Joe ‘Stringbean’ McConaughy, a well-known speed hiker, set a new record on the Appalachian Trail today. He hiked the 2,190-mile route in an unofficial fastest known time (FKT) of 45 days, 12 hours, 15 minutes.
McConaughy’s hike began the trail on July 17th at 6:31 a.m. EST, in Georgia (South to North). If verified by community-recognized officials who manage FKTs (and it likely will be), Stringbean’s hike beats both the self-supported and supported records.
His new unofficial record would beat the old record of 54 days set by Heather “Anish” Anderson by an astounding nine days.
Maybe more remarkably, it also means that, under his own power and without outside support, McConaughy beat renowned ultrarunner Karl Meltzer’s record set in 2016 of 45 days, 22 hours, and 38 minutes. His effort raises the bar on through-hiking speed to an almost unfathomable level.
He averaged about 50 miles per day without outside assistance. Epic.
Who Is Stringbean?
While his hike went on without the fanfare of Meltzer’s 2016 supported hike (in which ultra-runner Scott Jurek provided support), McConaughy is well known.
In 2014, he smashed the record on the Pacific Crest Trail, finishing the 2,660-mile journey in just 53 days, 6 hours and 37 minutes. He was 23 years old at the time.
He was also a Div. 1 collegiate runner. He competed in cross country and track and field for Boston College. He ran several events from the 800 meters to the 3,000 meters steeplechase.
Stringbean dedicated the PCT FKT to his cousin Colin McConaughy, who passed away on January 12, 2012, at the age of two after a short battle with Neuroblastoma.
Today, the 26-year-old from Seattle has earned a reputation for superhuman endurance.
He announced his intentions to attempt the FKT as per protocol on FKT Proboards. He also provided GearJunkie with a private link to his SPOT GPS tracking device for verification of his endeavor.
It must be noted that the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC), the management organization of the trail, does not recognize any speed records. Hikers and fans keep these unofficially.
Before GPS, speed records were simply taken at word. Today, the modern era requires documentation. False claims have cast shadows on the activity, and the onus of proof now falls on the hiker. In this case, it appears that Stringbean amassed a strong body of evidence supporting his record claim.
Stringbean’s new record shatters previous FKT’s. Previously, Heather “Anish” Anderson held the FKT for a self-supported through hike in 54 days. She still holds the women’s FKT for a women’s self-supported hike.
Earlier this summer, Dan “Knotts” Binde claimed a new record of 53 days, 22 hours, 57 minutes. However, his hike came with an asterisk. Binde’s GPS verification lacked some details. Peter Bakwin, manager of the FKT Proboards, wrote a 10-page report explaining why the record was not verified. But at this point, this record is moot, crushed by Stringbean’s epic hike.
Stringbean also beat Meltzer’s supported time. However, this was an self-supported hike, so Meltzer’s time remains as the fastest supported hike.
That said, even Meltzer cheered for Stringbean’s success as he neared the end of the epic endeavor. He wrote the following on Stringbean’s instagram:
meltzerkarl finishing time prediction: 11:24pm Thursday night. Don’t let me down Stringbean, get that shit. My time to the Kennebec was 2 days, 15 hours, so he’s got it as long as nothing stupid happens. almost out of the junk, if not already.
AT FKT: What It Takes
Day 24: Conodoguinet Creek (1132.9) to Remnants of Yellow Springs Village (1171.7). 14:54/39.8 miles. Today was a battle. This is how I felt ha. With my right leg now cleared up from the swelling, my left quad joined the action. Had to start walking after 10 miles and just trudged. Hoping this is nothing more than a short hold up. It seems identical to my other injury but with no swelling. I’m calling it #deflategate, thank you @kylerevitt . . #thestringbean #appalachiantrail #fastestknowntime #hikertrash #heartbreakhillrc #trailanimaltunningclub #everybodyrun Please note that all posts have been backdated to deter any assistance on the trail, as that would jeopardize the self supported rule
Those who have hiked long trails like the Appalachian Trail watch in wonder at those who can speed over the rugged terrain at such a blazing pace. Many also wonder why they’d bother. As setting FKT’s misses the point of hiking these places, where slowing down and enjoying the view is the essence of the adventure.
Most hikers take three to four months to complete the Appalachian Trail. Each year, thousands of people begin hiking it. Only one in four completes the journey.
Day 16: Daleville, VA (727.1) to Harrison Ground Springs Campground (771.8). 14:40/44.7 miles. INJURY UPDATE ?: so, my knee is now swollen and not letting me run. So I took the day of running – and hiked instead! It is amazing what you can accomplish when you are diligent and directed, although some easy terrain in the first half helped! I put in maybe 10-20 minutes total of running towards the end of the day, so we will see how tomorrow turns out. Which leg is tweaked? How much do you have to want it? . . #thestringbean #appalachiantrail #fastestknowntime #hikertrash #heartbreakhillrc #trailanimaltunningclub #everybodyrun Please note that all posts have been backdated to deter any assistance on the trail, as that would jeopardize the self supported rules
So a speed hike is far outside the norm. It’s an undertaking that shows remarkable human endurance and mental fortitude. It’s a different beast entirely than a standard through-hike, but one we watch in awe.
Completing the trail at 50 miles per day is next-level endurance. Doing it self-supported, just a man and the trail, boggles the mind.
Congrats to Stringbean on this accomplishment. We’ll watch to see if Bakwin verifies this attempt. If he does, it’s one of the great adventure milestones of the year.