BC runner sets new FKT on the 178km Sunshine Coast Trail
Nick Duff's first 100-miler is a big one
About three-and-a-half years ago, Nick Duff had a gander at a short film dubbed XS-NRG, chronicling Ean Jackson and company’s first known time on the Sunshine Coast Trail. Cue the light bulb. The Sechelt, BC-based runner delved further into this new found love of ultra running with the intent of one day tackling the trail and securing the fastest known time.
“That's roughly when the dream started, that one day I'd like to go after this record,” Duff says. “I'm in my third year of committed running. I ran a little for a year or two before that but it was inconsistent and injury-riddled. Huge learning curve getting into this sport. It has been a consistent build of intensity and volume to get here.”
This past weekend, Duff set out at 5 a.m. in Sarah's Point at the Welcome to the Sunshine Coast trail sign running in the dark under headlamp. His first crack at this FKT and his first 100-miler. He arrived at Saltery Bay, which marks the end of the trail, 27 hours and 20 minutes later, breaking the previous mark.
“I've been telling myself I could do this kind of thing forever,” Duff says. “I love running and competition. I believe in my ability to be good at this and I want to see how far that can go. The experience of pushing yourself through nature, the highs and lows — it's about as real as it gets. The longer the run, the lower the lows, and you decide. Only you decide if today is your day. I like that.”
Nick Duff finishes off his FKT run of the Sunshine Coast Trail
Duff ran his first ultra in 2018. He knew little about ultra trail running, but his dad ran marathons and Ironmans. He’d recently quit drinking and was ready to put in the work.
“I noticed that ultras were a sport that not only young bucks were excelling in, in fact the opposite. The more experienced runners were stronger,” he says. “That's one of the best things about running is you get out what you put in. You can be 38 and still run faster than you did when you were 28. So I think that's really where it started for me.”
Duff finished the Vancouver BMO marathon one year at a time of around five hours, the next year in 3:36.
In 2019, he won the Whistler Alpine Meadows Triple Whammy three-day stage race and was second at Deception Pass 50k in Washington, beating the former course record along the way.
The Sunshine Coast Trail runs for 178km with +8,000 metres of vertical gain and features tons of singletrack trail surrounded by salal, moss and old-growth cedar and douglas fir. It runs the entire length of the Malaspina Peninsula through what Duff describes as some of the most remote rainforest the coast has to offer.
Duff on a training run before the big event
“It is one of those trails that always seems like you're going up,” he says. “The rocky technicality of the bluffs and mountains make you really appreciate the sections of loamy dirt trail. In typical Sunshine Coast fashion, this trail doesn't run fast. It's a tight and winding singletrack that has a way of making you earn every single step.”
Although his FKT event was not without its challenges, it sounds like Duff had a great crew around him to help out and pace him well when he needed it most. Towards the end, he knew he had the time he needed, he just needed to make it to the end.
“I knew I was going to make it the question by how much,” he says. “I laid on everything I could to get down to the water and finish out the trail as fast as possible. I finished at the Saltery Bay sign at 8:20 a.m. sharp. It really just seems like a dream now that I'm back in my kitchen drinking a coffee.”
Duff says, following up on this run there may be another shorter local FKT in the works soon if his body permits.
“Otherwise I'll be spending the fall and winter trying to get really fast at some shorter distances in order to be able to transfer that speed to ultras,” he says. “After that more records, and hopefully some more Ws.”
Congrats Nick Duff for setting a new FKT on the Sunshine Coast Trail.