Ultrarunner Karl Meltzer set a new supported speed record for the Appalachian Trail on Sunday, September 18, completing his southbound trek in 45 days, 22 hours, and 38 minutes. His new mark shaves more than ten hours off the previous record, set by Scott Jurek in 2015.
Meltzer, 48, had made two previous attempts at the record before Sunday’s success, trying and coming up short in 2008 and 2014. Setting out from Katahdin on August 3rd, Meltzer covered an average of 47 miles a day, spending between 14 and 16 hours on the trail and sleeping on the trail or in a van driven by father Karl Sr. and crew chief Eric Belz. Along the way, he burned 345,122 calories, replenishing them with steak, ice cream, beer, and energy drinks from sponsor Red Bull—a far cry from Jurek’s vegan diet during his record-setting trek.
In the last two days of the trek, Meltzer ran 83 miles nonstop, reaching Springer Mountain at 3:38 in the morning.
“It’s been a long journey,” Meltzer said in a statement released by Red Bull. “I’ve been trying to get this record for eight years, and I was finally successful. It just took me three tries to do it. It’s a very special time right now, definitely a stamp on my career.”
Meltzer crewed for Jurek on the latter’s record-setting hike, and Jurek returned the favor, joining Meltzer’s support team along the way.
Meltzer is one of ultrarunning’s most successful athletes, with 38 hundred-mile wins, including five first-place finishes at Colorado’s Hardrock 100, on his resumé. A documentary film about his hike is forthcoming in 2017.