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Ontario’s Rideau Trail FKT falls after 38 years

Eric Mathison managed to take 20 hours off the previous record set in 1983

Photo by: Diane Mathison

Last week, a new fastest known time was set, breaking a 38-year-old record on the Rideau Trail, which spans the 327 km from Ottawa to Kingston, Ont. Eric Mathison is a 34-year-old trail runner who splits his time between Lethbridge, Alta., and Kingston, and last weekend, he broke the record in two days 16 hours and 38 minutes.

Eric Mathison
Photo: Diane Mathison

The previous Rideau Trail record was set in 1983 by Bob Tysen, and Mathison managed to take 20 hours off it. The idea came into his head four years ago, but it wasn’t until the pandemic when he began mapping his challenge. “At first it was the previous record that intrigued me, as the time didn’t seem too hard, but through the summer it became a project of mine to train for this,” says Mathison.

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There have been a few stabs at the FKT over the past couple of years, but no one has come close to breaking Tysen’s record. “The trail is deceptive on paper,” said Mathison. “It’s relatively flat, and the distance is what makes it difficult.” He started his journey in Ottawa on Oct. 7, completing just under 100 miles in his first 24 hours. “My plan going in was to take short naps along the journey, but on the first night, I did not sleep at all.” 

On the second day, he reached the southern half of the course, which involves a lot of climbing in and out of the valley. “The terrain is very similar to the north end of the Bruce Trail,” says Mathison referring to the very rocky Pennisula section of the Bruce Trail. Leading up to his FKT, his training was unorthodox, since he only did a few 100 kilometre weeks. “I mainly focused on running on low volume with one high-intensity run per week,” he says. 

Eric Mathison
Photo: Diane Mathison

The 327 km course featured over 3,500m of climbing. Mathison and his crew member Adam Bird did a one-week hiking trip to Alberta this summer, which helped him on his climbs. Mathison’s crew met him every 15 to 20 kilometres along the journey. Bird ran with Mathison at the start of his FKT on Thursday, and for most of the second day. 

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“When we reached Big Rideau Lake, just south of Smith Falls, Ont., I found out that I had strained my left calf muscle,” says Mathison. “I still had over 100k go to at this point, and it took me a while to bounce back from the pain.”

The Rideau Trail FKT was Mathison’s first. When we asked about Mathison’s next challenge, he talked about the possibility of running his first road marathon in the spring of 2022.