3 Steps to Setting an FKT Speed Record
Setting an FKT, or Fastest Known Time, is serious business. On some of the more popular hiking trails, such as the John Muir or Arizona Trail, the competition is steep. But on other lesser-known trails, FKT’s have yet to be established or are just waiting for the bar to be lowered. Aside from a deep-seated hunger for self-improvement and an unquenchable desire to go fast, what does it take to set an FKT? If you’ve been thinking about getting into this game, here’s a plan of attack; plus a few resources to help you get started, should you see fit to rise to the occasion.
Unfortunately, Guinness doesn’t cover the world of FKT’s
Step 1: Pick a Trail
Sounds easy enough, right? But with so many trails out there, this step could prove to be the most difficult one. If trying to break an existing FKT, make sure to pick a trail that’s within your abilities. If setting a new FKT, make sure to pick a trail that has an official starting and ending point, plus follows a solid route that can be repeated. Once an FKT is established, try to beat your own time on it and spread the word to get others excited about doing it as well. Check out the phone app Strava.
Competition doesn't just help a sport progress, it helps the players of it progress too.
The 320-mile Sheltowee Trace goes across the state of Kentucky
Step 2: Pick a Style
Before heading out, it’s important to announce in advance what style of hiking you’ll be doing. The style is in regards to how you’ll be handling your logistics. So depending on what you do or don’t do, you’ll hiking style will either be:
Solo - No pacers or simultaneous attempts.
Accompanied – 2 simultaneous Solo attempts.
Team – Allowed to pace each other & share gear. All members must finish the attempt.
Each hiking style not only has its own FKT, but its own sub-category:
Supported – Having outside or inside assistance while on the attempt.
Self-Supported – Pre-caching or resupplying along the way.
*Unsupported – No resupplying or outside assistance. *Unaccompanied.
*NOTE: A Team Unsupported attempt does not suddenly become a Solo Unsupported attempt if the other team member is unable to complete their attempt. An Accompanied Solo however, is still an Accompanied Solo if at any time the other party bails, so long as you haven’t shared gear, provided aid, OR WORSE…
Step 3: Pick a Device
The most important step when it comes to setting an FKT is documenting it. In official attempts this is done by using a GPS device. Although there are numerous ways to attain a GPS reading now-a-days, FKT Proboards – the online forum for FKTs - recommends using either a Spot or a Garmin device. Practice using whichever device you choose beforehand by going on a few hikes, then uploading the route. Be fluid at this part before sending it for real, and realize that the longer the trail is, the more difficult this step may be.
Do you have what it takes to set an FKT?
If you’ve made it this far, maybe so. But also realize that the mental dexterity, the physical stamina, and the nutritional support that’s needed to do something like hike a trail faster than anyone else ever has, sets the stage for what may very well be, not just a personal challenge, but the adventure race of a lifetime.
Documenting your FKT is an important step in the evolution of long-distance hiking. Not only does it inspire others to improve their performance, but it begs for each of us to look inside ourselves and ask – am I living up to my potential? Only by competing against yourself can you ever truly know the answer.
What record will you break this year? Set your own, then beat it!
Stay tuned to see what happens on my own FKT attempt of The Sheltowee Trace, happening March 21, 2017.