Ultra-runner sets new record for completing the South West Coast Path

Ultra-runner and running coach Kristian Morgan from London has set a new Fastest Known Time (FKT) for completing the South West Coast Path (SWCP), Britain’s longest National Trail.

Kristian completed the trail in just 10 days 12 hours and 6 minutes, shaving more than 3hrs off the longstanding record held by ultra-runner Damian Hall, which was set back in 2016. Setting off at 3:33am on Sunday 13th September Kristian ran day and night with the help of a support crew and even his sister turned up for moral support. Previous to this challenge, Kristian completed no less than 130 marathons, ultras and 100 mile races. He already has plans to challenge the FKT on the 2,190 mile Appalachian Trail in the US.

On breaking the record, Kristian said, “I can’t believe it’s over, I’ve done it! For me the hardest part was at the end of day nine - after such awesome progress I hurt my right quad. The injury stopped me being able to go downhill without great pain. At this point I readjusted the way I went down the many steps and came up with a new way of moving my body. Having lost a little bit of my lead at the end of day nine, I knew I would have to go for a big push on day 10 and so I ran over 100 miles on the last section in one push with only a 30-minute power nap.

"This is by far the most difficult thing I have ever done and will hold it up there as my highest achievement so far. The South West Coast Path has some of the most rugged beautiful landscape I have ever seen. I look forward to revisiting without my running shoes to take a gentle stroll in one of the lovely fishing villages.”

The SWCP is the most challenging National Trail in the country, stretching 630 miles, covering four counties and traversing more than 115,000ft of ascent and decent - the equivalent of scaling Mount Evert four times over.

Director of the South West Coast Path Association, Julian Gray said, “We’d like to congratulate Kristian on his amazing achievement completing the trail in record timing. Seeing the South West Coast Path gaining such traction in the running community nationally and internationally is really exciting. In our experience, trail runners have a genuine respect for the trails they have access to and we hope FKT attempts like this will inspire more runners to support our vital work in maintaining and improving them for all to enjoy.”

Previous record holder Damian Hall, who completed the SWCP in 10 days 15 hours and 18 minutes in 2016 said, "I don't imagine many people actively enjoy seeing their record bettered. But it's been captivating viewing nevertheless and I've been cheering him on from afar and I was sad I couldn't get down to Minehead to see him finish. Huge congratulations to Kristian (we've been messaging throughout) and his team on a really gutsy effort. I have no immediate plans to run the path continuously again. But never say never..."

Damian Hall setting the FKT in 2016

Just a few days before Kristian set off, 32-year-old runner, Leah Atherton was on the trail attempting to set the very first solo female FKT for the South West Coast Path. The current fastest-known time set by a woman is 14 days, 14 hours and 44 minutes, established by Julie Gardener, who ran the trail with Mark Townsend in 2013. Unfortunately, Leah had to abandon her attempt on day 12 due to injury, after running over 475 miles from Poole to Port Issac.

Leah Atherton attempted the first solo-female FKT in Sep 2020

Leah said, “Ultimately the injury is what cost me the attempt because I couldn't physically run any more, which meant longer hours to cover the required distance, so less time to recover and it's a vicious cycle from there. But I'm coming away with my head high because I know I gave it literally everything I had and more. I came out to the Coast Path to see what I can do when I choose to be brave, and I pushed through more than I ever knew was possible.”

It may not be long before we see more runners taking on this epic challenge in the hopes of challenging the new record, as no less than eight runners (male and female) have contacted the SWCPA to inform them of plans to attempt the FKT in 2021.

Published on: Sept. 24, 2020