The jury’s still out on the philosophy behind FKTs, but when somebody runs 210 miles with nearly 48,000 feet of elevation gain in under three days, they deserve a shoutout. Frenchman Francois D’Haene broke the speed record on the John Muir Trail by more than 12 hours, finishing the High Sierra-bound trail in 2 days, 19 hours, and 26 minutes.
Running the trail northbound, D’Haene began his bid Saturday morning, October 14, at the base of Mt. Whitney and reached the northern terminus at 5 a.m. Tuesday, October 17. He was supported throughout by a group of family and close friends, who paced him and provided moral support. A Salomon crew followed along with food, water, a bed for short naps, and other supplies.
D’Haene is an established star in the ultrarunning world. In September, he took home his third win at the UTMB, one of ultrarunning’s highest-profile races. On a course that climbed over 32,000 feet of elevation in 106.3 miles, D’Haene crushed his competition, beating out second-place finisher Kilian Jornet by 15 minutes with a finishing time of just over 19 hours. He set the speed record on Corsica’s GR20, a 112-mile trail, with a 31 hour, 6 minute finish time, and has won a host of other major ultras.
For D’Haene, the Muir run was a welcome bit of adventure in a life spent training for and competing in more formal races. To travel through the Muir trail’s remote, high altitude terrain with his favorite people supporting him was a far cry from higher-stakes races with competitors breathing down his neck.
“I knew that I would long for escapism, liberty, new sensations and something different from a trail where you share a bib with a lot of people,’’ said D’Haene. ‘‘This will also be an opportunity to live an adventure with my close friends, who will experience this adventure with me – for safety reasons but also to share strong emotions. I feel the need to push my limits or find new ones. It’s an opportunity to test myself for future projects –see how my body will react on a + 300km and 80 hours effort.’’
D’Haene runs a winery when he’s not racing, and is a father of two. He considers himself lucky to be racing. “It’s the easiest way to be free,” he tells Silva. “I love the challenge the mountains bring.”
Photo by Tom Hilton.