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California ultrarunner smashes 67K FKT in just under 6 hours

Running unsupported, Jeffrey Stern beat the previous FKT by half an hour, finishing just one minute behind the supported record

Photo by: fastestknowntime.com

Early on the morning of January 16, an ultrarunner from Santa Barbara, Calif., named Jeffrey Stern got dropped off in nearby Los Padres National Forest, where he started a 67K fastest known time (FKT) attempt. Following a route called the Los Padres Traverse, Stern ran unsupported (meaning he was alone and didn’t accept help from anyone throughout the run) and ended up beating the previous FKT by more than half an hour. He clocked an official time of five hours, 56 minutes, becoming the first person to break six hours on the route without accepting outside support. 


A bit of everything 

Stern had to deal with a lot of different factors during his run on the Los Padres Traverse. On Strava, he wrote that it was a chilly 1 C when he started the run, and he had to work through “15 miles of sporadic knee-high snow fields.” Later in the day, the temperature rose to a sweltering 32 C, and he noted that he was hammered by a strong headwind for much of the run. In total, he climbed close to a 1,600m throughout the run, and in an Instagram post, he wrote that the route featured a 5K climb and a 7.5K descent at two different points, only adding to the difficulty. 

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Despite all of these challenges, he smashed the previous route record of six hours, 28 minutes, which a runner named Kris Brown set in 2019. Stern also came incredibly close to the overall route record, finishing just over one minute off the Los Padres Traverse supported FKT, which belongs to Chris Andrews, who ran five hours, 55 minutes in November 2020. In his Instagram post, Stern said he wasn’t too upset with the result, writing that he “did a bundle of things right and identified a few slight mistakes to improve upon next time out.” 

Stern’s running resume 

The Los Padres Traverse is Stern’s fourth official FKT, and it is his longest unsupported run to date (although he has gone farther with a support crew). Two of his three other FKTs came near the end of 2020, with runs on California’s Backbone Trail in November and Sulphur Mountain Road in December.

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Outside of the world of FKTs, he has also found success in organized races. In 2020, he raced six times, winning two events, finishing in second twice and running to a pair of top-10 results, making for a great season. He is already registered for six more races in 2021, including the Lake Sonoma 50-miler in April, an event in which he grabbed a top-20 finish in 2018.