Meet the man with 84 FKTs and counting
Jason Hardrath is running toward his goal of setting 100 FKTs
Because of COVID-19 and cancelled races worldwide, 2020 has been the year of the FKT (fastest known time), and while many runners have only recently started chasing route records, this is something that Jason Hardrath of Bonanza, Ore., has been into for years. An elementary school teacher in Oregon and lifelong runner, Hardrath has recorded the most FKTs on the official website of fastest known times, currently sitting at 84, and his ultimate goal is to reach 100.
Falling into running
Hardrath says he started running when he was 12 or 13, when he discovered running in phys-ed class. “I became obsessed with trying to break the six-minute-mile as a middle-schooler,” he says. “In the last PE mile of the year, I ran 5:57. That sort of solidified a goal-setting mindset in me.” He stuck with running throughout high school and university, after which he transitioned into marathons and Ironman triathlons. “I was always seeking out the next big challenge I could absorb myself in.”
That all came to an abrupt halt, though, when a brutal car accident left him with a collapsed lung, several broken ribs and tears in his ACL and MCL. While he couldn’t run during his recovery, he was able to hike. This soon led to climbing, and when he eventually made a return to running, he combined these two passions.
“I still can’t run like I used to, but I can at least run a bit,” he says. “And now I have this cool set of mountaineering skills which made FKTs a natural fit to express that skill set.”
Hardrath says his record is a 50-50 split between FKTs that he created and pre-existing FKTs that he beat. For his first few records, he didn’t plan on submitting them as official FKT routes, only deciding to do so after the fact. The first FKT he sought out, though, came in 2018 when he was in Hawaii.
“I managed to win some prize money at a race,” he says, modestly adding that he only won “because nobody fast showed up.” He put that money toward a trip to Hawaii, where he decided to go after the FKT on Mauna Kea, the island’s 4,200m volcano. Hardrath ran the 40-mile route up the mountain, successfully grabbing the route’s unsupported (meaning he had no outside help) FKT in a little over 12 hours.
Now, two years and more than 80 route records later, Hardrath is still chasing FKTs. Some of his biggest results include the Mount Rainier and Mount Shasta “infinity loops.” The Rainier Infinity Loop is in Washington, and it features a 209K route with more than 12,000m of elevation gain that Hardrath completed in two days and seven hours. California’s Mount Shasta Infinity Loop is about half the length of the Rainier route, coming in at 104K with 7,300m of climbing. He finished that route in a little over one day and 10 hours.
Last year, Hardrath decided to only run FKTs rather than races. “I got ahead of the whole 2020 FKT craze,” he says, “because in 2019, I realized I hadn’t gone a year without paying for multiple races since 2002 or 2003. So I decided that in 2019, I would go a whole year just doing FKTs and not pay for a race.” Hardrath made it through 2019 without competing in any official races, and “then obviously 2020 happened and I couldn’t have raced even if I’d wanted to.”
Luckily, he says he hasn’t tired of chasing FKTs and finding exciting new routes, so the pandemic preventing him from racing didn’t bother him too much. “I love this stuff. I already like it better than racing.” His plans for 2020 had originally been to run his first big international FKTs (Hardrath has only completed route records in the U.S. so far), but travel restrictions put those goals on hold. Instead, as he saw his total number of completed routes climb, he shifted focus and decided to make reaching 100 FKTs his new goal.
Hardrath says he’s “normally a leaf on the wind” when it comes to picking routes to run. He has a notebook with close to 150 options, but he doesn’t have a very strict schedule for when he wants to complete each individual run. Without a week-by-week plan, he has the freedom to complete whichever route feels right to him (based on weather or any other conditions) at the time. That’s not the case for his 100th FKT, though, and he says he “ran into a route that seems kind of perfect” for that milestone.
Hardrath says he loves routes on which he can put his running and climbing skills to use, and he also prefers runs with “some degree of heinousness to them,” which is why he has chosen a route through the Washington Bulgers to be his 100th. “It includes the 100 highest peaks in Washington,” he says. “There’ll be mountains, volcanoes and ridgeline peaks, which will be great for climbing. And something about doing 100 peaks for my 100th FKT just makes it feel special.”
Hardrath doesn’t have a set timeline for reaching his 100th FKT, but at the rate he’s running, it’ll likely be sooner than later. Even when he hits 100, don’t expect him to slow down. He says he loves what he does, and he didn’t start because of FKTs. If these records didn’t exist, he’d still be running and climbing all of these routes. Reaching 100 is just a cool bonus.
posted Saturday November 14th
by Running Magazine