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American ultrarunner completes barefoot trek of California’s John Muir Trail

It took Kenneth Posner 22 days to conquer the 210-mile route

Photo by: Twitter/long_brown_path

New York-based ultrarunner Kenneth Posner completed a 22-day trek along California’s 210-mile (337K) John Muir Trail (JMT) on Saturday. While Posner didn’t run the route, he is an avid trail runner and ultrarunner, and he almost exclusively runs barefoot. He didn’t take to the JMT to break any official records (the various fastest known time records for the JMT hover around two to four days), but rather for a personal challenge: to hike the entire trail without shoes. 

Completing a trail completely barefoot may seem like a random goal to many people, but for Posner, it has been a years-long battle. As he explains in his blog, he made his first barefoot JMT attempt in 2020. “Barefoot is simple,” he writes. “Natural. Intense. Every step is an adventure.” That initial shot at the JMT resulted in Posner completing about 240K of it without any footwear. For the other 100 or so kilometres, he was forced to don shoes. “The terrain [on the JMT] was more difficult than I expected.”

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In 2021, he returned to the California trail, certain that he could finish the whole thing without resorting to shoes. Once again, though, he succumbed to the difficult terrain of the JMT, and he had to give in and put on shoes. Since then, he has been working toward the same goal, and this year, he managed to pull it off.

He set off on the JMT in early August, heading south from Yosemite National Park. The trek took him through mountainous terrain all the way to Kings Canyon National Park, where he finally reached the end of the JMT.

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“Just completed the 210-mile #JohnMuirTrail entirely #barefoot, in 22 days,” Posner tweeted. “The sandy trails were lovely, the rocky mountain passes were challenging, and the gravel was quite difficult. Gave me new appreciation for how patient and tough our ancestors must have been.” 

In other JMT news, Posner’s fellow American ultrarunner, Jeff Garmire, set an FKT on the trail after reaching the finish at Mount Whitney on Monday. Garmire completed the route in a spectacular time of 72 hours and 47 minutes to knock off the previous unsupported record (meaning he ran without a team to provide food, water or any other help along the route) of 73 hours, which was set less than a month ago. To see data on his result, click here