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Ultra-Runner Karl Meltzer Breaks Appalachian Trail Record

karl meltzer training appalachian trailMeltzer trains for his second attempt at the Appalachian Trail thru-hike speed record / Red Bull Media House
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Update: It took 45 days, 22 hours, and 38 minutes, but today (Sunday, September 18, 2016) ultra-runner Karl Meltzer broke the record for the fastest supported thru-hike/run of the Appalachian Trail.

Meltzer Appalachian Trail Record Attempt
Meltzer trains for his attempt at the Appalachian Trail thru-hike speed record / Red Bull Media House

Meltzer started the quest at the top of Mount Katahdin in Maine more than a month ago. He ran an average of about 48 miles per day to reach the end of the 2,190-mile trail at Springer Mountain in Georgia.

A crew followed the veteran ultrarunner in a van and aided at trail/road junctions and trailheads with support. Meltzer’s feat was documented on a microsite and sponsored by Red Bull, among other brands.

The record follows a few other high-profile FKTs (fastest known times) set on thru-hikes in the U.S., including supported and un-supported treks of the Appalachian and Pacific Crest Trails.

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Meltzer, age 48, had attempted an Appalachian Trail speed-hike two times before. This weekend, to make it in time, he skipped sleep on the final night to pound out about 85 miles to the end.

His final time — 45 days, 22 hours, and 38 minutes — beats Scott Jurek’s 2015 record by just 10 hours.

Map of the Appalachian Trail
Map of the Appalachian Trail / Red Bull Media House

Congrats to Meltzer on the fast-hiking feat. See more details on Meltzer’s Facebook page and the Red Bull microsite on the hike/run.

The Back Story: Karl Meltzer Appalachian Trail Record Attempt

Article originally published July, 2016.

World champion ultrarunner Karl Meltzer, a.k.a. ‘Speedgoat,’ takes to the Appalachian Trail next month to try and dethrone Scott Jurek with the fastest thru-hike along the famed route.

karl meltzer

Beginning in early August, Meltzer, age 48, will embark from the north trailhead at Mt. Katahdin in Maine on the 2,200-mile thru-hike record attempt.

He will receive food and camp support from a team that will include Jurek, whose record Meltzer will attempt to topple.

Meltzer, who owns more 100-mile race wins than anyone on the planet, has to reach the south trailhead in Fanin County, Ga., in under 46 days, 8 hours, and 7 minutes.

In May, we reported that Dale Sanders, known as the Greybeard Adventurer, will attempt to become the oldest person to hike the length of the Appalachian Trail. As Sanders begins his hike north in September, there’s a good chance he’ll see Meltzer racing south toward the finish of his second AT record attempt.

Meltzer and his team pour over this year's route and plan / Red Bull Media House
Meltzer and his team pore over this year’s route and plan / Red Bull Media House

“In 2008, we basically winged it by looking at maps,” Meltzer told us of his previous attempt to set the AT record. His 54-day, end-to-end trek put him at fourth fastest all time.

“I’ve done a lot of recon, [taken] notes, and more hiking on the trail. I know every location exactly,” he said. His confidence is evident, but the task before him is monumental, not least because he is six years Jurek’s senior, just shy of 50.

The Rigors Of The Record

With 38 total 100-mile race wins (and a successful run across the 2,064-mile Pony Express route from California to Missouri, among other feats), Meltzer knows the endurance game inside and out. He is well aware of his body and mind’s needs. Here’s what his AT run will require:

Karl Meltzer's AT Record At A Glance

  • 14 states
  • 2,190 miles (50 miles/day)
  • 391,000 calories (8,500 per day while running)
  • 18 pairs of shoes
  • 3 iPod shuffles (690 hours of Grateful Dead music)
  • 465,000 feet of elevation gain + loss

Meltzer will burn through 18 pairs of running shoes along the 2,190-mile Appalachian Trail / Red Bull Media House
Meltzer will burn through 18 pairs of running shoes along the 2,190-mile Appalachian Trail / Red Bull Media House

Here’s the gear he’ll use to make all that happen:

Karl Meltzer's AT Gear

  • First Endurance EFS gels
  • First Endurance Ultragen Recovery drink. “It is gold in a bucket.”
  • Sennheiser sport headphones
  • Casio F-91 watch
  • Drymax “Speedgoat”-brand Drymax socks
  • Ultraspire packs: The Alpha / “Speedgoat” Model waist pack
  • Ultraspire water bottles
  • Patagonia silkweight shirts
  • Hoka Shorts
  • Hoka One shoes – “Speedgoat” model
  • Red Bull (apprx. 138 total cans)
  • Ryders Eyewear Sunglasses
  • REI bike gloves
  • SPOT tracker
  • Bodyglide Lube / Squirrel Nut Butter Lube
  • NUUN electrolyte tablets
  • Fish Oil as a supplement

Eating For The Record

  • Light breakfast: Eggs and bacon, fruit, or yogurt
  • 2nd breakfast (on the trail): Pancakes, crepes, waffles, French toast
  • Portable power foods (every half hour): Sandwiches, quesadillas, fruit
  • Throughout the day: Energy drinks, supplements, and power gels
  • Post-run: High-calorie recovery shake
  • Dinner: Steak and potatoes, pasta, salmon and veggies, ice cream (no nuts)

FKT And Age

Meltzer’s try for the fastest known time on the AT will pit him against himself and the clock. Unlike a sanctioned ultra race, where competitors pass, push, and pace one another, this run is a man against himself and the terrain.

“Only we can dictate our pace and effort,” he said of FKT attempts. “That’s the most challenging thing of all. It’s primarily a race against ourselves.”

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According to Meltzer, that kind of challenge may not be easier with age, but it’s by no means impossible.

“At older age, we recover slower, so there is a fine line of each person’s limit,” he said. “[But] none of the hiking or jogging is at a max heart rate, so even someone at age 60 could do this in 46 days.”

That’s encouraging news for Speedgoat, and for Greybeard.

–Follow Meltzer’s FKT attempt in real time on his Appalachian Trail Run Tracker.

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