Ultrarunner sets Pacific Crest Trail speed record after grueling 51 days

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After covering 2,650 miles in just 51 days, ultrarunner Timothy Olson claims a new speed record on the Pacific Crest Trail, the rugged trail that stretches from the Mexican border to Canada. Olson reached the northern terminus late Thursday night after 51 days, 16 hours and 55 minutes.

That would mean the 37-year-old endurance athlete, who lives in Boulder, Colorado, shaved less than a day from the previous record of 52 days, 8 hours and 25 minutes, set by a Belgian in 2016.

But the final stop on the trail is a 30-mile excursion into Washington’s remote Cascade Range and on Friday morning, Olson’s family was still waiting for him to emerge from the woods. He is physically exhausted, his family said, having run the equivalent of consecutive marathons every day since leaving on June 1.

“After 2,650 miles he was shot and his body can’t handle the cold well,” said Debbie Loomis, Olson’s mother-in-law. The runner had lower leg issues throughout the race, his stepfather Bob Loomis said.

Olson’s wife, two children and in-laws were his support team, meeting him along the trail most nights with his trainer and boss. On Friday morning, they were waiting for him near Hart’s Pass. His trainer, Jason Koop, had raced with Olson to the finish and was helping him return south to his family.

To complicate Olson and Koop’s exit from the Cascades, two forest fires are burning in the mountains east of them, pumping smoke into the mountain air and prompting authorities to close the roads to the region.

“If they close the road (to Hart’s Pass) he will have to walk 60 miles or be evacuated,” Debbie Loomis said.

The family wondered whether to send supplies to the trail.

“The sooner we can get it off the trail, the better because we don’t know what the fires are going to do,” said Debbie Loomis.

Wildfires along the west coast have closed parts of the trail this year. In one instance, Olson ran a 20 mile section of closed trail, then went another 20 miles along the way to make up the distance. He also struggled with intense summer heat throughout his trip.

If Olson’s record is confirmed, it will be the fourth time the speed record for a supported PCT ride has been broken in the past eight years. The records for this kind of feats of endurance in the world are officiated by FastestKnownTime.com.

Before leaving, Olson said he was as eager to experience the natural surroundings as he was to set a new record. On Monday, before his final push to the finish, Olson reiterated that in a post on Instagram.

“It has always been about connection and love – connection with yourself, my family, Mother Nature and the community,” he wrote. “Every step of the way, I felt all of your positive vibes and support – they give me so much strength and energy.”

Part of Olson’s run involved raising donations for Return to Zero: HOPE, a nonprofit that helps families cope with miscarriages and infant loss.

Gregory Thomas is the editor of the lifestyle & outdoor column of the Chronicle. Email: [email protected] Twitter: @GregRThomas

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