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When Julie Wallace moved to Asheville, North Carolina at the beginning of the year, she started learning about her new home as one does. She opened her laptop and conducted a little internet research…on fastestknowntime.com. Her objective was simple – find local fastest known times devoid of a woman’s time on the record board. And then get to work rectifying that imbalance.
This strategy led to Julie setting the first woman’s known time on the Shining Rock Wilderness Ridge, a 17-mile out-and-back that traverses a spine in the Great Balsam Mountains, a subrange of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Western North Carolina. Those seven hours of sweating, navigating, and sucking down Spring Energy gels taught Julie quite a bit about her new home, including just how steep, technical, and arduous the Appalachians can be.
“I was humbled,” the fifth-generation Oregonian recalls on the FKT Podcast. “I didn’t know it was going to be that steep and rocky. There are big river rocks and lots of vegetation on the trail. And I was like, ‘when are these hills going to be over?’ It was much, much more difficult than what I had set out to do.”
Julie emerged with scrapes across her legs from bushwhacking along the relentlessly hilly and overgrown trail. And yet, her mind left the trail with a far less bloody imprint: “I felt like I was in a wonderful, magical place.”
Julie’s motivation to set a first woman’s time largely stems from Women Who FKT, a Pacific Northwest-based organization empowering women to go after FKTs and to flip the marked gender gap in FKT statistics.
“It’s always surprising to me how many [FKT] routes are out there, and how many routes don’t have a woman’s time,” Julie says.
A lifelong hiker and runner, Julie jumped into ultrarunning two years ago. Shining Rock marks her first unsupported FKT. (Julie and her friend Becky Grebosky created and set the FKT on the 38-mile Jack Ash-Sterling Mine Ditch Loop in southern Oregon in January.) At nearly 50 years old, Julie regrets not delving into the FKT scene several decades ago.
“I wonder if I had gotten bitten by the [FKT] bug earlier, would I have been like all of these young people who are much younger and getting after it?” Julie asks.
But Julie doesn’t dwell on the past. She believes everyone’s journey is purposeful, and she’s harnessing her unique path to motivate herself and others.
“Back in my twenties, I didn’t have the confidence to out into the forest by myself. That was something that was extremely terrifying to me,” Julie says. “I didn’t get that done back then, but hey I’m one of the older women that go after these FKTs. Look, that’s really cool and you can too. Just because we’re getting older and just because maybe our body doesn’t work the same way does not mean that we still can’t get after things.”
Get the full lowdown on Julie’s Shining Rock Wilderness FKT by tuning into her conversation with host (and FKT legend) Heather Anderson on the FKT Podcast, and by reading her trip report on fastestknowntime.com.