Coolest Things to Run 2021

Nolan’s 14 2020 was a banner year for Nolan’s FKTs, probably because the races were canceled and the pros had nothing else to do. While it used to have so much mystery and appeal and was rarely attempted and even more rarely completed, its popularity doesn’t change that it’s the most aesthetic 100 mile line in the world and deserves a prominent place on this list. Since I’ve fallen in love with skyrunning, 100s seem less appealing (there’s a reason the Barkley’s not on this list), but I still secretly think about digging out my poles and meditating up some resilience and going for it again. Here’s iRunfar’s interview with new male FKT, and Sabrina Stanley’s video recap of her FKT, and I still love Joe Grant’s video.

The Grand (Teton) Traverse: From time to time, someone will tell me they or someone they know did the Grand Traverse. And every time, I’m disappointed when I find out they’re talking about the race in Crested Butte that’s taking the name in vain. I’m sure that’s a cool race and everything, but there’s only one Grand Traverse and it magnificently and terrifyingly traverses the main 14 peaks of the Teton Range, including the Grand. It’s the ultimate collision of alpinism and mountain running, if one wishes to do it in sub 24 hours, they must have the beastliest of thighs, excellent climbing prowess, and you’ve got to wear a helmet and carry an ax. Record holders have free soloed the 5.8 north face of the Grand in their running shoes. A route like this is so compelling, I’ve been working on my climbing prowess to be able to do it one day. While we’re talking Tetons, there’s also the Picnic (Unofficial Grand Teton Triathalon), circumnavigating the range, and the nearby Cirque of the Towers route to consider.

Me on Teewinot, when we were scoping out the course this past summer

Tromso Skyrace: the brainchild of Emilie Forsberg and Kilian Jornet, all you need really is to watch the highlights reel and you’ll be looking up plane tickets to Norway. Exposure, scrambling, altitude, snow, the headliner is the Hamperokken Skyrace, a 57k with 15,748ft of gain in “a place to run between the sky and the earth to feel freedom” that “follows the soul of skyrunning.” Held annually in early August.

Wonderland: The link goes to Candice Burt’s beautiful and inspiring write-up of her 2018 FKT. Awe-inspiring views, long, brutal, wild, and 22,000ft, this 93 mile loop circumnavigates Mt. Rainier. You can also check out Gary Robbins’ video about his experience on Wonderland. While we’re on the topic, it requires more technical experience than most things on this list, but it’s on my bucket list to pursue a RT on Mt. Rainier in mountain runner style, and possibly go after the sea to summit duathalon, more info about those things on the fkt proboards site here.

Grand Canyon R2R2R: Obviously captures the hearts of Americans. 42 miles, 11,000ft gain. The bottom of the Grand Canyon might be the oldest exposed part of the earth, and it feels magical and vital and nourishing just to be there. S. Kaibab is an epic adventure in and of itself, and just imagining crossing the world’s biggest chasm (I didn’t do the research to back up this claim) then turning around and doing it again is compelling and gratifying. (if you are considering a R2R2R, check out my GC training plans on Training Peaks). Check out Walmsley’s FKT interview here, or the time the Coconino Cowboys did the R2R2R Alt here.

Matterhorn/Matterhorn Ultraks: Did anyone watch Summits of My Life and NOT get obsessed with running the Matterhorn? If you’re not a climber and don’t find the mountain itself inspiring, maybe you’d like to run around near it in a skyrace in Zermatt? The Matterhorn Ultraks Skyrace is “a magical track” that gains almost 12,000ft in just under a 50k.

Diagonale des Fous/Grand Raid: The Madmen’s Diagonal, about 100 miles and 31,600 ft of gain crossing an island near Madagascar, this highly technical race has a mythical status, possibly as or more technical than how complicated it would be to get there. But, this is a list of the dopest running events and adventures, not a list of the easiest or the ones nearest to you. I loved the look of their 2019 ad:

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