490 Miles in Under 7 Days: Kyle Curtin Sets New Colorado Trail Supported FKT

On June 30 just before midnight, Kyle Curtin set a new supported speed record on the Colorado Trail (CT), completing the east-to-west Collegiate West route in just 6 days, 15 hours, and 8 minutes. Smashing the all-time speed record on any route along the CT, the Durango, CO local also ran to raise significant funds to help underprivileged youth experience the outdoors with Big City Mountaineers. 

Curtin, an ultra runner and US Army veteran, began his fastest known time (FKT) attempt on June 24 at 8:15 a.m. from the trail’s northern terminus in Waterton Canyon, where he embarked on a rugged 490-mile traverse through some of Colorado’s most challenging terrain. The trail includes roughly 90,000 feet of vertical gain and tops out at a lofty 13,371 feet.

Kyle Curtin at the start of the Colorado Trail on June 24. Photo via Kyle Curtin

There are a multitude of variations on the CT depending on the direction hiked (or, in this case, run) and whether one chooses the Collegiate West or East alternate between Twin Lakes and Salida. As a result, FKTs also exist for each of these possible variants. Due to both subsequent trail closures due to the Interlaken Fire and personal preference, Curtin opted for the longer, steeper Collegiate West traverse. 

“The East skirts the more difficult terrain by staying lower and feels like it’s more of a high snow or bad weather route. The West goes over mountain passes and terrain that inspires and intimidates me. So I’m going west,” Curtin wrote on Instagram.

The previous record for that itinerary was set by Joe Grant in 2019 with a time of 8 days, 20 hours, and 9 minutes. Besides shaving almost two days off that record, Curtin also surpassed the overall men’s supported Colorado Trail FKT, previously held by Michael McKnight, who competed the west-to-east Collegiate East route in 7 days, 13 hours, and 16 minutes in 2020.

Navigating Roadblocks on Trail

Curtin’s FKT journey was not without logistical challenges. Deviations from initial plans due to the Interlaken Fire led to more arduous terrain in the Collegiate West. Treacherous snow lingered on the trail, particularly around Breckenridge and Lake Ann Pass. Despite these obstacles, Curtin’s meticulous planning and support from his loyal crew helped him to stay on trail. 

His support team included prominent trail runners like Sarah Ostazewski, Devon Olson, Michael Robertson, Robyn Lesh, Tara Dower, Courtney Dauwalter, Jeff Browning, Maggie Guterl, and many others.

“What a welcome home!” Curtin wrote at the finish, smiling with his support crew. Photo via Kyle Curtin

“I’m just totally overwhelmed with the support from this last week of running the Colorado Trail. There’s no way you could ask for a better prepared, dedicated, and professional team. In my head, I had an Oceans 11 style montage of what a perfect team would look like,” Curtin recounted in an Instagram post after his big finish.

Southwestern Colorado’s San Juan Mountains are home turf for Curtin, who resides in Durango. His familiarity with the terrain in the final days of his run provided a psychological boost. Despite pouring rain and darkness when he reached the Junction Creek trailhead in Durango, he received a warm welcome from a jubilant crowd of friends and supporters celebrating his historic achievement.

A Cause Beyond the Record

Curtin was not motivated by the fame of an FKT. Driven by more than just a desire to set a record, the veteran raised over $7,000 for Big City Mountaineers, a nonprofit dedicated to creating transformative experiences in the outdoors for youth from disinvested communities. 

“Funding for Big City Mountaineers will help provide a similar opportunity for youth who don’t normally have access,” Curtin wrote on his fundraiser campaign.

Inspired by the positive change he’d seen in his own life from trail running, backpacking the Appalachian Trail, and outdoor involvement, Curtin felt inspired to give underprivileged kids the same opportunity that had changed his own life. 

“In 2015, I was at the end of a six-year enlistment in the US Army, and more than anything I wanted a total lifestyle change. The bureaucracy and all-encompassing nature of the soldier’s life had worn me down,” Curtin wrote. “The meditation of spending all day walking, the simplicity of living out of a backpack and life on the trail fostered a passion for the outdoor world that reshaped the focus of my life. I saw the world in a different way, saw how capable of an adventurer I was, but more than anything I understood the intrinsic value of spending time in nature.”

For those inspired by Curtin’s feat, donations to his fundraising campaign for Big City Mountaineers are still open, with the goal of reaching $10,000 to support youth wilderness programs.

Featured image via Kyle Curtin

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