With his 310-mile self-supported speed hike, Ajay Pickett now holds the overall fastest known time along the northern Minnesota trail. That’s even with breaking his leg days before the finish.
Finishing a long-distance thru-hike usually comes with some gnarly, if harmless, anatomical woes. Purple toenails, scabbed feet, and swollen joints serve as temporary, inconvenient war wounds from days or weeks hiking through the wilderness.
But when 32-year-old Ajay Pickett slapped the sign marking the southern terminus of the Superior Hiking Trail last week, he did so limping on a red, swollen leg he called “barely tolerable.”
“My right leg is not good — I hope it’s just shin splints,” he confessed in a video journal some 50 miles from the finish. “I can barely do a mile an hour.”
Still, Pickett popped some Advil, made what pace he could, and finished the 310-mile hike in 7 days, 20 hours, 56 minutes. His time bested that of Mike Ward, the previous self-supported record-holder, by more than 10 hours. Even more impressive, a follow-up at the doctor revealed Pickett probably suffered a hairline fracture in his leg on day five of his attempt, according to the Duluth News Tribune.
So despite slowing from a 4-mph pace down to just 1, Pickett gritted through the final 56 miles in excruciating pain to take the record.
“The pain was like an eight or a nine,” Pickett told the Tribune. “I’m thinking, ‘Am I done?’ So I decided to take it one step at a time.”
Superior Hiking Trail FKT With Fractured Leg
Despite what would almost certainly be an attempt-ending injury for most people, Pickett soldiered on — and did so with apparent glee. Pickett’s photos from the trail all show him sporting a merry grin.
“It comes back to one thing: being grateful,” he said in a video post hours before the finish. “There’s so many things that I feel I have to be grateful for in this life and on this trip.”
Pickett announced his intent on FastestKnownTime.com, verified his progress with a Garmin Forerunner 935, and made regular video and photo uploads. He set off on Wednesday, Sept. 5, near the Canada-U.S. border and traveled south.
He reached the southern terminus at 4:07 a.m. on Sept. 13, just under eight days later. Pickett did the hike self-supported, meaning he didn’t receive outside aid from others.
In addition to the self-supported record, Pickett’s time also stands as the overall Superior Hiking Trail FKT, ahead of Jeremy Platson’s (supported) FKT of 8 days, 2 hours, 35 minutes.