Fastest known time or funnest known time? I guess it depends on what you define as “fun.” Buzz Burrell and Peter Bawkin, the co-founders/co-creators of the Fastest Known Time website would probably say both. They founded the website and coined the term FKT after setting records on the John Muir Trail in 2000 and the Colorado Trail a year prior. The site started as a proboard forum where anyone could submit a route and post his or her time and then others would follow suit if they were able to beat the record (think Wikipedia meets Strava). In 2018, with the help of Jeff Schuler, another co-founder and web developer, the site changed over to what is now the present-day site where each FKT has separate categories and gender times as well as the ability to sort by route and athlete. Pretty snazzy!
SAY HELLO TO BUZZ (+ GRANDSON), PETER, AND JEFF!
So, you might be asking what makes something “FKT worthy” since not every route can be on the site. First of all, it has to be at least 5 miles and 500 feet of elevation gain (i.e., not just a Strava segment or run around the block). Another requirement is that it has to be accessible to all so that anyone, anywhere can attempt it (i.e., not on private lands, or through a gated community, etc.). Also, it has to be at least 50 percent running (one can bike or even skinny dip part of the route but not all of it). The team wishes they could have just a cycling section, and other sports included, but not yet. The most important rule is that it should be something that people would want to do and get excited about. I mean if you’re going to run long and hard might as well make it worthwhile! The goal is for people to choose their own adventure and still feel a sense of competition since there is a time to beat.
Another common question is how one even goes about achieving an FKT?? First of all, choosing the route or creating your own route might be the hardest part as now the site has over 2000 routes (thanks 2020). Next is choosing what style to do it in. The three major styles listed on the website are supported (where one can get all the help needed to complete the route), unsupported (where no help is given from anyone and one has to carry everything throughout the whole route), or self-supported (a common thru hiker approach where one can stash supplies along the route but cannot have outside support like a pacer or crew). After selecting which style, train, train, train and do your homework on the route such as water sources, crew access, the type of terrain, and weather you might encounter. There is nothing like showing up on race day not prepared so that you cannot perform at your highest level. The final step is picking what date you will do it. The best part about FKTs (at least one of them) is that there is no required date that you have to complete it like a normal race. You choose the date that works for you based on your schedule, the weather, the terrain, or how crowded the route could get. An optional step is to announce the date that you plan on doing the FKT so that your intentions are known, the current FKT holder is aware, and if you need that accountability to make sure you go through with it. A lot of people use the route message boards on the site to announce it or use the boards for information and beta on the route from people that have done it. The team only knows so much about each route that having the local experts chime in (it is a crowd sourced website after all) makes the attempts easier.
One thing to add is that it is not just the co-founders that help keep the site running but volunteer regional editors from around the world approve routes and FKTs as well. With over 40-50 submissions a day they are kept busy when they are not setting FKTs of their own! Take a look at their accomplishments on the website!
Hopefully, this gives you a taste of what the Fastest Known Time world is all about and perhaps it even inspired you to set your own FKT soon! If you have any more questions the peeps at FKT would love to answer them for you here!
FKT submissions skyrocketed in 2020. They went from receiving three to four submissions daily to 40 to 50 submissions DAILY! In North America in 2019 there were 779 submissions, in 2020 a whopping 3,054. That’s a 392% increase! INSANE.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
I am a road runner that has grown to love and fall on trails (you don't even want to see my knees!). I found out about FKTs very unconventionally (See my FKT podcast with my now husband Ben) through a friend that was bragging about his friend Ben that just set the Georgia Loop FKT, one of the hardest routes in the south! I had no idea what FKT was so I just played it cool and later looked up what the heck FKTs were and what the Georgia Loop was. In my defense I had just started trail running so everything was so foreign to me. Fast forward a couple months, Ben started following me on Strava and Instagram and I couldn't believe it. Why would "THE BEN MERCER" follow a newb like me. So I totally did what any fan girl would do and comment on his runs and stories to start some kind of dialog in the dorkiest way possible which winded up with me asking to go on a run with him. Needless to say the run went well and we have been happily married for a year in which I set the Georgia Loop FKT and the Georgia Appalachian Trail Section with Ben by my side. I am so grateful for FKTs to bring the man of my dreams into my life and hope that others find love too.
THE SUNNIES THAT STARTED IT ALL
THE STORY BEHIND THE SHADES