attend due to changing schedules. For the same cost as running a 50 mile, I could get a room at a nice hotel in VT or NH for a weekend of hiking. Maybe I’d do a FKT attempt, or maybe I’d do it some other weekend. Interestingly, many of the challenges of ultra trail racing are not present with shorter distance trail racing. Maybe I’ll just do short trail races and stick to FKT’s for my longer trail runs, I mean races.

Call for Comments (from Bryon)

  • Have you ever tried to set an FKT? If so, why?
  • Do you follow others’ attempts at FKTs?
  • What aspects of today’s trail races do you find most troubling?
  • Do you find yourself turning toward alternates to racing? If so, to what?
Ben Nephew

is an 11 time winner and course record holder at the Escarpment Trail Race. He has PR's of 3:10 for 50k and 5:47 for 50 miles and holds the fastest known times for the Adirondack Great Range Traverse, the Devil's Path in the Catskills, and the Pemigewasset Loop in the White Mountains. He has been running in INOV-8's since 2004, and is also sponsored by the National Institutes of Health.

There are 47 comments

  1. Adam Wilcox

    Interesting take, Ben. I was thinking quite a bit about Max King's comments regarding Skyracing while running the Pemi Loop yesterday. While I shaved a little off my old time, your FKT is quite safe for now.

    1. Ben Nephew

      Nice run, Adam. One of the things that I didn't mention is that some of the FKT's are not something that most can do very often at all. I like the Pemi and the other similar northeastern FKT's but I'm not itching to do them on a regular basis! You would really like the Great Range and Devil's Path, no rail trail in there. While I don't think that trail ultras should become 15 minute mile hikes, the harder races (Skyraces and similar) do the best job of actually creating a unique sport. It is nice to see that talents unique to trail running are rewarded in some races. If road racers could come in and win most events, there wouldn't be much point in having a separate sport.

      1. adamiata

        I'd like to get out to New York but, as with you, family and career duties limit me to single day trips most of the time. There are a number of other equally deserving loops and traverses in the White Mountains of New Hampshire and Maine that are ripe for fast times but have harder logistics than the Pemi.

        Here's Max King's full quote regarding Zegama from http://blog.ultimatedirection.com/skyrunning-heed

        “I was passing people like crazy on the climbs, and I consider myself comfortable on technical trails, but these guys just go nuts on the downhills. I’ve never seen people run downhill like that before!”

        This left me wondering whether there's some Euro training secret to going faster on technical downhills (like Garfield Ridge Trail), or whether you just have to be more willing risk splitting your head open.

        1. Ben Nephew

          You are right, there are certainly tons of options all around you.

          With the downhills, there are a few things to consider. Firstly, I would bet that you would do alright in a European race on the downhills. If you are going to a race that has good local runners that regularly spend time on the trail, we all know how much being able to get practice on technical trails help. I don't think this was ever addressed in the Quest videos, but I'm pretty sure that Kilian hasn't been able to beat the FKT for the Matterhorn, which was set by local was also a Sky race champ. Race specific training in general is a big advantage, and Max noted that he never ran on that type of terrain. The additional consideration for ultras is being able to run technical downhills when your legs are tired. I've run with dozens of people that can hammer downhills for a few miles.

        2. Matias Saari

          The aforementioned quote ("These guys go nuts on the downhills …") actually belongs to Mike Wolfe.

          Max King said he was humbled and awed by the Euro's ability on tough courses and added "It's as if someone kicked me down a mountain lined with large sharp rocks, dunked me in freezing cold water, and beat me with a stick."

          Here's Max's blog post about Zegama:

          http://www.runnerspace.com/profile.php?member_id=

  2. Dana Rikli

    I like this idea very much. It seems that many races these days are too "built up." The reduced cost and less people on the trail are both positives in my opinion.

  3. Mark Lundblad

    Great post Ben. I have cut my ultra racing in half in lieu of FKT efforts/attempts for many of the reasons you just mentioned.

  4. Elena Makovskaya

    After running R2R2R in Apr this year I also realized the advantages of such "adventure runs" vs races.. Less cost, you can choose your weekend and no pressure.. I have further researched the topic of other possible adventure trails and found this website below – good source of ideas what other great trails to run in different regions of US..

    http://fastestknowntime.proboards.com/

    Not to mention, Grand Canyon double crossing became my absolute favorite place on earth ti run now and I plan on doing it at least 2 times a year if not more.. :)

  5. art

    I actually gravitated to the "official" ultra world from the FKT world.

    Since I'm not that fast it was acutally the FKPT (Fastest Known Personal Time).

    For me, FKT's are all about very very small.

    either solo, or 3 or 4 at most.

    Don't know how large Gary's group is, but above 3-4 people I think FKT loses its charm and ends up just becoming another race. There is something internal that's lost with a large group.

  6. dogrunner

    Good post. And for some of us (me anyway, fwiw), racing or FKT is not even the point. I just like running, and more specifically, running on really cool trails. I am a data geek so I wear a GPS watch and keep a log of my workouts (as if they didn't happen if I fail to do that ;) ), but still, it is just me and ideally one of the dogs. For fun.

  7. dogrunner

    But I should also confess, when I'm not running, I like reading race coverage at IRF and race reports from cool places too.

  8. Matt Smith

    At what point does a group FKT effort turn in to an unsanctioned race, at least in the eyes of the local land managers? If you've got 20 guys running a trail, with support crews at trail heads, how will that impact parking and the experience of other travelers on the trail?

    I've considered putting together a group run on the 100 mile section of the Long Path through the Catskills, but having worked there as a ranger in the past, I'm torn about the impact on the wilderness areas that it traverses. As long as the runners are spread out and the support crews courteous, then it shouldn't be a problem.

    If en masse FKT runs are an emerging trend, then the community should start developing best practices to avoid the wrath of the managers of our public lands.

    1. james varner

      good point matt about the impact of large group FKTs. as a race director who deals with the issues of impacts and works closely with land managers i definitely could see this becoming an issue if the groups were to become larger than a dozen or so and happened often. thankfully i don't really see that happening. i think a 20 person FKT is going to be quite rare. i think the usual one or two person fkt attempt will always be the norm mostly for logistical reasons. coordinating a supported fkt for multiple people on a long route in the mountains would be a lot of work and require multiple support persons and vehicles. at some point it would probably make more sense for such a large group to splinter into smaller ones each of which would probably end up having different dates and speeds for the FKT which would greatly reduce the impact.

      the question i have is about the ethics of a multi person fkt in wilderness where competitions are prohibited(a rule i disagree with to some degree btw). correct me if i'm wrong but i think this is why nolan's 14 got shut down. it sure would be a shame if the R2R2R and other classic/popular FKT routes were to be impacted in a similar way by overuse by FKT runners.

      all in all i think we're talking about very small subset(FKT) of a very small subset(ultrarunning) of a pretty low impact sport. the odds of land managers en masse having issues with FKTs seems pretty unlikely under just about any circumstance(unless FKT attempts morphed into quasi-races with course marking, aid stations, large numbers of runners, and payments to the organizers which i just don't see happening)

  9. Rob Youngren

    I set the FKT on the 335 mile Pinhoti Trail at 6 days 8 hours and 48 minutes a couple years ago (yeah, not very fast). I set out to speed-hike the Pinhoti Trail (end to end) not for any fame or record setting, but because I wanted to experience what multi-day trail running is like but in a supported manner. The Pinhoti Trail is right in my backyard so it was easily accessible and I was able to convince (con) several friends into coming out to support/run with me. As this was my first experience remotely like this, I keep a reasonable schedule to avoid becoming a total zombie. Ran from dawn to past dark every day (except the last short day) as I wanted to SEE the whole trail; didn't want it to be all about setting a "record" or "fastest known time". At the time the trail had only been officially open/complete for less than two years and so we were unable to verify any official FKTs on the trail other than some multi-week long thru-hikes. Nothing speedy. So, just finishing would have probably been enough for an FKT anyhow. I know the FKT could be much faster, I know I could probably go much faster. But that was never the point. The FKT was mostly an afterthought, something to keep me honest and not spend too much time Out There. I have aspirations to do a lot more multi-day trail runs and fast-packs so the Pinhoti Trail Adventure Run (http://pinhotitrailadventurerun.blogspot.com/) was just another step in that direction. I was well supported to the point of near overkill, but it was my first time and had no idea how I'd fair. Turns out I really think I have a knack for this stuff and know I can do it with far less support. But there's always the first time! So get out there, find a trail (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Long-distance_trails_in_the_United_States) make plans and get OUT THERE! So much fun, you won't regret a minute!

  10. olga

    Just saw an add for unsanctionedracing.com. It lead me to FB page to create my own "not-race" race. I am a little surprised it gets advertised as the whole idea of races being organized is to assure they pass through allowed territories when certain limit of people is reached.

    Anyhow, to the topic. Obviously, 99% of us will never run FKT, but as someone mentioned, rather FKPT. Or, just a run in a beautiful place where governing bodies do not allow races and other events. In this respect, there comes a point, IMHO, we begin to gravitate to. Races are too crowded, our performances get not so "performy", money tight, new places to visit (as someone who had run a bit a lot of races all over the country, I would love to see something new). And, of course, all the reasons you mentioned: less traffic, around best training or least injury, weather, vacation time, family tag-along, parking, and so on. It's just a bit scary that FKT will become so popular, they will be races in their own right and take away some of that "look what I have done!" personal satisfaction. But then again, everybody is allowed to run where they are pleased. As long as it played by the rules. No matter how much we may not like them.

    1. Alex from New Haven

      If FKTs ever get listed on your "ultrasignup" race results then we know it's become about "look what I have done" :)

      1. olga

        Yeah, but then you can't whisper it! Because who goes on ultrasignup to check on your results besides you? :) It's the secrecy behind, the rarity…everybody does races, ya know…

        1. Alex from New Haven

          Olga, I'm not a fast runner and I've had 3 different this season say "so I saw on ultrasignup that you did WS100."

          I do it fairly often when irunfar mentions a runner I don't know. I hope I'm not exposing myself as insane, but I think it's actually pretty common to do so… (for better or worse)

  11. Alex from New Haven

    I've done some multi-day self-supported speed hikes, Tahoe Rim Trail being the longest. It's just so, so difficult… much harder than a 100 miler. Hard enough that I stopped doing them in favor or running-oriented ultras. The gear, logistics and distance mean you're rarely actually running. Take my advice, for multi-day either do it supported or at a leisurely pace…

    While it's very un-hip to say this right now… I enjoy running on runnable terrain… As cool as all the skyrunning is, the contrarian in me wants to run a 24hour track race just to be SUPER UNCOOL :)

  12. Russell

    Now I'm confused again. I just spent so much time reading and understanding and almost being convinced of the merits of racing as opposed to running alone… after Geoff's article on the same. All the stuff about camaraderie… and friends… and like-minds… and energy from other runners… spirit… belt buckles…etc. And now we're back to solo attempts.

    Yes, I will make up my own mind real soon, but for now… I'm confused.

  13. Todd

    The FKT game, like the sanctioned (ultra) racing game, is competitive for a very small group. But many of the rest of us like to compete even if we are not competitive at the top levels. I like to improve. I like the post race/ride feeling of knowing I went as hard as I could. Basically, there needs to be a place for "the rest of us" to "compete" in the FTK game.

    The cycling (both road and mountain) equivalent of FKT is currently burning through the cycling community …. Strava. Find a climb (big or not!), cruise to the base, ride the 50, 500 for 5000ft climb to the top and then see where that lands. Or pick your favorite 10, 50, 100+ mile ride and set it up as FKT loop. Subset the "competition" by age category, weight, whatever ….. in that, every person gets to choose their (appropriate) peer group.

    Strava (which does running as well as cycling) is a lot about "look what I have done." No doubt about it. But isn't winning an overall ultra race a bit about "look what I have done"? I mean if ultra racing was a pure "we all just do it for the experience" then the race results would only include bib numbers!

    OK, I have get back onto Strava to figure out how to get the King of the Mountain on our local 3000 ft climb to the ski basin ….

  14. Patrick McKenna

    I attempted to break the Grand Canyon FKT a few weeks ago. Only missed it by 11.5 hours or so, but had the time of my life. I will attempt to break it again next year. :)

  15. Ben Nephew

    I really should have included a few comments about an organized FKT site in NY.

    http://gunks.thetrailchallenge.com/

    First of all, the trails in Shawangunks of NY are some of the best anywhere. It is really hard to describe how spectacular they are. While they certainly have nice views, it is the trails themselves that so remarkable. Miles of rolling pine needle covered singletrack, runnable technical sections, solid rock ridges winding in and out of pines, and plenty of hills. There is a monthly challenge where the winning FKT (based on a gps track) wins a prize, and then an annual challenge for the best time over several routes. The organizers are in the process of expanding into longer routes and other trail regions, such as the Catskills and Adirondacks. In terms of competition, this model has been more successful than the standard FKT paradigm. Some of the FKT attempts I've done there (my wife is from New Paltz) have felt just like an actual race.

  16. Dan Brannen

    Dangerous territory, Ben…. Here's my starting axiom: if it wasn't in a bona fide "race," there is no such animal as an "FKT" (Fastest Known Time). It's an illusion, a fantasy. If you are talking any venue other than an established "bona fide" race, then the best you can ever hope for is "FCT" (Fastest Claimed Time). It reminds me of my days long ago on a very large and very successful college cross-country team: there were those who won the meets, and those who "won" the workouts. Stop and think for a moment on the distinction: "claimed" vs. "known." The classic example that should end all discussion: Stan Cottrell. Look him up ("claimed" record run across America; in the immortal words of Nick Marshall: "He became the most famous ultramarathoner in America without ever running an ultramarathon." Difference between "K" and "C": Do we know that Cottrell "claimed" to set the record for running across the USA? Yes. Do we know that he actually did run across the USA faster than anybody else? Different answer). For every well-intentioned and genuinely honest alleged "FKT," there is a shadow Stan Cottrell waiting in the wings. And there have been additional trans-America Stan Cottrells following Stan Cottrell. What do they have in common? They garnered either media coverage or dollars (or both) to satisfy their egos. Were they legitimately world-class or national class ultramarathoners? No one has a clue, and no one ever will. You can bet you'll never see their names in any ultra race results. As soon as any alleged "FKT" gets enough notoriety for any particularly noteworthy course, you can be sure there will more Stan Cottrells that nobody has ever heard of coming out of the woodwork and breaking "FKT's". When does anyone's "K" become a "C" with an overwhelmingly suspicious "?" It's an open question, and it can't be closed. Let's not go too far down this path.

    1. Ben Nephew

      I haven't heard of anyone faking a GPS track at this point, although I'm sure it is possible. FKT's are not a replacement for racing, but they are a solution for competing on routes that will never be a race. Your example seems to pertain mostly to multiday FKT's, which can be hard to verify. Spot Tracker is useful for documenting these longer FKT's. There have already been some questions about FKT's that were not well supported, or times that were established long before GPS. I do think it is important to be skeptical, and it is getting harder and harder to justify not having some sort of GPS requirement. It is surprising how some runners can't imagine why someone would try to fake a FKT. Ego seems to be the easy answer to that one. The grandfathering of records is an issue that road races dealt with by starting from scratch, which has often been partially resolved for FKT's with the records being broken with reliable verification. There will always be cheaters, everywhere, but I think FKT's are more likely to be free of cheating than professional track and field, bike racing, and scientific research.

      Just because an event is a real race does not mean there is not cheating. Should we keep going down the path of women's middle distance? Are the WR's for all track distances a closed question?

      The Grand Canyon FKT's are certainly getting a lot of attention, but the guys running the FKT's are not coming out of the woodwork. Jared Scott had the R2R FKT, and is a very fast mountain and trail racer. Rob Krar just set a new R2R FKT. Considering that Rob has been able to beat Jared at some of the La Sportiva Mountain Cup races, the new FKT is not a surprise. The time is pretty quick, though!

  17. Steve Pero

    Good article, Ben…and love your mention of some of my favorite loops in New Hampshire, which I miss now that I live in New Mexico, the Pemi being my favorite.

    As for Huntington Ravine on Mount Washington, here's a photo I took of Jeff List climbing up the face while we were "running" the MMD 50K, just to give some people an idea what those trails are like up in the Wild Whites.
    https://picasaweb.google.com/11573520250710830495

    1. Ben Nephew

      Thanks for the pics, Steve. I have a few questions for you and Jeff about some of the trails up there. Shoot me a line when you have some time. My info is on the western mass site.

  18. Gary Gellin

    All-

    I just wanted to clarify that for my Tahoe Rim Trail record attempt, the group is not what I consider "large". We have six runners including myself (full roster on the fastest known time forum site). We are also not racing each other, nor do we intend to. I made a decision to not run solo after the positive experience I had running much of the Bear 100 with fellow competitor Ben Lewis last fall. The camaraderie associated with having a team time trial format is a much different dynamic than solely having pacers join you for brief periods. This is also an unusual project in its complexity and distance, so doesn't fall in to the category of a "Fatass" race.

    For me, the allure of the FKT is not at odds with formal racing. I am with Geoff Roes on the value of organized races as he describes in his recent iRF piece. It is a fun game, however, and sites like Strava provide some people with incentive to set the fastest times up their local hills (albeit more popular amongst my cycling friends). In fact, I plan to race up (on foot) the fabled Repack fire road in Marin County after a friend of mine told me he has the fastest mountain bike time in the uphill direction.

  19. Aaon Sorensen

    Okay, so I've been (attempting anyway) FKT's before the FKT site was up.

    So I'm not sure if I'm being trendy or not?

    I just think FKT's should be on known routes and not just going out, running up a hill and calling it an FKT, unless it's a known route.

    Furthermore, there are so many FKT's out there now, that wish they were broken up into thru hikes and then the 3 hour runs that you have to pick through to get to the important stuff.

    I was planning on going for the Tahoe Rim Trail Unsupported Record again this year, but with the snow still lingering in the time I have to do it, it will have to wait until next year.

  20. Jared F

    Good take on the topic, and something everyone should consider. For a back of the pack person like me races are really just about the day of community, running out there with like minded people ejoying a trail together. The problem with FKT's though is the logistics of longer runs, say 50+ miles, solo would be difficult. I mean how many people would be able to go run the Hardrock course at one time? Many courses are spliced together sections of trails so running the same course at 1 time solo would be nearly, if not entirely, impossible.

    With that said, I too try to avoid "coporate races" (for road guys think of the Rock n Roll races). Most of the races up here in AK are fund raises for local clubs and organizations, ro I have no problem participating, also race fees are very low, none over $100 (yet). The Susitna 100 in February has a fee or $200 but that also includes the support of a handful of heated cabins many with full meals, and the safety of snow mobile safety patrol and access to a plane if needed, small price to pay for running through Alaska in the middle of winter.

  21. George Zack

    FKTs are definitely a part of the culture of the MUT sub culture here in the People's Republic. Part of that is because we can't race certain courses. Nobody uses the term FKT when talking about Mount Washington or Pikes because actual races have COURSE RECORDS. When we talk about Grand Canyon or Green Mountain, since we are NOT ALLOWED to race there (and for what it is worth, competition is actually defined in some obscure city ordinance in Boulder as four or more people trying to better each other's performance), we don't talk course records … but instead FKTs.

  22. Buzz

    As a person who switched emphasis from races to FKT's 30 years ago (and helped popularize the term), I obviously agree wholeheartedly with your excellent review of the topic.

    I would add a component not given enough emphasis: Fun. Do the coolest route, at a good time of the year, starting at the optimal time of day, and with your best friend – it's more fun.

    1. Ben Nephew

      Thanks, Buzz. I guess I didn't really deal with fun directly, but that is certainly why I am prefer FKT's over some races. All the issues with races can quickly take some of the fun out of them. Thanks for all the work you and Peter have done with FKT's.

  23. Eric Ahern

    I agree with this sentiment. FKTs run the risk of just being hopelessly unattainable for all but the very fastest runners. While I can certainly appreciate the many advantages of FKTs for certain runners, for the vast majority of us they can be simply discouraging, as we know we'll never be close to that achievement. A trail race is an opportunity to compete with peers who are close to us in ability, and with whom we actually have a chance to race and push each other. To me this competitive element is missing when running alone. So much of our training is done alone, or in small groups, it's exhilarating to be part of a large pack of runners and see where one stacks up. That the ultra world is now experiencing the growing pains that road running already went through over the last twenty to thirty years should come as a surprise to no one. Personally, I think there is room in the sport for races large (like the massive TNF events) and small (local trail races with a handful of competitors), as well as FKTs.

  24. JWolfe

    I am a little late on this one and maybe I am reading too much into "The time is pretty quick, though!" remark, but it sounds like you are questioning Rob's time. I was there and witnessed his finish. He ran exactly what he said he did. Further, I welcome anyone who has the inclination to come out and "supervise" or just be a part of one of our Grand Canyon FKTs..

  25. Brian

    2 thoughts on the FKT culture: First, consider the issues sequential year races. My example from this season is Mt Washington. I & a group applied for lottery status this winter. The weekend was designed as a guys event & all were committed. Trouble was I was the only one to 'win' & get in. Now the logistics kick in. I was going to the event solo & had to deal w the finding a ride down, bag drops, drop off & pick ups…. The organizers for what it is worth did a wonderful job, yet still a challenge. Plus, now this is no longer a guys event & the family would be attending. What this would mean is that I would not be sleeping in my truck, yet hoteling it for a couple of days @ $180/ night. One week before the event, I fracture my foot. With expectations of a long weekend family trip, I pull some strings to get seen by Sports Med for any help ASAP. (I am told runners are just 'crazy' & if I want to run a vertical 7.6 miles, go for it.) Oh… My foot would not fit in my shoes too well so….$$$ 1/2 size larger we go. So looking like the next installment of "family vacation" we head of to NH for an event that was originally pushed by my buddies as a cheap adventure…. The event was first class & broken foot & all I ran to a top 10 in my age class & met some awesome folks + my family had a great time. However, there is no guarantee I will get into the '13 race, as a 30-something runner w family will hardly garner an invite & I'm back on the lottery track. Plus- who knows if our group would fair any better I'm the lottery.

    Second point: I live on the Long Trail /AT in Vermont. A major trailhead & blue blazes skirt my property. We regularly self stock / pre – run to establish support for section runs for up to a dozen people on the AT & others. I can say w/o doubt that runners are not the ones damaging the wilderness. If anything core athletes self stocking & group running do far less than just about any other trail user & are often the ones cleaning up after others. Plus there is no Festival Footprint that follows.

    Run well!

  26. Bill Ahlers

    Well put Eric, I agree with everything you said. I think for the largest percentage of us we will be just reading about these FKT's while we prepare for our challenges with the many small and large organized ultra races. I think the majority of us do it for a much deeper reason then being the fastest. As I was climbing a 14er today it occurred to me that the reason I enjoy grueling up to the top of them is more similar to why I love ultras then I had realized. Its not to bag 14ers because if I was alone in these climbs it would not be nearly the experience it is with all the people I share the gruel with. We share stories and our lives with people we don't know. Its intimate in a world that has otherwise has gone mad. I have stopped using watches and logging all my runs. I go when it calls me. I still fair decent on race day amongst my peers. But most of all I really love being with my fellow man/woman as we trudge the happy trail of destiny. Like you said Eric, we spend too much time alone in training and its the pinnacle of achievement to share an adventure your ready for with others that are ready too. We fell sadness for those that fall and sheer joy for those that triumph. Did I get tearfully emotional when Ian Sherman won LT100? No, but I did watching 100's of others cross that line that truly went through it all and beat the cutoff clock. That my friend is the beauty of ultras.

  27. Stan Cottrell

    I have just become aware of this “irunfar” vehicle. I never cease to be amazed at how one person with the power of the tongue can create such slander and libel. When I ran across the USA, the Guinness people said, “We have never received such complete documentation, etc.” Just to emphasize the volumes of eyewitnesses, etc. Two years ago, I was involved in a defamation law suit. Nick Marshall was one of the defense star witnesses, even though the man had never met me nor run with me nor witnessed my running even though he was invited. I vividly remember the one and only brief conversation I had with him was one couched in hostility on his part. He said he was not interested in talking with me. I know of one particular run in which runners abandoned the race because of Nick Marshall…and the reason was published as the reason “He was a jerk.” In court, he testified, “I am the one who started the Stan Cottrell controversy. I am now 72 for 35 years I have tried to live my life honorably. I had never heard of this man until after I ran across the USA and then he reared his ugly head. It is such a shame. When I saw him at the deposition…I never felt anger or any rage toward him…only pity for a lonely, pathetic little man who lives in obscurity and the slanderous tongue to try to build himself up even with lies. Note…ultramarathons were an unknown concept in the South during these time frames … I was a pioneer in human performance…I could never understand why he would never come out and run with me even when I was within 3 miles of his house even though I invited him. Perhaps if he had, he would not have had a forum or platform to spew his venom. The beautiful world of running was the real loser. Nick tried to make his fame by being a statistician. Such a sad commentary. As Dr. Phil would say, “How’s that working out for you, Nick?

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