Run Every Mountain: How Ty Andrews is Shattering Trail Running Records Across the Globe

Run Every Mountain: How Ty Andrews is Shattering Trail Running Records Across the Globe

By Tyler Marshall

There were a lot of dark moments. There was a lot of doubt. Recovery after surgery took a ton of focus. But that’s why Ojos was special. It was special because grabbing the FKT showed that I hadn’t just returned to the level I’d been at before. I’m stronger than I was.

On March 17, 2024, renowned trail runner Ty Andrews set the FKT on a distant Chilean mountain called Ojos del Salado. 

“FKT” stands for "fastest known time." An FKT is a big deal for any mountain in the trail running community, but achieving the fastest time ever on the dry, barren, volcanic terrain of Ojos del Salado is particularly impressive. 

I recently caught up with Ty Andrews to ask about his FKT on Ojos del Salado. We also discussed his running journey, recent achilles surgery, future plans, and more.

Ty is from Concord, Massachusetts. He didn’t get into running until he was a senior in high school. Prior to that he described himself as  a “musician and writer, more of an artist type, and also kind of a hippy.” He said this with a wry smile. To me, these descriptions seem to still be true, at least in spirit.

Ty Andrews trail runner

Ty got into track late, starting as a senior in high school. He did well enough in that lone season to compete collegiately at a DIII school. After college, he took a gap year to live abroad. He spent the year cleaning toilets in Ecuador and running hard (I’m not convinced that this is as romantic as it sounds…).

However, one can’t question the results. Ty returned from Ecuador, and ran an impressive 2:21 marathon at the Boston Marathon in 2014. This was his debut. A small brand by the name of Hoka decided to give Ty a small contract to run professionally. He spent the next eight or so years running road and track races.

Then as occurred to so many others, Ty’s plans were changed in 2020 with the Covid-19 Pandemic. All of his races were postponed or canceled.

This took him to the mountains.

Ty Andrews trail runner

As a way to earn money from his sponsors, Ty decided to attempt an FKT in a place he’d come to know well: the Cotopaxi volcano in Ecuador.

He’d stumbled across this aspect of competitive running by accident. Turned out he was he was a world-class athlete in trail running.

More importantly, he found that he loved it.

Over the next couple of years, he went on a bit of a rampage, setting FKTs on Mt. Kilimanjaro, Mt. Aconcagua, Mt. Fuji, and many other notable mountains and places.

I asked Ty what his favorite FKT is. For the first time, he stumbled over his words. Perhaps it’s because he has so many to think through, or because he loves them all in different ways. In any case, he settled on his back-to-back FKTs on Aconcagua and Kilimijaro, calling them “really special.” He ran these only three weeks apart!

The Aconcagua attempt is something that he describes as “taking years of preparation.” By contrast, he decided at the very last second to go for Kilimanjaro. He “rode the fitness training for Aconcagua to get Kilimanjaro.” 

As impressive as those feats were, "the Ojos attempt might be the most meaningful," he says quietly. "It was one of my best marks I’ve put up, and was post-injury.”

Ty’s training is very dialed in. He describes himself as “meticulous and a total control freak.” He has a degree in engineering. This comes across in his attention to detail, and his intensity. FKTs appeal to him because he’s able to construct the process. As opposed to a race, an FKT allows an athlete to set their own start time. They can also decide how much, if any, aid they want, including where that aid is placed. They promote creativity, and problem solving -- skills in which Ty is a master.

I asked Ty what he’s learned from doing FKTs across the world. He spoke about “spending the majority of five to 10 years outside of the US. It’s taught me what I actually value and need. It’s remarkable how different life can be outside the US. Seeing this has helped me to simplify.” He also stressed that “the stories are the things I remember most.” This is clear. While still relatively young, Ty carries the gravitas of an old story teller.

I asked Ty more about the Ojos attempt. Ojos del Salado is a volcano in Chile. It’s the second tallest mountain outside of the Himalayas! It sits at over 22,000 feet above sea level (6800 meters)! Ty was positively geeky about this mountain. He described it as “big. Powerful, and tall. It’s special, but so empty. No one is ever up there! The Atacama [desert region] is a hidden gem.”

There are two distinct FKTs on this mountain: a long and a short. The long course starts at the entrance to the park in which Ojos resides. It’s around 34 miles. The short route starts at the base camp on the lower part of the mountain. It ends at the top. The route is just under four and a half miles, and features 5,200 feet of vertical gain. This is especially rugged when you consider that the short attempt starts at around 17,000 feet above sea level.

Ty had previously set the FKT on the short course as a split while doing the long course. Thus he knew that he had so much more to give on the short FKT. But, in the interim between 2021 and this past March, two different people had set new FKTs on the short Ojos route! One was a mountain guide, Sebastian Hurtado, and the other was his friend Chris Fisher. Ty’s original time was 4:01. Sebastian dropped that to 3:25, and Chris set the bar even higher at 3:09. Ty felt confident that he could set a sub-3 hour time on it.

However, there was one problem: Ty had an achilles heel which could derail the entire attempt. He had undergone surgery on his achilles tendon in December of 2023, just three months before the FKT push was to take place! He had had a bone spur issue that got so bad that it prevented him from running on it.

Ty’s surgery was successful. But, he didn’t know what these events would mean for his long term ability to run at the highest levels of competition. Facing an unknown, Ty went to work with Ojos in mind. He committed to the grind of rehab and physical therapy. He spent 10 plus hours in PT each week. He hopped on his stationary bike as soon as he was allowed. He could feel his fitness improving. But he didn’t know if he would be able to translate these gains to the top tier level of running required to nab the FKT on Ojos.

By February, he was back on two feet, and starting to run. Ty worked. He continued rehabbing. He arrived in Chile at the end of February. He felt at peace knowing he’d done everything he could. All he could do now was acclimatize, and get ready to run.

After discussing this buildup in great detail, Ty was very direct about the actual attempt. His quick descriptions made me feel that the actual running on this mountain was sacred. Something occurred up there that is just for him. This is something that happens to me from time to time regarding my time in the mountains. Some experiences can only be felt --not explained.

On March 17th, 2024, Ty toed the line at the base of Ojos del Salado. He breathed, in, and out. He looked up at the dramatic mountain above him. Surely the rehab process weighed heavily upon him somewhere. All he had to do was get to the top --get to the top faster than anyone before him. He breathed again. Then he started his watch, and tore off into the barren desert of the Chilean Atacama. Would today be his day?

Within 15 minutes Ty knew that it would be his day. He grinned. He glided over the technical terrain, breathing evenly. He climbed and climbed. The air got thinner, but his effort never did. Ty arrived at the summit in a remarkable time of 2:22. He’d beaten the previous record by over 45 minutes. He ran down the mountain elated. (His roundtrip time was about 3:30.)

He was 91 days post-achilles surgery. Ty is rightfully proud of this achievement. As stout as this time is, I was surprised to read the challenge he issued on his Instagram account. He said, “I’d love to see some of the guys I see as the best in the world take a crack at this one… but I honestly feel like this will be very hard to beat.”

I asked him if he didn't think that this was a little bit precocious. He responded calmly: “I know exactly what the time means. It’s an outlier. It’s objectively difficult. I don’t think anyone can beat it right now. It was one of those days where I surprised myself, and I don’t think I could just go and do it again tomorrow. It was special.” He went on to say, “There were a lot of dark moments. There was a lot of doubt. Recovery after surgery took a ton of focus. But that’s why Ojos was special. It was special because grabbing the FKT showed that I hadn’t just returned to the level I’d been at before. I’m stronger than I was.”

Since March 17th, Ty has run an ultramarathon in Nepal. He’s already getting ready to attempt FKTs on more of the biggest mountains in the world.

Ty Andrews is the head coach and founder of Chaski Endurance Collective. Ty’s adventures can be followed on his personal Instagram and Strava accounts.

Back to blog

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.