Every week, there are reports of fastest known times (FKTs) on routes around the world, but the vast majority are run in North America and Europe. On November 20, a pair of Kenyan athletes ran a rare African FKT up and down Mount Kenya, the tallest mountain in the country and second-tallest on the continent (behind Mount Kilimanjaro). Kenneth Kemboi and Susy Chemaimak ran on the same day, along with another friend chasing the route record, but not together, as the run was unsupported. Kemboi ran the male FKT, posting a time of seven hours, 39 seconds, and Chemaimak won the women’s record, running seven hours, 50 minutes.
Congrats to Kenneth Kemboi and Susy Chemaimak on a new Mt Kenya FKT https://t.co/MYv4Aj1RhD – the second highest mountain in Africa
— Fastest Known Time (@FastestKnown) November 24, 2020
FKTs in Africa truly are uncommon, and there are very few recorded on fastestknowntime.com. Out of all 54 African nations, just six have established FKT routes within their borders. In total, these seven countries combine for 38 FKTs, 22 of which are in South Africa. In Kenya, there is just one other in addition to the Mount Kenya run. In comparison, Canada has 187 official FKT routes and the U.S. has 1,609.
Mount Kenya is located in a national park of the same name, and the FKT route is 49K, starting and finishing at the park’s main gate. In the 90s, there was an International Skyrunning Federation race on the same route, which led to the supported FKT held by Italy’s Fabio Meraldi, who completed the run in five hours, two minutes. In total, the route covers 2,590m of elevation gain.
Kemboi and Chemaimak
According to their World Athletics profiles, Kemboi and Chemaimak have had decent road running careers. The pair boasts PBs of 1:03:27 and 1:12:32 for the half-marathon, respectively. While these times aren’t elite by Kenyan standards, where literally hundreds of athletes have run faster results, in Canada, Kemboi would rank 12th all-time and Chemaimak would rank 14th.
The two left their road running backgrounds behind them for these record attempts, and they certainly found success on the trails of Mount Kenya. Despite each taking several falls (which they both mentioned in their post-run reports on the FKT website) and dealing with snow (which Kemboi wrote was almost up to his knees, adding “an extra layer of difficulty”), Kemboi and Chemaimak managed to set the route FKTs.