Mike Wolfe and Hal Koerner’s John Muir Trail Supported FKT Report

“All things excellent are as difficult as they are rare.”  — Ed Abbey, Desert Solitaire

“The sum of two partners’ energy, wisdom, and strength of will—when those partners are well adapted to each other after years of stress and adventure—is far greater than their individual power and spirit… Well-adapted partners see through the other’s eyes. They imagine accomplishing a particular task and then execute it in roughly the same way. Trust in each other’s ability and judgment is total. Ultimately they become each other.”  -Mark Twight, Extreme Alpinism

Mike Wolfe - Hal Koerner - JMT - trees

Mike Wolfe and Hal Koerner on the John Muir Trail. Photo: Tom Robertson

Hal and I have different styles. Hal uses hair product for his serious suave. I’m lucky if I use shampoo instead of dish soap on my head. Hal listens to every new band I’ve never heard of while driving his pimped-out Audi allroad complete with carbon-fiber mirrors. I listen to 2Pac on repeat while I drive my cracked-windshield Toyota Tundra. Hal likes to sleep comfortably in hotel rooms. I like sleeping on my Thermarest in the dirt.

No matter. When Hal and I put on our running shoes and set our gaze on the trail, our styles were one and the same. Together we finished the 220-ish-mile John Muir Trail (JMT) in a single-push effort on August 4. We did it supported, with an amazing crew of folks helping us along the way. We moved for 3 days, 12 hours, 41 minutes from Whitney Portal to Happy Isles at Yosemite National Park—the length of the trail in its entirety. For those JMT FKT purists out there, we moved for 3 days, 9 hours, 5 minutes from the summit of Mount Whitney to Happy Isles, Yosemite—the length of the actual JMT. During this time, we slept for only four and one-half hours.

Hal Koerner - Mike Wolfe - JMT - start

Mike and Hal at the start. Photo: Tom Robertson

I suppose I could provide you with an analytical report of our split times on sections of the trail, how many gels, calories, and water we took. What exactly was in our packs. Where our crew-access points were. What our overall strategy was. If you want that information, you can surely contact Hal or I directly. That’s the easy stuff. The boring stuff.

Hal Koerner - Mike Wolfe - JMT - high

Wolfe takes a selfie up high.

Serious sleep deprivation leaves your memory foggy. I remember certain sections, certain moments with vivid clarity. Surely instances burned into my memory that I’ll never forget. Then, other sections of our run are a blur, where I can’t even remember running entire sections of trail when I look back over the maps. The following moments are what did make it into my memory.

Floating up Mount Whitney. It’s the biggest climb of the journey, and it’s barely a warm-up for the next three days. We decided from the start to ‘hike with purpose’ up Mount Whitney, and not push the pace. We knew we needed to reign ourselves in the first day, and keep it relatively causal, at a four-to-five-mile-per-hour pace. The south-north route starts dramatically, climbing from the trailhead at 8,360 feet, up to the summit of Whitney at 14,505, an ascent of just over 6,000 feet in 11 miles. I think we were too excited, however, as we scampered to the top in 3:22 from the car, leaving our cameraman behind. It felt easy, exciting, the start of a great adventure. We lingered for 15 minutes on top, setting our watches, and Hal sending out the first of many SPOT Connect text messages that took upwards of 600 seconds to connect and send via satellite. There were hordes of day hikers and peak baggers on the summit. All too many asked us why we had the same outfits on, looking like lime-green aliens on the austere, rocky moonscape that is the high Sierra. We stuck out.

Hal Koerner - Mike Wolfe - JMT - rocky

Hal and Mike stomping some high Sierra rocks. Photo: Tom Robertson

Hot and dry the first day, and Forrester Pass sets the tone. We quickly got used to running in the low-humidity, glaring, alpine sun.  You’re over 10,000 feet almost entirely for the first 120 miles of the JMT. You quickly get used to choking on dust from the trail, and the constant rub of decomposing granite pebbles in your shoes and socks. Constantly on rock. Getting accustomed to the rocky and parched landscape, Hal and I ran steadily through the day to Forrester Pass. This is the first of many high alpine passes you cross over that is literally dynamite-blasted through high Sierra rock. Hal and I chatted on and off on Day 1, but I think we also settled quite quickly into the functional mode that made our partnership so strong and saw us through to the end. We swapped leads naturally. Whenever one would stop for a bathroom break, water refill, or photo. But, other than that, we moved very fluidly, with the lead person often 20 or 30 yards ahead of the other. No talking, just movement.

Hal Koerner - JMT - rocky pass

Hal on a rocky pass. Photo: Mike Wolfe

First crew stop at mile 43, Kearsarge Pass, Jeff Kozak. It was late in the first day, an hour before sunset. We were excited for a real meal and some company. Kozak outdid himself. He packed in chocolate milks, maple-bar donuts, and even Hal’s favorite; White Castle sliders. We both force gorged ourselves at Kozak’s Kitchen and then stumbled on into the sunset with full stomachs. It was a gorgeous, warm, clear night up and over 12,000-foot Glen Pass. We encountered many backpackers while we were out there, likely upward of 30 people a day. But Day 1 seemed to be the most entertaining. Encountering what Hal termed ‘the gang-bangers’ sucking air on top of Forrester Pass, and then the guys stumbling around lost in the dark as we descended off of Glen Pass. We couldn’t waste the energy with too much thought of others. But, we learned then that it was much preferred to pass folks by cover of darkness. During the day, we were constantly answering the barrage of questions from hikers: “Why are your packs so small?” “Where did you start?” “Where are you going?” “Why are you in matching t-shirts?”

I remember trying to fall asleep at mile 63, at our second crew resupply. The amazing Benna family, JB, Jen, and Eva, had a nice camp installed they had backpacked in the previous day. Hal and I got in sleeping bags around 3:30 a.m. at Bench Lake. It was cold and frosty, with the Milky Way shimmering down on us. Hal kept telling me he was seeing shooting stars, but I didn’t see any… the entire trip. I think he was hallucinating. We ate our obligatory hot Backpacker Pantry meal of chili mac or salmon pasta, then laid down to sleep for two hours. I couldn’t fall asleep. I was tired, and I needed this first rest for what was to come. We’d been on the move for 20 hours and tomorrow was a big day. I couldn’t sleep because my body was in engine-burning go-mode. Damn it, Hal was already snoring. I could feel my elevated heart rate hammering throughout my entire body, and my breathing would not slow down. Maybe because we were at over 10,000 feet, and neither of us did any real acclimatization? I told myself I had to go to sleep. Suddenly, it was two hours later and JB was shaking me awake and handing me coffee. After a quick cup of coffee and a Nutella/almond butter tortilla wrap, we were up and off, heading toward Mather Pass. I was surprised by how light and springy my step felt after laying down for those two hours.

The intensity of mid-summer sun sinks in on Day 2. I remember hobbling into, and out of, our 84-mile crew resupply with our cameraman Tom Robertson. Sure I was tired, but it was the sun sapping our energy. I felt better after another meal, and Tom’s secret espresso coffee. But the climb up and over Muir Pass felt arduous. Being in constant sun over 10,000 feet surely took its toll on our pace in the afternoon. As we crested the top of the pass in early evening and dropped down into the stunningly beautiful Evolution Basin, we found our running stride again. We were pleasantly surprised to find how runnable this section of trail was. I think we had both been a little shocked at how the majority of the trail up to this point was not feeling very runnable. I think we both expected to be hiking up the passes, then cruising down and rolling steadily through the flat sections, even if it was the rocky Sierra. We had run all over the world and knew how to run technical terrain. But that plan had not panned out. It isn’t that the trail is ungodly technical, like something we’d never encountered. No, it’s more the way it was engineered by the CCC. It’s incredibly rocky, yes, but then throw in massive, knee-high, rock water bars every 12 feet, or rock steps cut for mule trains and packers, and you see how runnable it feels after 36 hours on your feet. It’s that kind of terrain where you can never get into an actual running stride. It’s jerky, stops you every few strides, breaks your stride, and seems only conducive to sore knees.

Mike Wolfe - JMT - support tree

Wolfe getting some support from a tree. Photo: Tom Robertson

Dropping into Evolution Basin was the first smooth and creamy running we’d had in a while. We let the legs go and ran into the sunset, trying to make up some time, feeling good. We also were descending into an ominous sunset. We new there was a big forest fire burning north of us, and we’d hit the smoke at some point. We dropped into the smoke in the bottom of Evolution Meadow in the dark, and the ash started to fall.

Hal and I had planned to run from our mile 83 crew spot to mile 130 for our next crew resupply without stopping. We hoped to make it to mile 130 late in the night on Day 2, sleep for a couple more hours, then eat and rally. Choking and coughing down the trail along the South Fork of the San Joaquin River, past Muir Trail Ranch, and beginning the climb up toward Selden Pass, we hit a wall. We fumbled around, stopping too much to access food in our packs, fill water bottles, and we resorted to pulling out Hal’s mini speaker for the one and only time. He plugged it into his iPhone and blasted some tunes to try to help us up the trail toward Selden. Maybe Hal just has better taste in music than me or I’d started to hallucinate, but his choice of music along with the falling ash and my deteriorating mental state seemed to make me crump even quicker. I suggested we rest. We needed a quick break to try to sleep in our emergency bivies. It was the coldest night yet; I was shivering every time we stopped. Hal wanted to keep moving, questioning whether we could stay warm in the bivies. Within a mile of carrying on, we’d both reconsidered and we were immediately lying in the middle of the trail in our emergency bivy sacks. It was 2:00 a.m., and we set our alarms for 3:00 a.m. These bivies are pretty amazing. They are essentially emergency blankets welded into bags. However, though they do surely reflect 90% of your body heat as advertised, they are 100% non-breathable. I was comfy and warm for about 10 minutes. Then I realized, as did Hal, that moisture condensation on the inside was dripping all over us. We shivered in a fitful sleep for an hour, ate some Oreos, and soldiered on.

We missed our crew person at mile 130, at the trail junction with Lake Thomas Edison. No fault to our crew person, more a miscommunication and probably lack of better planning on our part. Before we had left, Hal made a last minute plea on Facebook for someone to crew for us here. Our original crew person had fallen through at the last minute. We never even met our crew person. He was there; he spent the entire night there, but we missed him by 20 minutes. He thought surely we’d be through in the middle of the night, but we didn’t show up until 9:00 a.m. the next day. We saw numerous people along the trail that had literally just seen him. Ugh, absolutely demoralizing. Now what? We made the quick decision to run the 1.5 miles down to the lake. We knew there was a motorboat taxi we could take across the lake to a general store. We could just buy food. We ran out of our way. Unfortunately, when we got to the lake, we’d missed the last boat shuttle for the morning. Shit. Shit. Now what? Run another five miles out of our away around the lake to the general store? Make it 13 miles of running out of our way? How many hours would that take at this point? We hadn’t really slept in over 24 hours. We hadn’t had much food in 50 miles.

When things could have faltered. When our wills could have faltered. This was the moment. Hal and my partnership burned stronger, however. We both sat down and emptied our packs to assess our food supply. Before either of us said it, we both knew we were carrying on; it’s what we had to do. We couldn’t risk the detour to the store on the other side of the lake. We had two gels each, half a Ziplock of beef jerky, half a Ziplock of mini Oreo cookies, and a small Ziplock of Vitargo carbohydrate drink mix. We should be able to survive another 30-plus miles on that, right? We set off on the climb up Silver Pass.

I started to hallucinate for the first time ever on our way into Reds Meadow, mile 160. Luckily, back at Lake Thomas Edison, Hal had cell service and was able to text the Benna family, who would crew us at Reds Meadow. He let them know what had happened. JB responded he would try to run in and meet us with some extra food. Up and over Silver Pass was brutally hot and the sun felt like it was burning through my head. Hal started to get the first of many unstoppable bloody noses. My left shin started to burn with pain and I noticed it was red and swollen. We stumbled on, as it was the only option. I started to see elephants that were rocks, people that were trees. I had no idea what was going on when I heard someone yell my name, “Mike!” I turned around, thinking it was Hal behind me. No, it was JB yelling at me, from 15 feet away. He was standing right in front of me. We were in a stupor. JB was a lifesaver. He had Cokes, juice, ham-and-cheese sandwiches, and enough gels to get us running again, and literally run most of the way into Reds Meadow.

Mike Wolfe - JMT - support

Wolfe getting some support from his crew. Photo: Tom Robertson

I slept like a baby in Reds Meadow. A stomach full of Coke, chocolate milk, cheeseburger, soup, grilled cheese, chips. We had the entire crew in force there. The Benna family, Tom shooting photos and video, and mystery man Greg Lanctot had showed up from the Bay Area with a dozen of the craziest donuts I’d ever seen. I’d never met the guy and he was taking off my shoes and socks and cleaning my feet with warm water and a washcloth! I must have hallucinated that!

Mike Wolfe - Hal Koerner - JMT - bivvy

Hal and Mike bivvying out with those crazy donuts. Photo: Tom Robertson

Mike Wolfe - Hal Koerner - JMT - moon dust

Hal and Mike kicking up moon dust. Photo: Tom Robertson

We slept until midnight, then blasted out of there with lots of mental energy. We moved very strongly out of Reds Meadow up the first part of the very long climb (21-plus miles) up towards Donahue Pass. By the time the sun rose, we’d thought we should be cresting the pass. Damn, we still had six or more miles to go. We fell back into death-march pace. Hal was suffering from a brutally consistent bloody nose that was starting to make him feel lightheaded and dizzy. All the dry air and smoke had both of us coughing, stuffed noses that had now turned to bloody noses. My gloves I wore through the night were soaked in dried blood.  My shin was a constant nuisance. I’d put on compression socks and wrapped it in Reds Meadow. It was fine hiking up and running flats, but anything steeper downhill or technical it was painful and I was constantly compensating on my right side.

We finally crested Donahue Pass, both a little pissed off and over it. At least we could look down into Tuolumne Meadows and know we’d made it into the home-ish stretch. We both wanted desperately to run the long, gradual Lyell Canyon into Tuolumne. We should have been able to cruise it, but it was a struggle. I was limping along; Hal was tending to his bloody nose. We ran, but we’d make it for five or 10 minutes in the midday sun and then stumble into a walk again as soon as we’d hit a patch of shade. By the time we made it to the visitor center in Tuolumne where our crew was at mile 195, I was broken.

Mike Wolfe - JMT - cooling off

Mike being repaired with a cool hankie. Photo: Tom Robertson

There was no rest here. We were finishing this bastard. We ate ham-and-egg burritos, drank Coke, coated with sunscreen, iced my leg, and mounted back up. Our amazing support network was building, and the energy our crew provided was uplifting. Jess and Rob Hollister joined in the ‘fun’ here. Jess is our amazing PR person at The North Face. She’s way more than just a PR person. She’s always at our races and events, doing whatever it takes to support us. She was icing my neck, icing my leg, cheering us on. We were super lucky. Jen Benna said she’d run the last section with us. I was borderline conscious and nodded in agreement, as did Hal, both happy to have some company.

Powerhiking up another pass in the mid-afternoon heat. At least it was the last damn pass, and only 1,500 feet of climbing. We climbed strong, keeping a solid pace. Hal was motivated, I could sense it. He was feeling strong. I wanted to feel the same way, but the toll of the pain in my leg over the last 80 miles started to drag me down mentally. I was struggling to keep up to Hal’s pace. When we finally crested the last pass and knew it was virtually 20 miles of all downhill running to Yosemite, Hal picked up the pace. Or, at least it felt like it to me. I was doing everything I could to keep going. Mashing Snickers, Paydays, and M&Ms into my mouth. Grunting, grinding my teeth, hobbling. Searing pain, right side starting to tighten due to all the compensating. I was mentally shattered. I was having to tell myself to just stay upright. I was about to pass out and fall on my face.

Then, Jen had a text from JB. She said we had miscalculated the distance and our finishing time. We had to run 14 miles in the next two hours to break Brett Maune’s record. Shit. Shit. I simply knew there was no way I could do that. No physical way. I told Hal he should go on without me. Go break the record. I knew he had the strength. He wouldn’t leave me. I stumbled on a few more minutes.

My mind opened. At that instant when I thought I was buried in the deepest dark of the pain cave that never seemed imaginable. Almost like I accepted it and passed through. I told Hal, “I’m not gonna’ let you down,” and I ran by him. We proceeded to run the next five-plus miles at the fastest pace we had run the entire JMT. Granted it was all downhill, but we were cranking out seven-minute miles, passing tourists coming off of Half Dome, grunting, snorting, completely focused. Completely focused. We blasted down into the sandy flats of Little Yosemite Valley, before the final drop to the finish, and stopped running. That was it, we were done. Done running that is. Shot.

When we got to Nevada Falls and the last section of steep paved downhill, we knew we only had four miles and we had over two hours to beat the record. Turns out, our crew’s calculations had been wrong, we had the extra time, and we had less mileage than we thought we did. No matter, it had spurred us on. I sat down on a rock to wait for Hal. Rob Hollister bounded up the trail with Cokes in his hands. Best Coke ever.

Hal Koerner - JMT

Hal Koerner. Photo: Tom Robertson

Mike Wolfe - JMT

Mike Wolfe. Photo: Tom Robertson

Hal and I walked the last couple, ridiculous, paved miles down the trail to the parking lot. Our crew, our little family, was all there.  We finished together. We took photos at the trail sign. We hugged. They had champagne for us. It was beyond exhaustion. Elation. Hidden, indescribable emotions. Hal is the man. Could not have done it with a better partner. We were completely in sync out there. Hal is the toughest bastard around. Recognize it. I drank champagne. I ate an ice-cream cookie. Later, I drank a beer in the shower.  This was the first time I’ve had a sip of alcohol in over 15 years. ‘Nuff said.

Mike Wolfe - Hal Koerner - JMT - finish celebration

Mike and Hal celebrating their record-setting finish. Photo: Tom Robertson

Mike Wolfe - Hal Koerner - JMT - finish group

Hal, Mike, and their support team after finishing. Photo: Tom Robertson

There are 97 comments

  1. ET

    Nice work Mike and Hal. Curious to know why you guys decided to run JMT in the northern direction instead of the more popular southern direction? Kudos!

    1. art

      standard record attempt direction is north because it is a net elevation loss of over 4,000 ft from Whitney Portal, and 10,000 ft from the summit.

      standard average hiker direction is south because it is easier to acclimate in that direction.

  2. Dom

    "it’s more the way it was engineered by the CCC. It’s incredibly rocky, yes, but then throw in massive, knee-high, rock water bars every 12 feet, or rock steps cut for mule trains and packers, and you see how runnable it feels after 36 hours on your feet. It’s that kind of terrain where you can never get into an actual running stride. It’s jerky, stops you every few strides, breaks your stride, and seems only conducive to sore knees."

    YEP! It's the type of terrain that makes the vert/mileage numbers very misleading. The sierra backcountry is truly unique.

    Glad to see you guys gut it out, ask around and you'll find it's also the trail of broken bodies and failed attempts. Mad props.

  3. Fabienne

    Incredible feat you guys! Very inspiring and interesting insight regarding team strength. It really shows how the two of you derived and built strength from each other at different points of the run.Well done! :)

  4. art

    Great effort Hal and Mike !

    Job well done.

    Having followed JMT record attempts for years, the main thing this nicely descriptive write-up does for me is make Brett's effort seem even more incredible, and slightly less believable.

    1. Tom W

      I hope you are not implying that Brett's unsupported time is not legit?

      His documentation of attempt, two wins at Barkley and Barkley record by nearly 4 hours certainly prove to me that he has the mental and physical ability to lay down a FKT that could stand for quite a while.

      1. art

        in my opinion the documentation was nonexistent, but the Barkley record certainly shows that Brett has the tenacity to succeed.

        but lets not divert too far from Hal and Mike's amazing feat.

        1. Meghan Hicks


          Your unfounded accusation about the validity of Brett Maune's unsupported FKT of the John Muir Trail, however sideswiping it is, is not appropriate here. If you wish to make an accusation like this on iRunFar, please do so with ample evidence.

          Further, I disagree with your statement that Maune's FKT documentation was "nonexistent." Peter Bakwin has done a great job of putting Maune's various means of verifications together here, [broken link replaced] http://fastestknowntime.proboards.com/thread/21/john-muir-trail-ca. Basically, Maune took a ton of video as his documentation, and had someone verify his start time atop Whitney. Maybe the better descriptor about Maune's verification was that it was "slow to become public."

          Thank you for refraining from future unfounded accusations and for, thus, respecting the community's athletes.

          1. art

            I think Brett has proven himself a great athlete.

            But my position stands on the documentation.

            That does not mean he didn't do what he claimed, only that FKT's are often accepted on faith.

  5. JV in SD

    As a back-of-the-packer who spent some unsupported time out there this summer, it's nice to hear that you front-pack badasses found it "challenging" too — when I try to tell those who have never been on the JMT how slow the going is, they kind of chuckle, but once you're out there, well, then you know what tough really is!

    Congratulations to you boys —

    JV in SD

  6. HK3

    I have to clarify a couple things for these readers.

    This Eagle Scout prefers trusted four or five diamond resorts to hotels.

    That Audi has tires wide enough to spit a rock chip in a Tundra's windshield.

    I haven't eaten ice cream in 15 years.

    The Tedeschi Trucks band is not responsible for 1/4 speakers, really.

    Indeed Mike Wolfe had no pain center in his brain, I'm not sure what else is in there but im saying there a a select few people that would go to the ends of the earth like that.

    Finally, when do we get to do it again?

      1. HK3

        I forgot to mention that where I wear the cashmere, Mike kills it.

        And that I was told at the beginning of the trip that I take nothing seriously, well, Mike has clearly never seen my hat collection.

  7. CDG

    Awesome achievement. I'd be interested in hearing Mike and Hal's thoughts on FKTs generally since they seem to be spurring a lot of debate recently.

  8. run silent run deep

    @ mike and hal – good effort. yet unimpressed.

    what strikes me is the fact that after such an enormous support production, you folks still only bested Brett Maune's unsupported effort by 1:32 (overall) and 0:53 (from whitney summit). really? …very light on the "crush", yet heavy on the "nudge". i personally would've expected much better from "sponsored" athletes.

    @ North Face – next time Brett takes a short break from advancing civilization/humankind as a physicist, throw some money his way for a supported FKT effort.

    1. Mike

      Wow – someone has unresolved social anxiety issues. Jealous? Whatever – I'm no where near even spending half a day on the JMT let alone three straight!?! FKT or not, great adventure, landscape, and story of camaraderie. Gets me stocked for a run!


    2. Wolfe

      Mr./Mrs. Anonymous:

      that's fine you're unimpressed, whoever you are. We didn't do it trying to impress anyone.

      I'm sorry I failed to mention in the initial write up: I HAVE THE UTMOST RESPECT, ADMIRATION, AND COMPLETE AWE OF WHAT BRETT MAUNE DID. Who said we crushed his record?? not me. We have nothing on what Brett did out there. I've told that personally to Brett, and I'm happy to say it publicly. Brett is a bad ass, hand's down. We were rookies out there, first time ever setting foot on that trail. I'm humbled.

      I think it would be great if he was sponsored, as he surely could be. Maybe he doesn't want that?

      I wrote this piece to share our experience. I wrote it in the hopes that it might inspire others to go "crush" our record. Or, maybe inspire someone to go backpack the JMT and savor it's beauty for days. Maybe some "real" "legit" sponsored athletes with go smash our record. That would be great.

      Maybe I'm a hack, and don't deserve a sponsor's last breathe. Well, ultimately, actions speak louder than words.


      Mike Wolfe

      1. Mark

        IMHO "run silent run deep" talks about resources/results ratio and in this category Brett Maune is a clear winner. I’d like to see Brett doing JMT with a good support. Still, huge congrats to Hal and Mike and thanks for a great report!

  9. Julie

    This is so shocking! Unbelievable, really. There is a pic of Hal..not smiling. Don't believe me? Check for yourself.

    Seriously though, you two are great men, your words and actions speak volumes!

  10. Tahoe Pete

    Great write up Mike. I thoroughly enjoyed reading about your adventure. I am feeling truly inspired. This takes a lot of resilancy to do the JMT that quickly.

  11. Heidi Grant

    Absolutely brilliant. Congratulations Mike, congratulations Hal. Amazing accomplishment and great write up."Elation. Hidden indescribable emotions."
    You get to know who you are on journeys like this. Thanks so much for sharing.
    Heidi Grant

  12. HK3

    pretty funny, i wont elaborate any further except to say it is unfortunate that his time gets compared to what we did just because it was the fastest.

    you know, when I broke the CT record people diminished my time because they said I knew what the record was to beat. I've gotten over that, and you may want to think about what you are trying to diminish.

    i will say that in personal emails with Brett he congratulated our effort and mentioned that it sparked his interest in getting back out there, so you can take that for what it's worth.

    My day job effects more people than you could possibly ever imagine and that isn't running for the North Face, although that compounds it.


    1. Tom W

      In my opinion supported vs unsupported are clearly two different categories of FKT. The fact Mike and Hal chose supported does not diminish their achievement a bit in my mind.

      Speaking as someone that has done a lot of miles on JMT, both times are amazing. Yet I am certain that both times will continue to come down as humans continue to explore what we are capable of. More importantly though I hope the additional exposure the JMT FKT's generate will encourage more people to both utilize and support the beautiful environments that house these trails.

  13. Type A rah rah

    Maybe it is just the audience that IRunFar caters to, but I am bit surprised that no-one has raised any objections the precedent set here – corporate advertising in a wilderness area. How is that these runners feel that their advertising belongs in a place like this? How is that these runners feel that their corporate brand should be exposed to people who are out in a wilderness area?

    Do these runners have an outdoor ethic?

    1. HK3

      exposed to people who are out in a wilderness area? The small footprint of our brand was to lend some authentication to the attempt so that indeed people would see that we were doing what we set out to do. a logo'd hat, a shirt, that pales in comparison to the hundreds of folks that were on the trail and their logo branding, come on!

      do you know how much money The North Face has donated to americas parks and the national park foundation? if you did you wouldn't be so myopic. there were three rangers on the trail, in a hundred yard stretch, for 220 miles. the sequester limited that at a time when more people than ever were heading to the wilderness, so you tell me whats best for the wilderness.

      my outdoor ethic is to leave the wilderness as we entered it. That was done without question. I want to expose folks to treading lightly in the mountains, that was done without question. We had minimal supplies as did our crew and we never camped in the wilderness, as many did.

      do you think its possible that this exposure might reach folks that don't appreciate these places and change their mind about preserving them or volunteering to educate about their importance or enhance other countries awareness on the necessity of having pristine acreage like this. Thats what this exposure can do and im sure it was so invasive to all those folks on the the trail, again, come on.

    2. jenn

      Jeez Louise, seriously?! They were wearing North Face t-shirts, not spray-painting the mountainside.

      Ugh. Reached my limit on internet negativity for the day. Mike and Hal – congrats on your run!

    3. Randall in Texas

      Oh good god, here we go… Hal just do your thing, billboards and all for all I care. My cubicle little world is coming down all around me and it's nice to read a good story with pix. Logos and all.

      1. Meghan Hicks

        Hey all,

        Can we please stay cool here? This is a fair discussion to have, I think, but snark and rudeness will preclude real conversation. Thanks for speaking with each other here as you would speak in real life.

        1. jenn

          With respect, Meghan, I disagree that (as written) this is a fair discussion. Type A Rah Rah clearly implied that Mike and Hal are unethical for running through wilderness wearing clothing showing corporate logos. I do not believe that to be at all fair. My comment was not snark, nor do I believe it to have been unduly rude, and if I had been faced with that commenter in person, I would have responded in pretty much the exact same words. Maybe minus 'Jeez Louise'! :)

          Hal and Mike were not spraypainting the mountainside or setting up billboards, they were running while clothed. If we want to have a conversation about logos on gear and the societal implications thereof (without implying unethical behavior on their part), ok, but it does seem to me that that horse left the barn decades ago. Nowadays it seems that decking yourself from head to toe without showing a corporate brand is far more difficult than otherwise. (And honestly, while I don't have gear from 1964, when the Wilderness Act was ratified, I do still use some backcountry gear from a couple of years later – some of which still show obvious logos. It's been this way for awhile!)

          Frankly, Hal and Mike didn't look much out of the common to me – except for the fact they matched!


          1. Randall in Texas

            Maybe I was the snark one? There is a ton of negative today, commenters-commenters to the commenters- my pez dispenser is full for the day.

    1. Dylan Russell

      Great run Mike and Hal! You guys rock! Hope to see you guys in some more Tejas Trails races. And bring some mountains and cool air down here when you do.

  14. Nathan

    Great write up Mike. Thank you for sharing the adventure. I truly don't understand the negativity. These guys rocked out an epic run on a trail that 99% of the readers will never see. FKT no FKT supported or unsupported. Who cares. Mike and Hal gave their all and shared it with all of us. I, for one, say thanks. If you guys ever want to try the MST In North Carolina let me know.

  15. Jeffro

    Congrats Mike & Hal, tough mo'frackies for sure.

    Mike, I love how you described the adventure, stories like this remind me how precious our wilderness areas are, how much they can positively impact our lives. There are so many ways to experience the wonders of our world, I love that you guys are out there doing it with style! 'MW is so fast, he can run around the world and punch himself in the back of the head.'

    Hal, you Sir are a Rock Star!

  16. Greg H.

    Congrats on an epic run, Mike and Hal! All the haters and negative people can go beat your time next week. Or if they can't, maybe they should stick to trolling on letsrun.

  17. Ian Sharman

    Not sure why there's any negativity about this. It's an inspiring run and looks very cool and respectful from every angle. Nice work, guys and thanks for showing some footage of some very beautiful areas which I now need to check out (at a slow pace with a camera).

  18. Aaron Sorensen

    There were days when FKT's were done without video, cameras and SPOT's and no one questioned them. Why "must" we "have" to use them now to be considered legit?

    I've talked to Brett for hours about this and searched for hours and hours on the legitimacy of this record (before I knew Brett).

    I was the 1st person Ian spoke to about his record and was the one who spoke the concern about this record to Peter.

    I also got hold of the video and pictures Brett took on his first attempt. They were completely different with different clothing.

    The biggest difference was the day to day weather.

    If you look at the trip reports on Backpacking Light.com, you can clearly see in Ian and Brett's pictures that they were in the same location at the same time.

    The fast melting snow had the same lines that would have been different 3 weeks before on his prior attempt and the clouds in the sky taken during the same time of the day were spot on.

    In Bretts prior attempt, there wasn't a cloud in the sky the entire time.

    That and the matching times on his videos and pictures are also spot on with his splits.

    I mean how much more evidence do you really need?

    It was me how first ask about the legitimacy about the trail, so I took it upon myself to put in the most work and research to make sure it was legit.

    Yes it is 100% legit.

  19. Aaron Sorensen

    Once again, so hopefully Mark can read this.

    There were days when FKT’s were done without video, cameras and SPOT’s and no one questioned them. Why “must” we “have” to use them now to be considered legit?

    I’ve talked to Brett for hours about this and searched for hours and hours on the legitimacy of this record (before I knew Brett).

    I was the 1st person Ian spoke to about his record and was the one who spoke the concern about this record to Peter.

    I also got hold of the video and pictures Brett took on his first attempt. They were completely different with different clothing.

    The biggest difference was the day to day weather.

    If you look at the trip reports on Backpacking Light.com, you can clearly see in Ian and Brett’s pictures that they were in the same location at the same time.

    The fast melting snow had the same lines that would have been different 3 weeks before on his prior attempt and the clouds in the sky taken during the same time of the day were spot on.

    In Bretts prior attempt, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky the entire time.

    That and the matching times on his videos and pictures are also spot on with his splits.

    I mean how much more evidence do you really need?

    It was me whw first ask about the legitimacy about the trail, so I took it upon myself to put in the most work and research to make sure it was legit.

    Yes it is 100% legit.

  20. Pablo Escobar

    I used to eat kids like you for breakfast in Guatemala. But I must say, you motherfuckers showed heart and soul out there. The people down here love to see Americans giving their all for something they believe in. They believe in you and are so happy you dominated that trail! Congratulations on finishing and conquering it in record time.

    Keep it real

    – pablo

  21. Aaron Sorensen

    I am hoping Leor someday soon makes a stab at this.

    That man has Sierra embedded in his genes.

    he mentioned wanting to do the JMT FKT on his bio years ago.

    I hope it hasn't changed since.

  22. Mike M

    Reading about adventures like yours Mike and Hal continue to inspire myself and many out there. I believe I speak for many of the trail runners out there that one of the primary reasons we are involved in this "sport" is to see many incredible places. By running we just get to see more.

    I know racing is a need sometimes to keep the spotlight on ultra running, but these ventures are way more exciting and interesting.

    Also I would like to give a shout out to "The North Face". Although I have no loyalty to any one brand, this is a company that really does make a difference. I would suggest to some of the people writing here to check out the flick 180 Degrees South. Great flick involving the founders of Patagonia and The North Face.

    Way to go!!! I look forward to hearing about your guys next adventures.

  23. Carson

    Thanks man! Hey I remember seeing you in the gym at the rec center years back in Missoula. I was thinking, "man that guy looks like a serious runner". Little did I know! Good to hear that dish soap and regular shampoo still compete for your hair time, even though you're big and famous now!

  24. Rob G

    Timely trip to the archives!

    Cracks me up every time :)

    Well done lads! An experience & report sure to light many fires …. whether it be for the JMT, another trail, running, adventure, … LIFE!!

    lokah samasthah sukhino bhavantu

  25. Billy

    Shoo anonymous internet trolls. Shoo.

    Hal & Mike – fcuk the haters, you guys are crazy studs for your efforts out there. Very inspirational as I too hope to do the entire JMT one day. As far as hair products, lifestyle – I'm definitely more Hal than the Wolfeman but I appreciate the outdoors just as much I'd like to think.

    Congrats again fellas, and kudos to JB + fam + friends for the thankless support!

    -Billy from LA…bitch.

  26. Adam w

    Wow! What a year for the jmt and the pct! New rec for Pct is 60 days! Super psyched by your run guys. Read it, then Ran hard today dreaming of a little section of the pct ill be running in a few weeks.

    Ps I give mad cash to protect wilderness and I think everyone else should too!

  27. Beria

    The comments section on I run far seems to be getting more and more negative. Maybe a sign of the times for the Internet generally or maybe more specifically (hopefully not) for ultra running. Either way a great run for Mike and Hal.

  28. Fegy

    Incredible adventure guys! Hiking through on the PCT a few years ago, I was in awe of the scenery, but humbled by the climbs. I couldn't imagine doing it as you both have done. I've also spoken intimately with Brett about his run a few years ago and I know he pushed himself so hard that it damn nearly drove him mad. Well done to both of you!

    (also, it was good seeing you pacing over Hope Pass at Leadville Hal!)


  29. Chris Y

    Great write-up and a kick-*ss run, effort and adventure. I live in Costa Rica and have run a few half marathon trail races up and down some local volcanoes. What you guys do is a real inspiration for hackers like me. It gives me the dream goal to aim for, and helps me push through my own, current limitations in the races I participate in. Was pretty cool running "with" your TNF teammate Michael Wardian in the North Face Endurance Challenge. I think he just about finished his 80k before I finished my 21k.

    1. APK

      This is a serious question – no snark or anything intended – but since the North Face makes trail shoes, why do its athletes so rarely wear them? Hal seems to be decked out in Adidas a lot, I've seen Wolfe wearing NB110s before this, and of course Timmy O rocked the N1s at WS100 this year.

      My assumption is that TNF gears its efforts more at creating gear and clothing than shoes in particular, as opposed to a lot of sponsors whose primary products are shoes, so the shoes aren't part of an athlete's contract. But I wonder if that will change soon – they seem to be making more shoes – and was wondering if anyone else had any thoughts or insight. This is unrelated to the FKT report overall; just me being a nerd (and my interest in this was rekindled by the photos).

      Awesome run, awesome report!

  30. Paul

    So many negative comments on irunfar, at late. Sad, really , because its a great site. Very different from the UK ultra/running scene, where you dont get so many harsh comments. Hal and Mike-good work.

  31. Gus

    Awesome report! – Going on for that long back there is really impressive. Moving along with that determined pace over the passes is TOUGH!! It's funny – the backpackers want the small packs of the trail runners, and after 12 hours of running, the trail runners want to "walk" like the backpackers.

  32. Brett Maune

    First of all congrats to Hal and Mike on an awesome run. Secondly, I don’t see why there should be any negativity regarding their run. It’s understandable that people focus on the time but I think the attempts themselves are what is truly important. In my opinion FKTs serve two useful purposes–to provide an existence proof of what is possible and to inspire and motivate people to pursue their own goals (whatever they may be). Personally I can say I was happier after they broke the FKT. Their run reignited my interest in long neglected goals I have had and for that I can’t thank Hal and Mike enough—and I hope others were similarly motivated as well.

    Regarding their time, a lot invariably goes wrong on these long runs. Variance happens. Frequently these types of runs aren’t even completed due to mishaps. They faced considerable adversity and stuck it out to the end. At the end of the day, these two guys BOTH finished with fast times and did so basically by “on-sighting” the route, which is a big disadvantage and a tremendous accomplishment.

    Regarding the “commercialization” of the wilderness, this is an issue that will likely become increasingly prominent as the popularity of ultrarunning and FKTs continue to increase. I don’t pretend to have any answers here. In my opinion there is no clear solution or line demarcating what is and is not acceptable. The only point I would want to offer is that regardless of a person’s stance on the topic, everyone involved in this issue deeply cares about and enjoys the wilderness. There isn’t a “best” way to experience the wilderness. The tricky part is when the enjoyment by one group infringes upon the enjoyment of others. In general I would say we’re not at this point yet but perhaps someday we will be.

  33. Rob G

    Some negative comments in these forums, yes, but still 90-something % positive. And obvious trolls aside, sometimes the expression of different views does bring insight into people and situations that wouldn't come up otherwise. Just if you're going to put something contentious out there, put yourself out there too, and sign your name. It's all good.

    There's alot of craziness going on in this world, and most of the stuff here isn't all that serious. Let's remember to laugh at ourselves :)

    Appreciate you beautiful people, happy running, SHINE ON!

  34. Billy

    Congratulations to the two of you. I'm no Mike Wolfe or Hal Koerner but I can say with a pretty high degree of certainty that what they did out there was for the most part done for the personal experience and not for the sponsors. These are huge efforts and it takes big big kahunas to put ourself out there on a limb and go for it.

    The JMT has been on my mind for a decade and this was just what i needed to, as old Brooks said in The Shawshank Redemption, get busy livin' or get busy dyin. The video was awesome. Thanks for doing it. I live in the southern USA and to see these iconic and starkly beautiful backdrops in the context of what i love to do, feeds my soul and challenges my spirit.

    As for sponsorship, I love the fact that Mike Wolfe is a recovering attorney and now has the support to live his dream. Most of us would love to have that opportunity. Thank goodness for TNF for sponsoring these two athletes.

    Congrats again….very inspiring.

  35. Andy

    Hal, Mike (and Brett) u guys are awesome. Hugely inspiring. Can't wait to read about the next adventure. Don't listen to the static. Just keep going.

  36. Ian MacNairn

    Messieurs Hal and Mike,

    It is evident you two had an amazing experience -surreal, wonderful, painful and rewarding. I am grateful you have shared your thoughts on page and in photo and video. I really like the image of suspicious or, at least, bewildered tourists questioning and scratching their heads as you two rolled on in matching fluorescent tees and less-than-day-packs. Made for a great evening read after working in the bush. No moondust trails here, but lots of mountains abounding!

    I look forward to running with you in the near future.


  37. Sniffer

    This is very interesting to see how long sponsors will put up with it. I am just hoping it doesnt come down to runners having to change into a brand for a photo op. then back to their runners to finish the FKT or whatever.

    Not that it matters. I set my PI's at the start of the Afton 50K. When the race started they didn't move… Advertising and Marketing may have to up the photoshop game

  38. Matt Gunderson

    That was an amazing read of an incredibly inspiring feat. You guys are super duper bad asses. I am in awe of your team work and mental strength. Your crew people who helped support this effort are an example of what kind of people you are. I finished the hardest 50k of my life yesterday and no it wasn't any Speedgoat, but knowing I should get up and flush my legs, if even for a hike, in the much needed rain here in Southern Oregon- This post has inspired me to do just that. Thanks Mike and Hal for showing us mortals how to throw down.

  39. Paul in Ireland

    That was an amazing read! I couldnt get how you can run for 20hrs, sleep for 2hrs in a sleeping bag and get up and run another 20hrs or so….i'd be as stiff as a board! Buckets of respect! Congrats and thanks for sharing.

  40. Anonymous

    Having trekked across the United States for the past 10 years, I can tell you that we have a serious problem with society. We can gloss over it and just call it childhood obesity, but I will lay it out as it is-lazy, pale, out-of-shape kids with one hand in a Doritos bag and the other, with it's oversized thumb, on the game controller. They sit all day in school, sit in the bus, sit at home in front of the t.v./computer/video game. I have worked with a kids in a myriad of ways over the years, trying to get them outside and active. With as addictive as fast food and a lazy lifestyle is, it is disheartening, yet not surprising, to see their overall reactions. Their skin is too sensitive, the sun is too hot, sweat is gross, rain messes up their hair, the air stinks, bugs are outside, and Miley is on the tube. Can't miss Miley.

    We can preach all day, but you should know that actions speak louder than words. So how do we expose kids to the great outdoors? How do we get them into active lifestyles? Why does it matter? Well, healthier people tend to be happier, productive members of society. They also tend to care for our trails, both in trail maintenance and also when an issue dealing with those trails needs to be voted on.

    If you think your life is is all about you, you are wrong. Everything we do affects others, not only in the immediate sense, but also in the future. Personally, I would love to see our trails taken care of and I would really love to see childhood obesity be a demon of the past.

    Here's the point you are most likely thinking I am missing about now, corporate marketing is more than welcome in this setting. More than! As mother in a one-income family, I diligently put aside our dollars for months in order to buy that North Face jacket. Why? Because North Face sponsors Hal and Mike. Hal and Mike push their limits which inspires us to push our own. Not only that, but these guys also give quite a bit to their respective communities which inspires more people, including children, to be more active. North Face has guinea pigs in these guys, I don't know about you, but I love being comfortable in my clothing after 6 hours on a trail! Can't forget, North Face funds trail maintenance extensively.

    Here's the recap in the case that my erratic writing confuses you: North Face sponsors, the guys push limits, products are improved, the guys inspire, those inspired people are active and they care more for our trails, both in maintenance and voting. Where do you have a problem with this?

    Years ago, I bundled my kids up in the dark wee hours of the morning to go surprise and send off two friends on a FTK attempt. This was without any corporate sponsorship and before FTK was the buzz word it is today. Those boys were amazing! Our family still holds that record they set in the highest regard. Not many people know of it though and I think that is a shame. Not for the potential glory, but for the impact it could have had on the communities they ran through. After all, the state they trekked through had the highest rate of obesity at the time. Perhaps a bit of North Face neon could have helped there.

    Sign me~Gladly saving for our next North Face piece!

  41. Will T.


    Thank you for the inspiring write-up. This motivates me to continue to push hard for goals/dreams that I have. I hope you recover quickly.


    Thank you for publishing articles like this. They are inspirational.

  42. Last Chance Runner

    Great story. I wonder if there will ever be age group records.

    I backpacked over every inch of the JMT back in the 1970's when you could actually still drink the water without a filter.

    But one word for those rocks in your shoes.


  43. Paul

    Amazing. The JMT would be amazing to run, the scenery there just looks insane!

    Very different to what I'm looking at here in Ireland…someday :)

    Well done guys.

  44. Mark Twight


    What a magnificent trip – in all senses if the word. I can imagine but not know what you found inside along the way. I do know that was the meaningful and lasting part if the experience.
    Rock on,

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