Timothy Olson’s FKT was about more than breaking a record

Editor’s Note: The PCTA does not maintain records, manage, nor monitor Fastest Known Times on the Pacific Crest Trail. That information is the responsibility of Fastest Known Time, LLC. We neither encourage nor discourage efforts like these, and believe in celebrating the PCT as a place of accomplishment for everyone, regardless of scale.

In the summer of 2021, during a time when the PCT was engulfed in some of the largest and most devastating wildfires in history, Mindful Mountain Ultrarunner Timothy Olson completed the entire trail in an astonishing 51 days, 16 hours and 55 minutes. His effort established a new supported Fastest Known Time (FKT) for the PCT. He had to average 51 miles and more than 8,000 feet of vertical gain per day to break the previous record. It was an extraordinary accomplishment by any standard, made even more remarkable by the fact that Timothy was supported throughout his run by his family, including his then-pregnant wife Krista and their two children.

We caught up with Timothy just ahead of the premiere screening of a documentary film about his accomplishment called “The Mirage,” Friday, September 23rd in Boulder, Colorado. We asked him about the meaning of his run—and found that it was about much more to him than setting a new record.

Note: Distribution plans for the film above are still in the works, so follow Timothy Olson on Facebook for the latest—and if we learn more we’ll add it here.

PCTA: Can you tell us about your relationship with the PCT—what does the trail mean to you (or what does it represent)?

Timothy: The Pacific Crest Trail is very important to me. It means deep connection and gratitude for our earth home and all the beings that protect and steward it. I fell in love with trails while living close to the PCT in Ashland, Oregon. I have had many heart-opening memories along the PCT and I am in awe of the beauty, strength, and grace that it has shown me.

PCTA: Traveling along the trail faster than most people must have given you a unique “hyperlapse” view of the trail—a snapshot of it all, as it were. What stands out in your memory about the current state of the trail when you traveled it (both positive and/or negative)?

Timothy: It was a very unique lens to see the trail through; I feel like the “hyperlapse view” was so special, and a beautiful way to see the trail in under two months. Putting in more intentional effort opened my senses in a profound way, to be completely in the moment, absorbing and marinating in all the surrounding beauty. I feel very fortunate for my body—which can travel an inconceivably long distance—and for a mind and heart that, when connected, can focus and achieve my wildest dreams. I feel like it gave me a big picture of the whole West Coast and all its diversity—and how change is inevitable.

Timothy Olson during his supported 2021 run of the Pacific Crest Trail. Photo courtesy of adidasTERREX.

PCTA: During your journey, did you think much about climate change, and how you might experience its impacts? And did you experience anything extreme that might be attributed to climate change? (Non-scientific answers are okay!)

Timothy: Yes, I definitely experienced the world changing and the power of the earth continuously healing, expanding, and contracting. The heat and smoke was intense while running on the PCT. Running in 107-degree-plus weather was very extreme, and I barely dodged all the fires throughout the journey.

It’s sad to see beautiful places burn. I also saw litter. I pray the earth keeps coming back into balance and harmony, and that we make wiser choices to restore and preserve our sacred earth. Walking the whole trail definitely made me contemplate deeply my own impact and make mindful decisions to support, vote, protect, preserve, and give back to the earth. I aim to live in deeper reciprocity while continuing to adventure and explore.

Olson caring for his feet during a short break on the trail. Photo courtesy of adidasTERREX.

PCTA: What other thoughts, ideas, or emotions did the trail inspire in you during your journey?

Timothy: Life is one wild ride and I’m grateful for all my experiences. This particular journey changed me and allowed me to see the beauty I’m always surrounded by if I only pay attention. It taught me to embrace the darkness and solitude of the night, and really appreciate all the little creatures crawling on, in, and under the earth that make up all the micro-environments and how they sustain life.

PCTA: What did your achievement (your FKT) mean for you personally?

Timothy: It showed me that anything I put my whole heart and soul into I can accomplish. It showed me the power of intention, believing in that, and trusting that the great mystery and benevolence of this universe is here to support us.

Timothy being welcomed by his wife and kids at the PCT’s Northern Terminus. Photo courtesy of adidasTERREX.

PCTA: What do you think your achievement might (or could) mean to others? (Hikers, as well as everyone else.) How should the rest of us “average” hikers view an FKT?

Timothy: It felt like a permission slip for anyone, anywhere to follow their dreams. To not settle for a life unlived or inexperienced, to embrace it all, to be ok with failure or missteps, dust ourselves off and do what we feel called to do. I hiked/ran the PCT the way I felt called to experience it.

I think all our experiences are valid and can be honored as initiations through life. I don’t encourage people to be out of control, unsafe or a disturbance to the environment or other nature enthusiasts. I do encourage people to truly experience nature and all its wonders through their own eyes, the awe through their own feet, and to experience, preserve, protect, and give back to the earth.

Timothy at the PCT’s Northern Terminus after running for over 51 days. Photo courtesy of adidasTERREX.

Author: Scott Wilkinson

Scott Wilkinson is the PCTA’s Content Development Director. A former professional musician, Scott has 20+ years of experience in almost every marketing role. Before joining the PCTA he was a marketing/creative director at West Virginia University and the University of Oregon. A serious outdoor addict, Scott is an experienced whitewater paddler, hang glider pilot, flyfisher, mountain biker, and (of course) hiker and backpacker.