Ultra-runners Niki Hurst and Christen Young finished the North Coast Trail in the female fastest known time, taking 17 hours and 13 minutes to set the record.
The Northernmost tip of Vancouver Island plays host to one of the most rugged, remote and challenging trails in BC, The North Coast Trail. Located in Cape Scott Provincial Park, this 60 km trail is a mix of complex coastal and rainforest terrain that experienced backpackers will try to complete in 5-8 days.
“In today’s world it is a rarity to be first in line for a coffee never mind anything else, but Niki and I managed to be the first females to run the North Coast Trail in a single day,” said Young. “I have never been so scared to embark on an adventure in my life. With the weather forecasted to be a high of nine degrees and rainy, the coast guard stressed to us that even at nine degrees the rain and wind meant we could face hypothermia overnight if we didn’t make it in a day.”
On a trail consisting of slippery roots, deep mud, steep slopes, washouts, blowdowns, fallen logs, costal bogs, tidal problems, deep sand, boulders beaches, rocky shorelines, impassible headlands, creek crossings, tidal rivers, rouge waves, floods, landslides and broken structures, Hurst and Young admitted they understood why no one thought running it in a day was possible. And while they carried a marine VHF radio (as cell service is non-existent in that remote terrain) they were also aware that help could be days away if they needed it.
“The weather had not worked in our favour leading up to the excursion,” Hurst said. “We had plenty of rainfall in the days before, making an already soggy and tough trail twice as difficult for us to work through. After the hour boat trip to the trailhead, it was an incredibly daunting feeling standing in the rain on the rugged shoreline watching the boat pull away. There was no way off the trail but to finish the thing so that kept our focus pretty narrow: don’t get injured, don’t get eaten, and keep moving forward to keep warm and set the record.”
Hurst said that there were several times on the trail when both she and Young felt defeated by the idea they had come up with. “There were plenty of times when we just stopped running and hung our heads. Even though the distance was not particularly far, the trail was just so demanding. Still, all you can do is continue to put one foot in front of the other and trust that you will get through the low-point. And we did it! Against all odds and the hordes telling us it couldn’t be done. We ran the trail end to end unsupported.”
It was a particularly emotional journey for Hurst as her father had died in a fishing boat accident just off the coast of the trail when she was a little girl.
“Being in that place, in the community, was amazing,” added Hurst.
– Gazette staff