Over Christmas, Army veteran and Durango, Colorado, resident Kyle Curtin returned home to Asheville, N.C., to visit with his parents. During the break, the 34-year-old managed to squeeze in a brisk ultra-trail marathon between the peaks of Mount Pisgah and Mount Mitchell along the Mountains-to-Sea Trail.
The 62-mile jaunt, more affectionately known as Pitchell, takes runners through treacherous single-track trails through the mountains, climbing more than 14,000 feet.
Curtin crushed it.
According to the Citizen Times, Curtin set out at 5 a.m. on Dec. 21, the winter solstice and shortest day of the year. He finished 11 hours, 47 minutes and 18 seconds later, setting a new record for the run and beating the former fastest record by more than 32 minutes. Curtin is the first runner in history to complete Pitchell in less than 12 hours.
“I didn’t know it as well as I thought. I’d been on Mount Pisgah (elevation 5,721 feet) before and I’ve been up Mitchell (6,684 feet) before and I’ve done a couple small segments around the Folk Art Center,” Curtin said. “But a lot of it was newer to me than I thought.”
Even though he was running on new territory, Curtin was able to prepare for Pitchel and stay the course with the help of his father Paul and a smart watch.
“I wasn’t real optimistic at the start, but once I got down to the (French Broad) river, that was the first time I checked my splits against Shaun Pope’s record from March of 2019. Strava (a running app) said I was 20 seconds away from his time,” Kyle said. “I was pretty much right on pace at the bottom of the river. From there, things got a lot smoother and just kept getting better.”
Curtin was previously accompanied by his father, a Carolina Mountain Club trail maintainer, on the 2,000-mile hike along the Appalachian Trail in 2015. Throughout the Pitchel run, Paul Curtin met his son at each crossing with food, water and supplies.
When he met his son for the final supply hand-off, Paul had to race a bit himself.
“I took the backpack he needed for the final 17 miles from Potato Field to the summit and rode it up there on his mountain bike,” Paul said. “Little did I realize I had to go up 1,500 feet in elevation! I rode as hard as I could and only beat him up there by about 10 minutes.”
Curtin reached peak of Mount Mitchell at about 4:40 p.m. It wasn’t covered with cheering spectators. There were no motivational banners waving along the way. Curtin didn’t even get a T-shirt to commemorate the event.
He ran Pitchell for the sheer fun of it, and for the opportunity to spend time with his dad.
“I definitely appreciate all the help from my dad, not only during the day, but that he’s a super knowledgeable person about the whole route and was just a critical part of doing the run,” Kyle said. “My dad maintains the Mountains-to-Sea Trail between the two mountains, so it was kind of cool to be able to run something that he takes care of.”Whizzco