Karel Sabbe has made a habit out of running extreme distances in record time. In recent years he's set FKTs for both the Appalachian Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail and won the infamous 'race with no end' known as Big's Backyard Ultra after logging 502km in 75 hours.
On top of this, the Belgian dentist and father was also the last runner standing at the 2019 edition of the famed Barkley Marathons – described by Runner's World as "arguably the craziest race in the world." It's a good description, as Karel seems to thrive on what others might call crazy.
In fact, for him, running like this represent a kind of solace. A reset button. An escape from the hectic nature of everyday life and a reminder of what it's all about.
For his most recent achievement, Karel averaged just over 87km every day to cover the 2650km Via Alpina trail in 30 days, 8 hours and 57 minutes. This stat alone suggests how hard he had to work, as 87km would be an impressive weekly (or, let's be honest, biweekly) total distance for most runners.
In fact, it's safe to say that most people couldn't run 87km in a day once, never mind doing it every day for 30 days on some of the most demanding mountain trails on Earth.
The Via Alpina is a network of five long-distance hiking trails, spanning eight countries. It’s known for being easy on the eyes but much harder on the body – even at significantly slower speeds than Karel favors.
So, the incredibly demanding physical nature of running such distances is (maybe) a little easier to imagine than the mental side. The sheer amount of strength of mind and willpower required to run all day, every day for a month, is harder to grasp.
A versatile trail running shoe with unbeatable traction made for all-terrain adventures. Ultra cushioned and ultra-comfortable.
Kitted out in On apparel and wearing the Cloudultra, Karel started his journey in Trieste, Italy, on 7 July, 2021. En route to the final destination of Monaco, he passed through Italy, Slovenia, Austria, Germany, Lichtenstein, France and, our home country, Switzerland, before arriving as planned on 6 August. Tired but triumphant.
It's not the first time Karel has done something remarkable, but it is the first time he's let us tag along. In an attempt to capture what it takes to complete such an epic journey, we sent a camera crew off with him with a mission to document as much as possible for an unprecedented look at what it takes to achieve an FKT. Our new film, Solace, is the result.