American ultrarunner Robbie Balenger set an FKT (fastest known time) in New York City’s Central Park on March 21, running nearly 100 miles in just over 18 hours. The Central Park Loop Challenge follows a roughly 10K route around the park, and it involves running as many laps as possible in one day. Balenger beat the previous record by five laps, and he documented his 98-mile run with a short film. The Central Park Loop Challenge marks Balenger’s first official FKT.
The record Balenger set out to beat in Central Park belonged to Aaron Zellhoefer, who ran 11 laps in just over 14 hours in June 2020. Balenger smashed that record, running five laps farther than Zellhoefer did and reaching the 100-mile mark. A big challenge with the Central Park Loop is the fact that the park is only open from 6 a.m. to 1 a.m. This means runners don’t have a full day to complete their FKT attempts, and the challenge officially begins at 6:05 a.m. and ends at 12:55 a.m. (although runners can start anytime between these hours).
That window works out to a little under 19 hours for runners attempting the Central Park Loop Challenge, and Balenger used almost all of the allotted time in his run. The rules of the challenge (which are listed on fastestknowntime.com) also state that only whole laps of the park count, and even if a runner covers 9K in their final lap, it won’t be included in their result. If two runners happen to run the same number of laps, the tie is decided by their times, and the faster result wins the FKT. In Balenger’s case, he ran much farther than anyone else before him, so no tie-breaker was needed.
Balenger notes that while he has run many ultra challenges before (in 2019, he ran 5,000 kilometres across the U.S.), he had never gone nearly as far in one shot as he did in his near-100-miler in Central Park. In his mini-documentary of the FKT attempt, Balenger also discusses his diet and how he completes all of his ultra-endurance adventures as a vegan. “It’s the best thing that I can do for my body to perform at my highest level,” he says.
Balenger’s diet and training clearly work very well for him, as he averaged 6:49 per kilometre over the 18-hour challenge. To learn more about his plant-based lifestyle and running career, click here, and to see his documentary, either watch the above video or head over to YouTube.