Trail runners have had a busy couple of weeks near Malibu, Calif., on the Backbone Trail. The women’s fastest known time (FKT) for the route, which runs through several state parks west of Los Angeles and north of Malibu, has been lowered three times since December 30 (along with several FKTs on the men’s side since the start of December). Celia Stockwell started the streak of records, closing out 2020 in style by running the 108K route in 13 hours, 28 minutes. Just two days later on New Years Day, Shelby Farrell rang in 2021 in the same (although slightly faster) fashion as Stockwell, setting the FKT at 13 hours, 25 minutes. Finally, a week into the new year, Brianna Sacks set the current route record, running 12 hours, 56 minutes to close out a wild and impressive 11 days of running.
A three-woman chase
The main excitement on the Backbone Trail in the past couple of weeks is thanks to the three women chasing the supported FKT for the route. (A supported run means they had a crew with them to help out with anything they might have needed.) On her Strava file for the FKT, Stockwell, who hails from Colorado, wrote that the 108K trek was the farthest she has ever run. Despite this fact, she performed exceptionally, shaving 16 minutes off the previous FKT from 2017. Stockwell, who was crewed by her mom and husband, didn’t get to enjoy the record for long, though, as just a couple of days later, Farrell beat her time by three minutes.
In her post-run report, Farrell — who lives in Redondo Beach, Calif., not far from the trailhead — said she and her pacer got lost early on in the run, and she estimates that cost her about 20 minutes. In the final stages of the run, she had her husband by her side to pace her. “I hung on with all my might. I opened up my stride, engaged my core … I knew I was within range of calling this course record mine.” She eventually made it to the finish, crossing the line with only a few minutes to spare.
Finally, it was Sacks’s turn to run the Backbone Trail. As she noted in her own post-run report, her January 9 run was her second FKT attempt on the route in 10 days. This time around, she made it through, smashing Stockwell’s and Farrell’s times by half an hour. Sacks lives in Los Angeles, and she wrote that she grew up running on the Backbone Trail. In fact, it was the site of her first ultramarathon. “Backbone is a beautiful beast,” she wrote. “It’s the best kind of ‘hurts so good.'”
Other Backbone FKTs
While Sacks, Farrell and Stockwell provided the main source of entertainment on the Backbone Trail over past few weeks, several other athletes have also recently tackled the route. A woman named Mac McIntosh set the women’s self-supported FKT on December 19, running the route in 15 hours, 45 minutes. Dima Sokolovskyy ran the men’s self-supported FKT on New Year’s Eve with a time of 14 hours, 26 minutes, and earlier in December, Avery Collins ran the men’s supported record in 10 hours, 19 minutes to smash the previous FKT by close to an hour.