Hikers of Canada’s longest hut-to-hut trail have a new record to beat. Professional ultra long distance runner Nick Duff completed the 178-kilometre Sunshine Coast Trail (SCT) in a fastest known time of 27:20:00.
“I’ve dreamt of running a fast time on the SCT for a few years now. It’s in my backyard” Duff, 32, told Coast Reporter in an email two days after accomplishing the feat.
Duff said the run, which involves more than 8,000 metres of vertical gain, was completed as seamlessly as “you could possibly hope for.” He managed to “ride the high side of the wave most of the day and into the night” with only “a few extreme lows.” He also enjoyed a few wildlife encounters.
His 27 hours and 20 minutes, which began at 5 a.m. Aug 29, were witnessed and verified by Scott Maguire, Katherine Short and Phil Brunet, who acted as his crew and pacers throughout what many might call an ordeal. He credited the trio with his success: “Without them this doesn’t happen.” He also thanked his wife, Lauren.
When asked about highlights, Duff said it was the run in its entirety.
“After running 80 kilometres, spending the time running over Tin Hat Mountain with my good friend Scott Maguire was amazing. Katherine Short helped push me through 34 kilometres into the dark and Phil Brunet was there to guide me through the lows of the struggle over Mount Troubridge,” said Duff.
“I reached the last aid station as the sun was coming up. With 11 kilometres to go I knew I was going to make it – the question was by how much.”
Short, also an ultra long distance runner and who trains with Duff, said his achievement was “inspiring to watch.”
It was also “unbelievable to watch someone push [through] that level of pain,” she said. “It’s a hard thing to ask your body to stay up and also exercise that entire time with very little rest and very little nutrition.”
The Sunshine Coast Trail is considered Canada’s longest hut-to-hut trail. It runs the length of the Malaspina Peninsula, around Powell River and to the end of Saltery Bay. “It is by far one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever experienced,” Duff said.
This was the first 100-miler for Duff, who lives in Tuwanek and has been pouring time and energy into his running career, which he launched full-time about two years ago, and which includes running up to 25 hours a week.
Achieving a fastest known time, or FKT as its known in the running world, is an ultimate achievement for ultra long distance runners. He credited COVID-19 race cancellations as the silver lining that created the opportunity. “No races on the calendar for 2020 has allowed more time for personal objectives so it worked out well,” he said.
Duff also recently accomplished another FKT: he scaled the 1,570-metre Brunswick Mountain trail in the Britannia Range of the North Shore Mountains in 01:53:00. The average hiker does the 14.5 kilometre trail in about five to nine hours.
With his SCT accomplishment comes another possible objective. In April 2019, two Sunshine Coast runners, Luke Till and Jeff Ritchie of Roberts Creek, achieved an FKT for a hybrid 96-kilometre “ferry to ferry” route on the Lower Sunshine Coast, linking Earls Cove ferry terminal with the terminal in Langdale through sections of the Suncoaster Trail and BC Bike Race trails.
Duff, who is friends with Ritchie and Till, said even though their friendship doesn’t protect an FKT, “This one is not at the top of my list right now, but maybe one day.”