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Hermantown ultramarathoner, 69, got his Superior trail speed mark. Sleep, not so much.

Minneapolis Star Tribune logo Minneapolis Star Tribune 6/11/2020 By Bob Timmons, Star Tribune

Even with the ticks, black flies, sleep deprivation, blisters, and 310 miles of unrelenting terrain, Michael Koppy had a time on the Superior Hiking Trail.

The Hermantown man set the new speed record (with support) by a trail runner  – a standard known in the outdoors world as the “fastest known time” or FKT. He left the northern terminus on the U.S.-Canada border on May 29 and finished five days, three hours and 44 minutes later at the trail’s southern point near the Wisconsin border and Jay Cooke State Park in Carlton, Minn.

While Koppy, 69, had hoped to complete the attempt in just under four days, he beat the previous mark (six days, eight hours, 30 minutes) by more than a day.

More than a week later, Koppy said he has mostly recovered from the intense endurance run, which tracked out at more than 70,000 feet of elevation by the end.

“The thing I have not recovered from is the sleep deprivation,” said Koppy, who has been catching up these days with frequent naps.

Koppy ran the first full day without sleeping. His strategy then was to get an hour in the morning and an hour at night, but that plan fell apart as the miles stacked up. By the fourth day, fatigued and at times hallucinating, Koppy and his crew realized he should have built in more sleep. He snagged some naps on-trail, but ended up with only about 8 ½ hours all told.

“(The trail) is so rugged. It’s either rocks, roots or mud. And there are so few sections where one of those three are not there.

“One of the hardest parts about this whole thing was the mental concentration. I have to watch every step that I take, and I can never let that down. If I do, I’m going to fall,” he said.

Koppy was a pleased with a second success: His FKT raised money for the Superior Hiking Trail Association, which like so many others has felt the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. A little more than $20,000 was collected -- Koppy matched $7,500 in donations and an additional $5,000 came in in support.


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