Upcoming Multi-Day Trail Record Attempts


The season is gearing up! Here are just a few of the Big Trail record attempts developing.


The professor emeritus of multi-day trail records is back! David set the record on the Appalachian Trail in 1991, followed up with the record on the Long Trail in 1999, and after a John Muir Trail attempt  aborted on the first day, became the first person to do a supported run on the Pacific Crest Trail, establishing in 2005 what is still fastest time.  (An excellent video called “The Runner” was made of this project). Last year David tried the biggest big trail of them all, the Continental Divide Trail, but abandoned after the first day, June 7, which went very badly.

This year he hopes to start in Denver at 6 am on July 4 and break Paul Pomeroy’s 2008 record 8 1/2 days later in Durango.  This timing would enable him to be on the Hardrock 100 course, a race he has won, when the race itself is taking place – the HR100 and CT courses are briefly the same.  That would be remarkable.



Prognosis –

Pros: He is tough and experienced. He always musters outstanding crew support (especially in this case, Jonathan Basham).

Cons:  There will be plenty of daylight this time of year, but also plenty of  snow.  South to North might be the better direction. Being 59 years old is real different than being 29 … 39 … 49.

Summary: In his day David was probably the best ultra trail runner anywhere, but this record won’t come easy.

LONG TRAIL – Paul Pomeroy

LongTrailPo flies under the radar, not just by never appearing at races, but by hardly appearing in public at all! At the same time, he is very honest and honorable, as evidenced by his epic 2008 Colorado Trail record, where he emailed a “competitor” his own finish time so the other runner would have a fair shot at it.

This year in late July he intends to challenge the supported record (Ted Keizer 4 days 13 hours 15 min) but in unsupported fashion. He estimates a low chance of success, but still has the unsupported and self-supported times to shoot for.

Po writes:

I have come to the conclusion that announcing one’s intentions should be done as a matter of courtesy to the recordholder and to any other aspirants.

The idea is to challenge Ted Keizer’s overall speed record, but attempt this in the strictest possible style. Specifically this means using nothing other than water that is not carried from the start by me. No foraging, no begging from passersby, no resupply of any kind. Solo from start (Canadian border) to finish (Mass. border).  I will not be observing a vow of silence as I did on my Colorado Trail “No  Resupply” effort of a few years ago, mostly because this felt rude at times with regard to my fellow trail users, and also because it seemed pointless. My time goal is 4 days 12 hours or less based on my understanding that the current record is 4 days 13 hours 15 min.. If anyone is aware of a faster time I would greatly appreciate the information prior to my departure on July 19. I have a great respect for the record and the history of attempts on this trail – I do not undertake this lightly and recognize that the likelihood of success may be slim. I firmly believe, however, that I am capable of pulling it off under the right circumstances and I trust that those who may be familiar with my background will agree. It is my intention to finish the trail regardless of my time if at all possible. This will be my second attempt on the Long Trail, I backpacked the length of the trail with two friends 34 years ago at the tender age of fourteen.

Prognosis –

Pros: Not unfamiliar with the uniquely difficult New England trails (roots and rocks, no switchbacks). Tough, experienced, extremely focussed.

Cons: Nobody knows where Po is at (is that a “con”? 🙂

Summary: This is solid record, but he can do it. A dry spell would really help, as wet conditions foil many attempts.

JOHN MUIR TRAIL – Kilian Jornet?

This Catalonian speedster suddenly appeared on the European scene in 2007 when at age 19 (!) he entered one of the Buff SkyRunning races. He won that race … and every other he entered that year, winning that World Series. He repeated as Overall Champion in 2008, still never having lost a race. Last year he also tried the Ultra Tour du Mont Blanc for the first time … nabbing the course record and winning by almost two hours!  This in spite of taking a 15 minute penalty. Scott Jurek ran very well but dropped out again, as did former winner Nikki Kimball and former record holder Marco Olmo (only 20 km from the finish). Kilian was 20 years old.

He now is Salomon’s new “poster boy”, and is being set up for various high-profile running endurance projects. Plans for him to go for the Vertical Kilometer record were cancelled this spring as he was tired and hurt from the Randonee Race season (which he utterly dominates), but he’s currently working on the GR20 across Corsica, and plans call for him to go for the JMT Record in late September.   If he does:

Pros: Young. Hasn’t missed yet. Will have major support. Super fit. Young.

Cons: Doesn’t know the route or conditions, and will have minimal daylight.

Summary: This record is somewhat soft. With poor plan he might fail; with good support and advice, he could crush it.



Peter Bakwin’s Fastest Known Time site (from where some of this info derived from)

2008 Multi-Day Wrap-Up (this site)

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15 Responses to “Upcoming Multi-Day Trail Record Attempts”

  1. Will T Says:

    Can’t wait to watch these play out!

  2. Barbara Dwyer Says:

    Thanks for posting your prognosis for the upcoming summer long trail tests. But one point looks a bit misogynistic — the JMT record being “somewhat soft.” Coming from a guy who once compared breaking 4 days on JMT to the 4 minute mile, this sounds a bit too incongruous. It also suggests that all of the preceding record holders, including yourself, are “soft” distance runners, which is patently not the case.

  3. Buzz Says:

    Great comment!

    But much as I like and respect Sue, the time is soft. Multi-day standards have evolved since my heyday! We were basically inventing how to do this; now people are standing on that foundation and going further and faster.

    Hope to read more of your comments later!

  4. Buzz Says:

    Today Peter Bakwin and Dan Brillon took David and Jonathan up Pikes Peak. It was a slog, but they had just arrived in Colorado – very good they got right on it, as it takes 3 weeks to acclimate. Tomorrow Peter will take them up Longs Peak. There is a ton of snow in the Front Range of Colorado right now; any of these peaks are skiable.

  5. Brian Robinson Says:

    Thanks for posting about David Horton’s upcoming Colorado Trail speed record attempt. I’m really rooting for him. I know it’ll be hard, especially at age 59, but I really respect his abilities and believe he has a good chance.

  6. Aaron Sorensen Says:

    I don’t see how the JMT Record could be considered soft?

    I made a valiant effort on the Unsupported Record the same time as Michael Popov demolished the record in 2007.
    He would like to go back and get that record down below 4 days.

    In Buzz’s time of the JMT he went out with 2+ days of food in hopes of making it as far as he could without the use of a sleeping bag or any other support. This is not that far off of what anyone else does.

    “Now people are standing on that foundation and going further and faster”, isn’t really the correct wording for how these records are being broken.
    They are still be segmented, just in 1 day increments, but the overall level of effort still must be done on their behalf.

    I really don’t agree on the record be “SOFT” either.
    It would be really hard to segment the JMT in may ways so that the effort is not soft.

    If you really want to do something big, (like when Kilian goes for the record), you would need a team of at least 10 people helping you.
    This is not very feasible, and because it’s not, Kilian will have to break up the trail in just about the same 4 increments as Sue Johnson did.

    Michael Popov also made an attempt on Sue’s supported Record last year.
    I helped him out at both Wood’s Creek and Reds Meadow and was going to be pacing him from Tuolumne to Happy Isle’s
    He was 1 1/2 hours ahead of Sue when he left Reds Meadow. He was getting very little sleep from the slight case of Pulmonary Anemia.
    All he was doing for the first hour or so once he stopped was non stop coughing.

    So even if Kilian has better support than Sue, his level of effort to complete the trail will be the same as everyone else.

    I am very curious on how Kilian will figure out what his daily distance will be and where his crews will meet him. The JMT very remote and accessibility is few and far between the areas he may want his crew to be.

    Michael is going to go for the Record first. It will be very interesting how this plays out in the end.

    Michael has now done the trail 2 times fast and most of it in various stages and knows it well.
    When doing the Unsupported attempt, he said he was looking at the maps, (half delirious) wasting at least 4 hours during the 4 days and 5 hours.

    I just don’t ever see the JMT being supported in the minds of what people think it could be or how it could ever not be considered soft.

  7. Buzz Says:

    Thanks much for your excellent info and thoughts!

    I think you’re saying that due to access difficulty, the record is not soft. I think the first part of that is a very good point – you can’t be handing someone a water bottle and gel every 5 miles on this route. I don’t know but doubt the Salomon Team is thinking that – Sue was just asked to join that Team so she should be providing good tips.

    However, that valid point is disassociated from an analysis of the existing record itself. I’m estimating that an outstanding ultrarunner with a good plan and the same support as previous record holders had could lower the current time by a more than incremental margin. That to me means it is “soft”.

    Kilians plan as I understand it is a poor one, so we may have to wait years for this point to be settled! Sue did a fabulous run, so if her time withstands numerous attempts, that would be great.

  8. pbakwin Says:

    It is an interesting question. Obviously, time will tell whether the existing record is soft. One thing that plays into this is that the very best runners are most likely not going to make an obscure trail speed record their top priority. Jornet has a whole season of racing to do, then tacks the JMT on way late (late Sept.) Kyle Skaggs did a terrific time on the Wonderland before anybody knew who he was, but is he going to go after more of these, now that he has sponsors and all that? If this whole sport becomes more high profile (it could hardly become less high profile), maybe we’ll see guys like Skaggs, Mackey and Krupicka going after this stuff. But, for now, its mostly folks who aren’t likely to win WS, or who are a bit older. I suppose we could see Skurka going after some of these, and my guess is that he would lay down some pretty solid times.

  9. Long Trail Record Attempt Underway! « Adventure Running Says:

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  10. Kilian Jornet – Tahoe Rim Trail « Adventure Running Says:

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  11. Ilse Walters Says:

    I am courious of the record time for hiking the Continental trail on foot starting in El Paso and finishing at the Canadian Border in Glacier National Park, as I have a German relative just a couple of weeks away from completing the trail in 4 1/2 month
    Ilse Walters

  12. Buzz Says:

    I am sorry; regarding the question of the record on the CDT, I am not sure, but think it is around 75 days.

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