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Illinois ultrarunner tackles 380K Ozark Trail, beats FKT by 19 hours

Joe Miller ran close to 400K in three and a half days to smash the previous route record

Photo by: fastestknowntime.com/Joe Miller

Joe Miller, a 32-year-old ultrarunner from Springfield, Ill., recently completed a three-day trek on the Ozark Trail in Missouri, beating the route’s fastest known time (FKT) by almost a full day. Miller completed the 383K run in three days, 16 hours, 17 minutes, finishing 19 hours ahead of the previous route record of four days, 11 hours, eight minutes. In his post-run report on fastestknowntime.com, Miller wrote that the attempt started as “a somewhat intrinsic exploration of my physical and mental limits,” and it quickly blossomed into a fundraiser for Food and Water Watch, a nonprofit with a focus on providing everyone with a “healthy and livable environment.” Miller successfully completed the project’s physical component, and he’s currently halfway to his total fundraising goal of $15,000. 

Miller during his run on the Ozark Trail. Photo: fastestknowntime.com/Joe Miller

Running the Ozark Trail

The Ozark Trail is actually more than 800K long, spanning from its start near the Missouri-Arkansas border to St. Louis, but the FKT route covers just under half of that distance. Originally, Miller had planned on shooting for the unsupported route record, meaning he would carry all of his own gear, food and water. That record stands at five and a half days. Miller ended up abandoning the goal of running unsupported partway through, but he started off the run by carrying all of his own gear, so his pack weighed a hefty 33 pounds, he writes. Starting the attempt early on November 16, he set off in frigid -6 C weather. 

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Miller met up with a friend at different points on the run (refusing to accept help at first), and after his second day, he decided to transition into a supported FKT attempt. This decision followed a brutal day during which Miller says he got lost multiple times and also suffered a fall that resulted in an injured knee. 

Miller’s Ozark Trail route. Photo: Strava/Joe Miller

He admits that after that tough day of running, he seriously considered quitting, but his friend said something that “would become a mantra over the subsequent days” for Miller: “Plans change, goals don’t.” He managed to trudge onward, eventually reaching the route finish line and not just beating the FKT, but shattering the existing record. 

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Food and Water Watch 

On Miller’s Food and Water Watch fundraising page, he writes that the Ozark Trail, which runs through Missouri’s Mark Twain National Forest, reminds him “of the natural resources that need to be protected.” Throughout his run, Miller drank water from creeks and streams along the route that he cleaned with a filter he carried with him, even when he switched to the supported version of the attempt. “I know firsthand that we cannot take clean water for granted,” he writes, which is why he chose to support Food and Water Watch on this run. “This organization works tirelessly to protect our water from pollution and ensure that everyone has access to clean, safe drinking water,” he continues. So far, he has raised just over $7,000.

To learn more about the nonprofit and Miller’s involvement, click here.