At 6:00 a.m. Friday, October 18, ultra-trail runner and Olympian Magda Boulet, 46, began her supported Fastest Known Time (FKT) attempt on the Tahoe Rim Trail. In 2015, Krissy Moehl set the record in 47 hours and 29 minutes, leaving Boulet little room for error. Spoiler alert: Boulet didn’t set a new supported FKT over the weekend. She finished the 277K (172 miles) route with 7,620 metres (25,000 feet) of elevation gain in 50 hours and 40 minutes. Even though Boulet didn’t achieve one of her goals, many would argue that her and the team still won–and here’s why:
Although on paper, Boulet did not achieve her running goal, she achieved something substantial. Boulet is on a mission to run and race forever. Her Tahoe Rim Trail FKT attempt accomplished her goal of just that, while positively impacting those around her. Call it ‘Friendliest Known Time,’ or some cheesy equivalent, Boulet’s feat was a reminder to the trail and ultrarunning community that the purpose of big goals is the process, regardless of the outcome.
The competition is the community
It was also a reminder how unique the trail and ultrarunning community really is. In no other sport is the community also the competition. Before Boulet set off, current record-holder Moehl offered words of wisdom and advice. After helpful conversations and announcing her ambitions publicly, Boulet set out in -5 C.
The singletrack trail climbs and descends the Sierra Nevadas, but breaks up over road crossings. Over three sunrises, Boulet’s support crew was scheduled to meet her at each road crossing between 25K and 55K sections, There, they would rotate pacers, restock fuel, tell more jokes, and tend to various bodily needs. Boulet was joined by six pacers and crew, including her husband, Corrine Malcolm, Tim Tollefson, YiOu Wang, Kris Brown, Emma McCune, Chris Lepley, and filmmaker and photographer Andy Cochrane.
Grit and Grace
Boulet was ahead of Moehl’s record pace for the first 217K (135 miles.) The team continued moving through freezing temperatures, extreme cold, high winds, sleep deprivation, multiple jackets, and typical ultrarunning feet. Boulet never doubted her goal, or at least never allowed her pacers or crew to sense it. No matter the elements, she kept moving.
Alongside her her determination was kindness, camaraderie, and shared purpose among the group. Boulet became the crew’s support, and everyone felt the optimism in the mountains. By the time they were 15K from the finish, Boulet knew the record was out of reach. But that didn’t stop her from completing what she set out to do. Pacer Tollefson explains, the “experience was really neat, and it reinforced what I already knew–Magda is incredibly gritty but also gracious.”
Hug it out
Boulet left it all out on the trail, regardless of results. Her crew never perceived a desire from her to stop. Finishing what she started was the only option in her mind. By the time Boulet and her pacers admitted the record was out of reach, they stopped on the trail and hugged it out. The FKT became secondary to the experience they had shared and would continue to share on the trail.
The human connection
In supported FKTs or ultra distance pursuits, the human connection is often highlighted. In this case, wonderful people came together and experienced something magical. Boulet was grateful for her supports every step of the way. She moved everyone toward a common goal, which ended up being something more than initially anticipated.