People who are new to FKTs are often a little baffled by the “styles” of FKTs: unsupported, self-supported, and supported. Some of the differences are subtle, so we’ll do our best to explain. If you are still wondering how to classify your own effort, don’t hesitate to reach out to us!
“Unsupported” is the strictest style. It means that the FKT setter did not get any help from any outsider. You can get water from natural sources and public campgrounds and that’s about it. You can’t stop at a store for a candy bar or use a resupply cache or have friends meet you to take pictures and cheer you on. You can have as much support at the start and finish as you want, because that’s outside of the FKT. It is ok for anyone to send encouraging messages via text or your tracking device.
You may have a partner, or several partners, for an unsupported FKT! If you and a partner share the FKT and do the whole thing together, then you can share anything you want between you. You just can’t take anything from anyone outside your FKT setting team.
Self Supported FKTS:
Self supported FKTs are the best of all worlds! A hybrid of unsupported and supported FKTs, self supported FKTs allow you to take advantage of any amenities you may be able to use along the way – grocery stores, lodging, campgrounds, resupply points and cache locations. As long as the resources you are using are available to anyone, they are fair game. (You can’t use a friend’s house because other FKTers would not have equal access to it, but you could rent a motel room on the route). Self supported FKTs are popular on the long trails, as carrying all of your supplies for 2600 miles would be impossible. Good planning is essential in a self supported FKT, and the perks are definitely worth it (imagine how much a solid night’s sleep and hot shower could reinvigorate). You can accept food from strangers you meet on the trail, but you may not take help from friends who might want to come out and meet you. (That would make your effort a supported one).
One point worth noting: a self supported FKT will need to be faster than an UNsupported FKT to be accepted.
Anything goes with a supported FKT! So long as the FKT setter(s) propel themselves across the full distance of the FKT, then it is ok. You can meet up with crew that hand you your favorite foods and drinks! You can have pacers! You can get leg massages! Someone can fan you to keep you cool! A whole documentary crew can follow you!
But it is important to remember that, no matter how long the FKT, if you do one thing that bumps you into the “supported” style, you are supported the whole way. So if meets you to give you water halfway through, you’re supported, even if that was the only help you ever got. One way this happens accidentally is if you start an unsupported FKT with a partner, but then your partner gets hurt and drops. That partner who dropped is counted as your pacer and you are now in the supported style. This can also happen if you are running a route and unexpectedly meet a friend who ends up running with you for a portion of your FKT. It doesn’t matter that it wasn’t planned; it is still considered supported if you are getting unique assistance along the way.
Because a supported FKT runner has more help, this is expected to be the fastest way to get to the finish. Thus supported FKTS must beat any unsupported and self-supported FKTs on the same route. On longer routes, the ‘supported’ and ‘unsupported’ or ‘self-supported’ FKTs live alongside each other as companions.