FKT, OKT, YKT and OK-Dokee : The Roger Banister effect


Image from Industry for the Blind


In 1991, David Horton did something not really known at the time: A supported attempt of the Appalachian Trail  (AT) in the pursuit of the speed record.

Fifty-two days later, David Horton stood on top of Katahdin. Not only did he successfully run/hike the Appalachian Trail, but he set the known speed record for the trail.

His supported journey on the AT is arguably the start of the well publicized Fastest Known Time (FKT)  trend that has become especially popular in the past few years.

With some exceptions for various reasons, David Horton is the only AT record holder who is somewhat well-known even in the Appalachian Trail and long-distance hiker community. His record has been broken multiple times since his trend-setting 1991 endeavor, but his name is arguably the most well-known name among the Appalachian Trail record  holders…or even other long distance trails in general.

There have been numerous people who broke the Pacific Crest Trail speed records in recent years. And the John Muir Trail…and The Colorado Trail and  Vermont’s Long Trail and many others.

But, overall, except for a few other people who have achieved records fairly recently, David Horton is the one who most people know of at all.

Along with the FKT, seems the Youngest Known Time is becoming popular.  I joked about the “YKT” in the past; seems to be a reality now.

I am not going to discuss if the FKT ,or even in the YKT , is a good, bad or indifferent trend or not. I’ve discussed something similar in the past.

I will say, though, if a record is being attempted, what is a person out there for?

If the endeavor is for a personal challenge, achieving a goal or just being out on the trail in addition to trying to set a record, I think the person will have a more satisfying experience in the long run (hike?).

If the person is attempting an FKT, YKT  or OKT simply for the “fame” and notoriety, I suspect the enjoyment will be fleeting.

Records come and go. With few exceptions, the people making the records are forgotten except among a very small circle of people.

Hence, why I mention Roger Bannister. He was the first person to run a sub-4 minute mile.

An impressive athletic achievement. One that was bested less than two months later.  Subsequent and the current record holder all did some impressive athletic achievements.  But are largely unknown.

And that is the way it is going to be with hiking records.

If a record is attempted, keep that in mind. Most people have, at best, casual interest in such a record.  A record may be lauded one year..but largely forgotten the next year or even in a few short months.

The records that inspire are generally the “firsts” (e.g. David Horton’s AT endeavor) and/or something new.  I suspect  Justin Lichter and Shawn Forry’s winter thru-hike of the Pacific Crest Trail will be known and celebrated long after the next Pacific Crest Trail speed record is broken at some point.

Fame and glory are fleeting. The memories of the experiences are forever.  If you are out there for personal reasons, the memories and experiences will be strong and wonderful long after the spotlight has faded.

Otherwise? 🙂

Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
9 years ago

Yup. Best to breathe the wild air on a good leg stretcher for the intrinsic value rather than to impress a world full of strangers.

Cam "Swami" Honan
9 years ago

Great article, Mags. The gentleman who beat Bannister’s time was a countryman of mine by the name of John Landy. Later in 1954 the two record holders met at the British Empire Games (now known as the Commonwealth Games) in what was dubbed at the time, “the race of the century.” It was a classic encounter, with Bannister passing Landy in the home straight for a well-earned victory. At race’s end they embraced and congratulated one another. Two amazing athletes, who embodied all that is good about sport.