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Eszter Horanyi Snags Women’s Unsupported FKT on Nolan’s 14 in Colorado

Ultrarunner and writer Eszter Horanyi recently set the women’s unsupported FKT on one of Colorado's most ferociously difficult routes.

a woman crosses a makeshift finish lineEszter Horanyi breaks the tape erected by friends for her Nolan’s 14 finish; (photo/Kevin Schmidt)
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A version of this story previously appeared on iRunFar.

This past weekend, endurance athlete and journalist Eszter Horanyi set a new women’s unsupported fastest known time (FKT) on the Nolan’s 14 route in Colorado’s Sawatch Mountains, in a time of 57 hours and 4 minutes — beating Sarah Hansel’s prior women’s unsupported record of 57:43 from 2020 by 39 minutes.

The route connects 14 mountains of 14,000 feet or more, takes in a total elevation gain in the region of 45,000 feet, and covers some 95 miles.

Horanyi, a writer and editor for GearJunkie’s sister site iRunFar, completed the route from south to north, from the Blank’s Cabin Trailhead to the Fish Hatchery Trailhead. She set off at 4 a.m. on Friday, September 8, and — in the spirit of an unsupported attempt — asked well-wishers not to come out to meet her along the route, but to follow along at her tracker link instead.

Friends waited to greet her at Fish Hatchery Trailhead on Sunday afternoon, and they were not disappointed, as she arrived smiling and with a comfortable margin on the record.

Horanyi is well-known in competitive bike riding and racing, where she spent many years executing multiday records on two wheels. Notable parts of her bike-racing resume include prior women’s speed records on the Tour Divide route and Colorado Trail. She’s been mountain running and ultrarunning since 2017.

How She Prepped

About the buildup to and inspiration for her run, Horanyi later told iRunFar:

“The Nolan’s 14 line has been one of those sticky ideas that has been living rent-free in my head for well over a decade, and regardless of how hard I tried to kick it out, it never left permanently. I’ve spent at least a few days each summer of the past decade scouting various parts of it, I paced Meghan [Hicks] for two mountains on her [then] FKT run in 2020, but the variables never really lined up to give it a proper nudge until now. I never actually thought I could pull it off, but I had end-of-summer fitness, I had a two-week window with no real plans (the universe did not manifest me a hot man who wanted to go adventuring each day), and I had a really great friend in Meghan who helped me with some of the route details. I spent six days re-recce-ing over the course of a week, took four days off, and then sent it like a squirrel. Full flying leap, hope for the best.”

Eszter Horanyi on the summit of Mount Tabeguache during her Nolan’s 14 women’s unsupported FKT; (photo/Eszter Horanyi)

Horanyi, who attributes most of the “blame” for her desire to complete the Nolan’s 14 to her friend and iRunFar’s own Meghan Hicks, said the best part of her outing was “getting up La Plata Peak at sunset after the second day. The last time I’d been up there was when I was pacing Meghan during her [then] FKT on the route in 2020, and the timing of the day was somewhat similar, and it just felt very special and magic.”

Eszter Horanyi has a well-earned lie down after finishing the Nolan’s 14; (photo/Kevin Schmidt)

She went on, “I had a bit of a rough patch on Mount Elbert. The sleep deprivation got to me, and I wasn’t entirely sure where I was or what I was doing. I just knew I was doing an FKT, and for some reason it was really important to me…I got super disoriented a little ways after that and actually quit the whole endeavor while laying in my bivy in a pile of rocks. But the wind woke me up an hour later, and the sun was up, and I realized that if I hustled, I could still maybe get the FKT.”

Horanyi says she feels “surprisingly okay” right now, and the rest of the team at iRunFar can’t wait to see what she gets up to next. Congratulations, Eszter!

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