François D'Haene Breaks John Muir Trail Speed Record
Around 5 a.m. on Tuesday, October 17, French ultrarunner François D’Haene arrived at the northernmost point of the John Muir Trail just two days, 19 hours, and 26 minutes after departing from the trail’s southern terminus. In doing so, the 31-year-old set a new supported Fastest Known Time on the iconic trail that traverses eastern California’s Sierra Mountains. His effort shattered Leor Pantilat’s 2014 record of three days, seven hours, and 36 minutes.
D’Haene began on Saturday morning at the base of 14,505-foot Mount Whitney and continued north to Happy Isles in Yosemite Valley. In total, the trail climbs more than 47,000 vertical feet, and winds through extremely remote sections of Sequoia, Kings Canyon, and Yosemite National Parks. D’Haene was gifted with clear, cool fall conditions for all three days—a rarity given the height and exposure of the JMT that often results in extreme heat—and team of Salomon crew members who met him at various points along the trail with food, water, supplies, and a bed for temporary naps.
The record-setting run comes just over a month and half after D’Haene won the prestigious and highly competitive Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc—a 103-mile race with over 30,000 feet of elevation gain—for the third time. Over the last five years, D’Haene has established himself as one of the world’s most dominant mountain runners. “He’s the best in the world at anything over 50 miles,” says Mike Wolfe, a North Face ultrarunner who had previously set the record in 2013. “I’m not surprised that he crushed it.”
The John Muir Trail tops the bucket list for many ambitious ultraunners due to the combination of its relatively manageable distance and challenging, high-alpine conditions. The trail has a rich history of notable FKT record-setters over the past 15 years, including elite runners Peter Bakwin, Hal Koerner, Brett Maune, and Wolfe. With D’Haene’s most recent dominance, it may be some time until we see a new name at the top of that list.