This September, Athletic Director and the writer of the Athletics Week-in-Review Jeff Hunt tackled the West Coast Trail, a 75 km backpacking trail along the coast of Vancouver Island that is part of the Pacific Rim National Park. Hikers usually take 5 to 7 days to complete the trip, but Mr. Hunt and his friend hoped to beat the 12:20 speed record, set only 6 weeks prior. “My original goal was just to finish the trail,” says Mr. Hunt, who eventually became excited by the prospect of being a record-breaker.
At 5:00 am, he and his friend took out their flashlights and headed onto the trail. “I was occasionally watching the clock to see what kind of a pace we had going for us, and it looked pretty good,” says Mr. Hunt. With the ferry at the end of the trail leaving at 5 pm, Mr. Hunt would have to break the record to avoid a swim across Gordon River. At one point, Mr. Hunt calculated his pace to be a kilometre every six minutes.
Their first cable-car crossing was at Klanawa River, and it put a strain on Mr. Hunt’s shoulders to pull it across. The trail varied in difficulty due to alternating terrains. In some places, the trail was wet and complicated by exposed tree roots. At other points, the ground was straight and solid. After the Nitnat ferry crossing, they reached a boarded section and their pace quickened. “We made amazing progress on the boards,” says Mr. Hunt. “It was a little slippery, but it was definitely easier than being on roots.”
During a 9-km beach run, despite some stomach pain, Mr. Hunt and his companion picked up the pace. “We passed a couple of guys around 50 kilometres in, and they were astounded that we were running the trail.”
After a difficult crossing on a surging river, which required assembling a driftwood bridge, and climbing ladders as long as 30 feet, the adventurers reached the last legs of the trail. “As with any long run, the hardest kilometre is the last,” says Mr. Hunt. In the end, they reached the ferry at 7:25 pm, for a running time of 14 hours and 25 minutes. Fortunately, their families had arranged to get them a ferry, so no late night swim was necessary. For all the harrowing details of Mr. Hunt’s trip, please read his adventure blog.