> Fastest Known Times > Iron Horse Trail

Iron Horse Trail

June 4, 2020
27 miles
3 hours, 49 minutes, 07 seconds
Pleasanton to Concord, California


This was my first ever Fastest Known Time (FKT) attempt. Three other people had already set times for this route, and fortunately I had a good enough of day to beat them.

The Iron Horse Trail is very fast for running: It's flat, paved, smooth, and wide. It also has a gradual net downhill from Pleasanton to Concord. About the only thing to slow you down are the dozens of road crossings along the route.

The route is 27 miles long (for the currently built contiguous part of the trail... at some future point the trail may be made longer). On previous workouts I'd prescouted the first 6.4 miles of the route, as well at the last 11.4 miles. Only the middle section would be new to me, but I'd studied it on Google Maps and it was straightforward enough.

I ran the course unsupported, so I didn't receive any additional food or water during the run. I didn't even use any public restrooms or water fountains along the way (I suspect many of them were closed anyway due to the pandemic).

My gear for the run:

  • Asics GT-2000 7 Trail shoes
  • Fox River socks
  • Running shorts
  • Performance t-shirt, with a makeshift pocket on the front
  • Garmin Fenix 3 GPS wristwatch
  • Backup Timex wristwatch
  • Pixel 4 XL cellphone
  • Bottle filled with Gatorade mixed with water
  • 1 granola bar
  • 6 ibuprofen tablets
  • Toilet paper
  • Route notes/pace chart
  • Headlamp

What went well:

  • Starting at 2am:
    • Made for cooler weather
    • Less waiting at the road crossing for vehicles
    • Less pedestrian/bike traffic to dodge on the trail
    • Easier to take urination breaks without needing to find privacy
  • I picked a night with a close-to-full moon, which helped illuminate the trail
  • I originally planned to attempt this run on June 6, but the weekend turned out to be windy, so I moved the date up
  • I studied the map well enough ahead of time to avoid making any wrong turns along the way
  • I was able to empty my bowels before starting, so I didn't have to worry about that mid-run
  • My pace chart helped give me confidence that I was staying ahead of schedule
  • I didn't encounter any over-zealous police officers enforcing the curfews that were in effect for some of the towns I was running through.
  • I paced my run surprisingly well:
    • I only slowed down a bit near the end
    • Then the sun started coming up and that motivated me to speed up again for a nice sprint to the finish line
    • I managed to run every mile split in under nine minutes, even including stops
    • I was able to maintain a jogging pace, and never walk, for the entire distance

What went ever-so-slightly sub-optimally:

  • It was still pretty warm and humid at 2am, so I was sweating for the first hour of the run
  • I hadn't tapered as well as I'd planned leading up to this, since I moved up the date at the last minute. But somehow the lack of tapering didn't seem to affect my performance much.
  • I dropped my phone at one point, so I had to briefly stop and pick it up
  • I had to wait for traffic briefly at Monument Boulevard (but that was the only road crossing where I had to wait for traffic, so I really can't complain)
  • My selfie picture taking skills suck (especially when it's dark and I'm running)... I only managed to take four pictures (where you can see anything worthwhile)

Nutrition, hydration, medication:

  • I applied vaseline before the run
  • I took three ibuprofen about an hour into the run, and then another three about two hours into the run
  • I ate the granola bar about 1.5 hours into the run
  • I sipped the water/gatorade occasionally from the beginning, and then had larger drinks with the ibuprofen and granola bar. I finished the bottle and threw it away about 2.5 hours in and finished without any more nutrition/hydration.

Wildlife spotted:

  • Several skunks, mostly between Alamo Creek Trail and Alcosta Boulevard. Fortunately none of them sprayed me!
  • Several deer, between Danville and Walnut Heights
  • One cat, who didn't think I could see him but his glowing eyes reflecting my headlamp gave him away

Thanks to:

  • John R. Hanson, for creating this FKT route
  • John Minkema and Blair Howard, for improving the FKT time (while still keeping it within reach!)
  • Peter Bakwin, for verifying my submission for the FKT website
  • The Fastest Known Time website, for giving us fun goals to chase
  • My sister Marcy, who has done so many FKTs that it inspired me to try one
  • My girlfriend Jane, for being my shuttle driver and providing emotional support


Pictures from the run:

1:57am, counting down to the 2am start of the run, at the southern tip of the trail, in Pleasanton.

2:32am, on the pedestrian bridge just after Alamo Creek Trail.
Yeah, my "selfie" skills suck.
I'll spare you the rest of the pictures I took where you can't really see anything.

4:50am, on the pedestrian bridge crossing over Ygnacio Valley Road.

5:01am, on the pedestrian bridge crossing over Treat Boulevard.

5:50am, just after finishing the run, at the northern tip of the trail, in Concord.