ST. GEORGE — On April 14, ultrarunner and St. George native Hayden Hawks became the honored holder of the “Fastest Known Time” on the Trans-Zion Trek, often called the Zion Traverse, a roughly 48-mile crossing of Zion National Park.
Taking an east to west route, Hawks ran the 47.8-mile crossing in 6 hours, 50 minutes, 49 seconds, beating the previous fastest known time of 7:22:08, a difference of almost 30 minutes.
A passion for the run
Hawks began his running journey in high school where he became a state champion cross country runner for Snow Canyon High School, he said.
It was also while he was in high school that Hawks joined the St. George Running Club — a club organized by the St. George Running Center where Hawks is an employee. The club was full of marathoners and ultrarunners who helped him grow a love for running, Hawks said. One club member that was particularly inspirational to Hawks was St. George Marathon three-time winner Aaron Metler.
Hawks said the pair of them ran together almost daily and he credits Metler with helping him develop his own passion for the sport.
After high school, Hawks continued running at Southern Utah University where he competed on the cross country and track and field teams. Hawks became a Division I All-American in cross country while at SUU, he said.
Now Hawks has turned his talent and love for running to the trails. And although the athlete — sponsored by running shoe company Hoka One One — competes in races around the globe, he has a particular affinity to his hometown trails.
“I have a deep love for the outdoors,” Hawks said. “In Southern Utah there are so many trails to run on.”
Fastest Known Time
For trail runners and ultrarunners, bagging a Fastest Known Time has become an increasingly popular way to test one’s personal limits. It’s happening on trails across the country and around the globe. Records have been made and fallen on famous trails such as the Appalachian Trail, the Pacific Crest Trail and rim to rim to rim of the Grand Canyon.
“It’s sort of a program and people go after these records,” Hawks said, “to test the human body or just to go out and try to break records.”
Holding a Fastest Known Time puts an ultrarunner in esteemed company that has included names like Scott Jurek, Karl Meltzer (current Fastest Known Time of a supported thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail) and Killian Jornet.
A website aptly called “Fastest Known Time” is dedicated to recording records as they are made and broken on different trails. According to the site, some routes are known as “Belt Buckle Routes.”
A series of custom belt buckles have been made for some of the most iconic trails and the buckles are awarded to the holder of the Fastest Known Time on a particular route. When the record is broken the buckle is passed on to the new record holder, Hawks said.
Among the most prestigious trails to tackle is the Trans-Zion Trek or Zion Traverse, Hawks said, which he just mastered.
The trail spans 47.8 miles across Zion National Park from its eastern entrance to its western edge and can be done either west to east or east to west. The trail is typically done as a multiday backpacking trip that can last as long as five days according to information from the Fastest Known Time webpage regarding the Trans-Zion Trek.
For his record attempt Hawks chose an east to west route which most trail runners going after the Fastest Known Time on the traverse choose, Hawks said. The route begins at the east entrance to Zion and follows the East Rim Trail entering into the main Zion Canyon via a section of the Observation Point Trail which ends at the Weeping Rock trailhead.
The course then heads to the Grotto Picnic area and across the canyon to the Angels Landing Trail and connects with the West Rim Trail. Following the West Rim Trail the Zion Traverse takes the Wildcat Canyon Trail followed by a short connector trail to get to the Hop Valley Trail on the Kolob Terrace. The route finishes at the Lee Pass trailhead on the western edge of Zion National Park.
Watch Hawks run – see video top of this report.
From the east entrance to the Zion Canyon floor the route has an elevation loss of approximately 7,000 feet and from the Zion Canyon floor to the Lee Pass trailhead the route has an elevation gain of approximately 10,000 feet, Hawks said.
On Zion, public lands and bringing the record home
Though his record-breaking run across Zion was as much about shattering personal records as anything else, Hawks said his run was really about raising awareness for national parks and public lands.
“I love our national parks and public lands,” Hawks said, “and I think sometimes they are underappreciated and I want to raise awareness about the need to love them and support them.”
In conjunction with his record, Hawks’ sponsor, Hoka One One, donated $10,000 to the National Park Foundation which is the official charity of the national parks and a nonprofit partner of the National Park Service.
Hawks said he sees his accomplishment as a way to bring the record home.
“(Zion) is our national park,” Hawks said, “and I wanted to use the talent that I have been blessed with to bring this record back to our community.”
Southwest-based photographer and videographer Derrick Lytle was able to capture the record breaking run on video and shared it with St. George News with the permission of Hoka One One. Lytle’s Instagram feed has additional documentation of Hawks’s feat.
Click on photo to enlarge it, then use your left-right arrow keys to cycle through the gallery.
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