I did not begin my FKT career with that intention.
Quite the opposite. For one decade, I focused solely on one Fastest Known Time. The Adirondack 46 Unsupported Thru-hike. 183 miles and 46 mountains over 4000 feet with 63 thousand feet of vertical gain. That was the pinnacle of what an FKT meant to me: Fully immersed in the wilderness with everything on my back, journeying up and over some of the most rugged terrain on the East Coast.
It took a couple of tries, but in 2020 Katie Rhodes and I completed it in 7 days, 4 hours and 50 minutes and made history by becoming the first women to do so. With that decade long dream accomplished, my mind opened up to, “What’s next?”
During the majority of the decade I tried to complete the Unsupported Thru-hike, I didn’t have a cell phone or social media. I’d read trip reports and talked first hand with the previous record holders. The first time I visited the FKT website was in 2018.
So after the thru-hike, I began exploring the website more and more and picked the next big one I wanted to attempt. In 2021, I went for the Adirondack 46 supported FKT, which Alyssa Godskey set in 2020 and earned the #4 FKT of the year, one month before Katie and I set the unsupported version. To train for the supported attempt and hit my mileage goals, I went after other ultra distance FKTS each week.
In the end, I didn’t beat Alyssa’s time, but it was a solid effort and taught me a lot of things. First and foremost: I enjoyed the world of FKTS. At this point, I had nineteen to my name and something about that felt significant.
That’s when I started looking at the list of athletes on the website. Men dominated the sport. As a mountain athlete, that wasn’t a surprise to me, but I was thinking about it in a deeper way. After Katie and I completed the Unsupported Thru-hike, we did a lot of virtual events for hiking and women’s groups. The feedback we got was consistent: Thank you for putting a woman’s name on the board.
It was also at this time that Women Who FKT was forming. And being a part of that movement only reinforced to me that simply going out on trail had an impact on the gender gap.
Each FKT mattered. It didn’t have to be unsupported. It didn’t have to be an ultra or multiple day experience. And it didn’t have to be a route that qualified for FKT of the Year. The whole idea became very simple to me. Every time a woman’s name got added to the board was a victory.
That’s when I decided to go for 100. And it would be a statement. A movement to join other women on trail. It would be a platform to share what I saw, felt and encountered along the way.
For me, the sheer beauty of each FKT, is that it teaches or reminds me of an important life lesson. It’s a moment that stands alone. A space to be free.
I knew there would be critics.
I knew there would be some people who felt it didn’t matter.
Sometimes it bothered me and I was sharply reminded of the double standard between men and women in this sport. But that’s why I was there in the first place to challenge those double standards.
At the end of each FKT, when I hit the submit button, it mattered that a woman’s name was taking up space.
So here’s the most important reflection and lesson that I can share: Take up space. And when you do that, it opens space for others.
And once that space gains momentum, it cannot be stopped.
Remember, you are part of something bigger.