Let’s say you have just found an FKT route on a beautiful trail that you would really like to try, but the FKT on the point to point trail is hella fast. Are you out of options beyond gaining superhuman speed?
Enter FKT variations. Variations allow for “new takes” on a posted route – doing an out and back on a point to point route, for example, or two loops of a posted single loop route. Older routes may already have posted variations, but often times, no variations yet exist. This can be an opportunity.
Variations are supposed to be substantively different from the existing route, not just the old route with a tiny difference. If you want to create a new route that shares substantial sections with an old route, you can propose to add a new variation. Here’s our quick guide to common route variations:
Point-to-point vs Out & Back
These are very common. For any point-to-point route, there is a natural variation to return the way you came. Similarly, for a peak ascent you can summit and descend. If your time qualifies, you can set both FKTs in one run, but you will need to submit each FKT separately.
Two laps on a loop is always accepted as a variation. Other multiples may be accepted, but require more justification. Grand Canyon Crossings has variations for 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 round trip crossings.
Some FKTs are time-based, ie how many laps can you fit in during an hour or a day. An example of this is laps in 24 hours on the Manitou Incline.
Major alternate routes
If there are alternate trails to travel the same general route, those could potentially be new variations. The Colorado Trail has variations for going east vs west of the Collegiate Peaks.
Usually, loops and point to point routes can go either direction; you will not get credit for running in the opposite direction from a previously established FKT. The default assumption is that a loop can be started from any point. But a handful of routes do have direction variations, including the Appalachian Trail and the PCT.
Only a handful of routes have seasonal variations. These tend to be high mountain routes where a winter FKT is a much different experience than the summer version. The FKT editors are strict about accepting seasonal variations.
Ultimately, the acceptance of variations is at the discretion of the FKT editors. As they say, “For most questions re variations, the answer will usually be: ‘Run in whichever direction/season is faster’.”