It started with Hardrock. Portland ultrarunner Marta Fisher had just finished her dream race after years of qualifiers, lotteries, and Covid cancellation. After crossing the finish line of the goal she had been chasing for so long, she felt rejuvenated but also unsure of what was next. As one of only 15 females at the start line, she had participated in a “Women of Hardrock” panel with Trail Sisters, discussing how to get more women to participate. She felt a responsibility to help get more women to the start line, but she wasn’t sure what she could do to help. She decided to focus on her next challenge.
FKTs, also known as the fastest known times, had always intrigued her, and as she began to look into where she might try and set one, she grew excited. “Some of the routes without women’s times weren’t that obscure,” she explains, “and it felt unbelievable that some woman hadn’t already noticed and run it just to put some kind of time in the record.” At first, she considered going for all of the routes herself, but as the list grew into the hundreds she started thinking about recruiting a team of women to work together and tackle the list. And that’s when it clicked. By calling in women to help set these FKTs, she could start to build a community – one that would encourage each other and scaffold skills and confidence into bigger projects, like running Hardrock. When her friends responded with enthusiasm and a list of FKTs they had quietly been considering for some time, she knew she had tapped into an opportunity for creating an empowering community in trail and ultrarunning. The Women Who FKT project was officially underway.
Fisher wants women to understand that this is a movement for more than just those runners who win races. “News articles about high profile FKTs by fast, sponsored runners make FKTs seem intimidating,” she says. “But there are lots of cool routes that someone – who’s not sponsored and maybe not even that fast – put together because it seemed fun to see what they could do on it if they pushed themselves. Let’s get some more women playing around on the existing routes and inventing new ones.” Brand new routes can be set at any speed and then shared for other women to improve on. Longer FKTs are suited to strong hikers. Planning, training for, and setting an FKT will grow skills and confidence on the trail while also showing others what is possible. The benefits of getting more women into FKTs are considerable, and they can help advance the sport at all levels.
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The main goal of the Women Who FKT project is simple – to flip the percentage of women completing FKTs in Oregon and Washington this year so that more women than men set FKTs in 2022. Fisher’s team (comprised of Stacey Lee, Danielle Snyder, Dana Katz, and Teri Smith) is kicking off the project over the weekend of June 4, 2022, hoping to have 20 new female FKTs established on those days alone. They also want to increase diversity and inclusion on the trails and hope to recruit women from underrepresented groups to set FKTs and share their experiences this year. “I want to see all kinds of women setting big goals for themselves and making a place in the trail community,” says Fisher. “FKTs are one place we can do that.” By bringing women together through social media and community, Fisher and her team hope to inspire women to push their limits and gain confidence in their ultrarunning pursuits. “We are really hoping to bring more athletes into the FKT world from diverse backgrounds and abilities,” says Fisher. “We have heard from so many types of runners; from those who have set multiple FKTs to those who run but who have never even considered this type of goal before.”
Whether or not the project meets its lofty goals, the value of starting this conversation and community is obvious. “We had over 120 women sign up in the first week after announcing the project,” says Fisher. “The enthusiastic response we got the week after announcing the project was really inspiring. We had women who had never considered an FKT and women who have set many, all stepping up to say ‘Yeah, let’s do this!’ I’m really excited to see how people challenge themselves.”
To learn more about the #womenwhofkt project, be sure to check out ultraufitness.com/fkt.html, where you’ll find information about open routes, upcoming meetings, and more. Women who are interested in participating in this project as FKT setters or as support crew are encouraged to join the email list. Men are encouraged to follow the project’s progress and to offer support by sharing the word of the project and helping out their female friends who might be interested in setting an FKT. You can also find the project on Instagram and Facebook.
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