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High Country Running: A fine time on the Fearsome Four

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Austin Horn

Austin Horn speeds down the Humphreys Trail on his way to setting a Fastest Known Time record for the Flagstaff Fearsome Four on Oct. 8.

Ludo Pierson sent out the announcement on Facebook: “Congratulations to Austin Horn from Flagstaff for bringing the course record for the Flagstaff Fearsome 4 challenge back to Flagstaff.”

On Oct. 8, 2021, Horn set the challenge’s Fastest Known Time of 5:37:50, breaking the previous FKT by nearly 13 minutes. Check out his Strava record:

Imagine summitting Humphreys, O’Leary, Elden and Kendrick peaks (in any order), starting and finishing at the trailhead for each. To earn the “ultrarunner” badge, the Flagstaff Fearsome Four must be completed within one day (hikers and regular runners get two days).

We’re talking about 34 miles and more than 10,307 feet of elevation gain. Only the athlete’s elapsed time is recorded, not the time it takes to travel from one start to the next.

Amy Horn, a runner and professional photographer (and Austin’s proud mom), staked out the Humphreys trail that day, camera in hand. She told me Austin was moving with such speed that “he was hard to photograph because he kept sneaking up on me on the trail!”

Austin’s run came at the end of a summer of mountain races: Tushars Mountain Runs Marathon (second place), The Rut 50K (seventh) and the Imogene Pass Run (fifth). When we talked, he surprised me by saying the Fearsome Four required harder effort.

“One of the big challenges was trying to recover as much as possible in 1.5 to 2 hours between the different peaks,” he explained. “It was a difficult balancing act, trying to run hard on every peak, still save a little energy for the next peak(s), eat plenty of food to fuel my effort, but also try not to eat too much to sabotage the next run.”

I asked Austin, “Why now?” He said because this challenge is right here at home, he’d always pushed it back until “after this next race.” When a hole opened in his racing calendar this September, he knew the time had come.

During his FKT attempt, it was so windy atop Humphreys that “I struggled just trying to stay upright and had to basically crawl to get off the summit.”

Running through wind and rain on tired legs made O’Leary his toughest peak. “But I knew I could still get the record if I just continued pushing through to the end. Fortunately I banked enough extra time on the first three peaks that I didn’t need to run an amazing time on O’Leary. I just needed to get through it without falling apart and slowing down too much.”

I asked Austin what advice he would give others attempting the Fearsome Four. “I didn’t want to run in the dark at all, so I fit all four runs into a 12-hour window,” he said. “I think if someone wanted a great shot at the record, spreading out the runs a bit more to get just a little more rest and recovery could be very helpful.”

He added, “Make sure you’re having fun with it. Whether you’re just trying to complete the challenge or go for the record, if you’re not enjoying it then what’s the point?”

7 Fun Ways to Celebrate Halloween, By Staying In. It's that ghosts and goblins time of year again. With the lingering uncertainty of how the pandemic will unfold this fall, . you may be thinking you want to stay in for Halloween. Here are seven ways to monster-mash it up without leaving your home. 1, Have a spooky movie marathon. Halloween is the perfect occasion to watch your favorite horror movies back to back. . 2, Throw a jack-o-lantern party. Carving pumpkins is a great way to bring family and friends together on this spooky night. 3, Make some fall-themed crafts. Have fun and get creative by combining your Halloween and Thanksgiving crafts. 4, Shake up some Halloween cocktails. An adult Halloween-themed beverage can be the perfect solution for staying in. 5, Get creative with Halloween face-painting. Kids love face-painting and you can incorporate your creativity with your costume. 6, Wear a costume anyway. Just because you're staying in doesn't mean you can't celebrate the night. 7, Order takeout. Supporting your favorite local restaurant and delivery person is a perfect way to spend the night.

Send your running stories to coordinating editor Julie Hammonds ( For more information on the Fearsome Four, visit


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