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What Is An FKT Editor?

We had a deep conversation with Nathan Broom, Fastestknowntime mid-west regional editor, where we analyzed its role and work in the epicenter of FKT movement.
Central Indiana hills
Central Indiana Hills. Image via Shane Phipps

This article is part 2 of a two-piece feature on FastestKnownTime, you can find part 1 here featuring Allison Merce Broom, Director of Partnership Community at FastestKnownTime.

After sitting down and having a chat with Allison Mercer in the first part of this feature, we decided that we wanted to know more about the actual work required behind maintaining Fastestknowntime. Who is behind the FKTs digital archive that became the institution in the space? What does it take to keep the website running? What are the latest trends emerging from the FKT submissions received by the organization?

To answer all our questions, we had the opportunity to talk with Nathan Broom, Lower Midwest Regional Editor based in Corydon, Indiana, which collaborates with Fastestknowntime since 2020.

Nathan Broom FastestKnownTime
Nathan on Mt. Eddy

How did you get involved in the FKT culture and what made you invest part of your time in being a regional editor?

Living in southern Oregon and running trails around 2010, I was a mid-pack runner toeing the start line with athletes who were setting FKTs on major routes in the western US. It wasn’t until I moved to Indiana in 2013 and started learning about my new local trails that I learned FKTs weren’t only contested by elites on big-name mountain routes–they could also be set on quality regional trails, like those in the hills of southern Indiana. I got interested in learning how to run longer distances unsupported on trails, and the FKT message board (before the current website) became a key source of information and inspiration for me.

I made my first FKT submission in 2018, not fully understanding the process but learning by doing. During the early days of the pandemic, I found myself studying the FKT map and dreaming of future runs and travels. With races canceled, I saw new value in the self-directed adventure of FKTs. When the site founders put out a call on the podcast for regional editors, it seemed like a good fit for me. I have had a lot of enjoyment in receiving new route and FKT submissions and getting to know some of the driven athletes around my region who also love this sport.

Boneyard Beach Capers Island runner
Nathan runs the Boneyard Beach of Capers Island, South Carolina during the Barriers Islands Swimrun.

Can you describe the role of the regional editor? What do you do on a weekly basis?

The weekly role changes with the seasons. In my region, every season brings its own excuses to stay inside, but I really enjoy hearing from the athletes who instead find reasons to get outside in any and all weather. Primarily, the regional editor role involves evaluating two types of submissions: FKT submissions on existing routes, and route submissions for brand-new routes. We have careful guidelines on the website for both, but there’s still a degree of subjectivity with many submissions. For FKT submissions, there are often minor technology malfunctions or user errors that result in less-than-perfect documentation. I make an effort to approve every FKT I can while maintaining a level playing field for future efforts. Route submissions almost always involve judgment calls or refinement in collaboration with the submitter.

As a group, regional editors have become choosier as the map has filled with routes. In my mind, the basic criterion for any new route submission is whether it will inspire others to attempt it in the future. That’s a personal question, but I do my best to ensure that every red dot in my region of the map will take site users to a route that generates excitement in the heart of a trail runner. In addition to my own regional tasks, one of the highlights of this role is working with other editors from around the world to reach consensus on tricky submission questions, and to improve the guidelines that define our sport.

Do you research new routes to be added in your region or do you mainly rely on submissions?

Since becoming a regional editor, I have only submitted one new route, and it was outside of my region. I wouldn’t be opposed to adding new routes that I think are glaring omissions, but there’s an active group of trail runners across this part of the country who are doing a great job of exploring their world and sharing the projects that inspire them.

What are the trends you are seeing based on the submissions you receive? Do people try to be the first more often than the fastest?

The nature of our site–tracking only times that improve on the previous best–definitely encourages the creation of brand-new routes. For the average trail runner, the FKT on an established route is likely to be out of reach. It can still be satisfying to run those routes, but if you want to notch your name on the site, you may need to create a new route. These days, I decline more new route submissions than I approve. I think there are still plenty of aesthetic and inspiring routes yet to be added, but the bar gets higher as time passes. FKTs require a certain amount of exclusivity to have value, but it’s the inclusivity of this sport that first drew me to it. Balancing those two characteristics is the hardest and most interesting part of this role.

Barrier Islands Swimrun South Carolina runner
Nathan transitions back to running after swimming to Capers Island while establishing the Barrier Islands Swimrun route in South Carolina

Which is the FKT route you are most attached to in your region and why?

That would have to be the trail that got me into FKTs in the first place, the Adventure Hiking Trail. It’s a rugged 25-mile loop about 15 minutes from my home. I’ve run it repeatedly, including an unsuccessful FKT attempt as recently as April of this year. Somehow, I never feel done with it. The Adventure Hiking Trail lets me experience a degree of the wilderness feeling I missed after leaving Oregon, and it's where I learned to run longer distances without support. I have loved seeing others challenge themselves on it, even when they have eclipsed my times repeatedly. I’m also partial to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and often find myself studying existing and possible FKT routes there. I don’t always attempt an FKT when I travel, but I seldom travel without reviewing my FKT options. This sport has become part of who I am.

This interview has been edited.


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