Scott Jurek’s Appalachian Trail record barely lasted a year before Karl Meltzer broke it. On Sunday, Meltzer topped Springer Mountain, Georgia, to complete the trail in 45 days, 22 hours, and 38 minutes, eclipsing Jurek’s previous record by just 9.5 hours.
The 2,189-mile trail from Georgia to Maine along the spine of the rugged Appalachians takes most thru-hikers six months to complete. Meltzer, who was won more 100-mile races than any other person on the planet, finished in a month and a half.
But it was close. Meltzer had to run 83 miles in the final day and skip sleep to break the record. Jurek’s margin was even closer; he edged the previous record by only three hours.
Jurek and Meltzer are two of the world’s most celebrated ultra runners. They are also good friends who have been supportive of each other’s previous record attempts.
Jurek helped crew for Meltzer, just as Meltzer had done for him last year. During Meltzer’s final week, Jurek, his wife Jenny, and their four-month-old toddler Raven, met up with Meltzer in north Georgia and provided food and logistics.
But unlike Jurek, Meltzer did not adhere to a vegan diet along the way. Meltzer opted instead for lots of candy and Red Bull. At the finish on Springer Mountain in north Georgia, he celebrated with pepperoni pizza and a beer.
This was Meltzer’s third attempt at the A.T. speed record. He missed the record by seven days in 2008, and in 2014, he dropped off the trail with 600 miles to go due to injuries and trench foot.
Meltzer is 48 years old. Jurek was 41 when he set the record last year. The previous record holder, Asheville’s Jennifer Pharr Davis, was 28, when she set the overall record in 2011. She still holds the fastest female record for the Appalachian Trail, and Meltzer’s new record is only 12 hours ahead of hers.
Jurek set the previous record on a northbound traverse the A.T. Both Meltzer and Pharr Davis traveled southbound.
Read Jennifer Pharr Davis’s exclusive account of her record-setting run here.