Ultrarunner Karel Sabbe Crushes Appalachian Trail Speed Record by 4 Days

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Yesterday, Belgian ultrarunner Karel Sabbe completed the 2,189-mile Appalachian Trail in 41 days, 7 hours, 39 minutes—smashing the previous speed record by over 4 days.

Sabbe, a 28-year-old dentist, kissed the wooden sign atop Mount Katahdin at the end of his northbound journey on the A.T. Sabbe began his trek at Georgia’s Springer Mountain on July 18 in Georgia. He averaged around 53 miles per day—over two full marathons per day—for 41 consecutive days. The average thru-hiker takes five to six months to complete the trail and averages around 14 miles per day.

“In the year 60 B.C., Julius Caesar wrote: ‘Of all Gauls, the Belgians are the bravest.’ Over 2000 years later, there is still some truth in that sentence,” Sabbe announced on Instagram after summiting Katahdin. “We have set a new speed record on the epic Appalachian Trail! The Fastest Known Time is now 41 days 7 hours 39 minutes, which is over 4 days faster than the previous record, held by an incredibly strong and unsupported @thestring.bean.”

The previous record was held by Joe “Stringbean” McConaghey, who trekked the entire trail in 45 days without any crew or support. McConaghey’s unsupported speed record still stands. Unlike McConaghey, Sabbe’s record setting run relied on a support crew.

“Nobody had averaged more than 50 miles on the Appalachian Trail,” Sabbe continued. “More than proud, I feel privileged for having lived these incredible adventures. It was a blast from start to finish!”

Sabbe becomes the first person to hold speed records for both the Appalachian Trail and Pacific Crest Trail. In 2016, Sabbe completed the Pacific Crest Trail—which runs 2,650 miles from Canada to Mexico through the mountains of California, Oregon, and Washington—in 52 days, 8 hours, and 25 minutes.

Sabbe’s close friend Joren Biebuyck led his support crew for both the Pacific Crest Trail and Appalachian Trail speed records:”I want to thank my dear friend @jorenbiebuyck from the bottom of my heart,” Sabbe concluded, “as without his incredible crewing and support I would never have made the PCT as well as the AT speed records.”

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