Six years ago on a camping trip to Vancouver Island’s Carmanah Walbran Provincial Park, Tara Berry and Alicia Woodside were told that running the West Coast Trail was impossible. Home to the Ditidaht, Huu-ay-aht and Nuu-chah-nulth First Nations, the 75K trail runs remotely along Pacific Rim National Park. Often, thru-hikers spend four to seven days completing it. Fuelled by the idea of impossible, Berry and Woodside decided to run the route, and run it fast. On June 21, the pair beat the previous unsupported female Fastest Known Time (FKT) by almost two hours, finishing in 11:34:15.
This adventure had been on Woodside’s radar for many years. But for Berry, it wasn’t her first day. In 2014, she ran it with a friend, and hobbled the last 30K to an accidental female FKT (with a Timex watch as proof). She also thru-hiked the trail the following year with her partner. Prior to the run, the team felt excited, but Berry also felt “nervous about the route, and knew exactly what we were getting into.”
“Within the first 10K, we’d already torn the mesh of our shoes, hammered our chins into roots, and tripped and saved ourselves,” says Woodside, who Supermanned into a giant mud puddle in the first half of the run. Running the route from south to north, the women aimed to run as much on the beach, versus the inner trail, as possible, for both scenery and speed.
Around halfway, Woodside looked at her watch for the first time. The Garmin Forerunner 945 indicated they were on track to break 12 hours. But she didn’t tell Berry. “We thought that a time in the 12-hour range would be fantastic, a ‘perfect day’ sort of achievement. But sub-12?! That was a huge boost.”
At 36K, hikers must take a boat across Nitnat Narrows. When the women arrived, they thought they would have some time to eat their sandwiches and wait for the boat. But, when the boat operators saw they had arrived, they kindly turned the boat around so Berry and Woodside could travel as quickly as possible. “You two are the fastest yet this year!” they said to the women, smiling.
Berry and Woodside know that reaching a goal takes a village. Although unsupported, Berry and Woodside had the support off the trail helping them fuel up, stand-up paddle board across Gordon River at the start, and shuttle their vehicle from the Pacheedaht campsite to the finish in Bamfield.
Inspired by Jade de la Rosa’s previous FKT of 13:18:21 and Matt Cecil’s 9:32:32, the women are eager to encourage more adventurers to run it even faster. They offer advice, tips, fuelling strategies, gear recommendations, and support on their blog. They also share how, despite their years of experience contributing to their success, they are always learning in this crazy sport.