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Belgium’s Karel Sabbe demolishes Pacific Crest Trail FKT

The Belgian dentist averaged 94 kilometres a day to complete the 4,270 km trail in just under 47 days

Karel Sabbe PCT FKT Photo by: Instagram/KarelSabbe

Karel Sabbe may be most well known for being among the few to finish the Barkley Marathons, but his substantial FKT (Fastest Known Time) accomplishments are no less remarkable. On Saturday evening the Belgian dentist and ultrarunner added a massive achievement to his already significant list: a new (supported) speed record on the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) of 46 days, 12 hours and 50 minutes. “Pacific Crest Trail, you are the most beautiful, epic trail in the world,” Sabbe shared on social media.

The PCT begins at the U.S. border with Mexico (usually Campo, Cali.) and travels 4,270 km (2,653 miles) to the Canadian border (Sabbe’s team finished in Manning Park, B.C.), traversing over 121,900 metres in elevation. The trail winds through challenging mountain terrain in California, Oregon and Washington, and completing the trek, let alone holding an FKT, is considered to be one of the most prized accomplishments in ultrarunning and thru-hiking.

Sabbe beat ultrarunner Timothy Olson’s 2021 record (51d, 16h and 55m) by 5 days and 4 hours. No stranger to the PCT, Sabbe previously held the FKT on the trail from 2016 until 2021, when Olson bested Sabbe’s time (52d, 8h, 25m). Sabbe now holds 2/3 of the North American “triple crown” of thru-hikes, which also includes the Appalachian Trail (Sabbe’s FKT from 2018 stands at 41d 7h 39m) and the Continental Divide Trail. When Sabbe bagged his original FKT on the PCT, he became the first person to hold both the PCT and Appalachian Trail speed records simultaneously.

All trekkers tackling the PCT face potentially closed or adjusted trails along with seasonal wildfires, and the hike varies slightly in route and length every year. Sabbe shared concerns about snowpack near the start of his journey and had to detour due to the particularly bad 2023 wildfire season. Fans were able to follow his route online via a live tracker, and social media posts from Sabbe’s crew and the runner himself throughout the summer.

In 2022, British thru-hiker and ultrarunner Josh Perry commandeered a significant new unsupported FKT on the PCT in 55d, 16 h and 54m, while coming very close to Olson’s supported one (Olson had a crew of seven with him in 2021, and had a film crew following him at times). While Sabbe’s official FKT crown will wait until his GPS data is verified, there’s no doubt he has made a significant dent in Olson’s time. Will the Continental Divide Trail be next?

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