The ultramarathoner completed the supported trek in 46 days, 8 hours, and 7 minutes.
At 2:03 p.m. ET on Sunday, ultramarathoner Scott Jurek crested the summit of Mount Katahdin in Maine, becoming the fastest person to finish a supported thru-hike on the Appalachian Trail. He completed the 2,189-mile journey in 46 days, 8 hours, and 7 minutes, breaking the previous record by just more than three hours.
Jurek started the attempt at the trail’s southern terminus, Springer Mountain in Georgia, on May 27 at 5:56 a.m. He averaged nearly 50 miles a day, crossing 14 states, and traversing 515,000 feet of elevation change.
On his second day, Jurek, 41, told Runner’s World Newswire this would likely be his last competitive endurance challenge before retirement. “This is the summer before my wife and I want to have kids,” he said. “I would say this is going to be my masterpiece.”
The Appalachian Trail record caps one of the most decorated ultramarathoning careers in history. Jurek’s resume includes wins in nearly every prestigious ultra race in the country. Among them: seven consecutive Western States Endurance Runs, two Badwater Ultramarathons, the Hardrock Hundred Mile Endurance run, and a runner-up finish in the Leadville Trail 100.
Jurek also played a main role in Christopher McDougall’s bestseller Born to Run, along with publishing his own book about being a vegan endurance athlete, Eat and Run.
But even with a cadre of world-class endurance accomplishments, Jurek’s latest feat may be his most impressive. The Appalachian Trail Conservancy, which oversees the trail’s maintenance, recommends people take five to seven months to attempt a thru-hike. Completing 46 consecutive ultramarathons, Jurek finished the trail in a fraction of that time.
Last year, the Conservancy estimates 2,500 people started a thru-hike attempt and only 729 successfully finished.
At the outset, Jurek planned to set the record in 42 days. But as the clock ticked closer to 5:15 p.m. Sunday—his deadline to beat the record time—it became less certain he would make it.
In the first week, a sore quad and knee forced him to slow off pace by more than 50 miles. Despite gaining distance back in Pennsylvania, Jurek passed through Vermont during one of the state’s wettest months in history. His final push through Maine is considered the toughest and most remote section of the trail.
With mere hours to spare, Jurek summited Mount Katahdin accompanied by his wife, Jenny, who crewed him the entire trip. By reaching the sign at the peak, he claimed the four-year-old record, set by hiker Jennifer Pharr Davis in 2011.
The unsupported record is 58 days, 9 hours, and 40 minutes, set by Matt Kirk in 2013.
Despite the monumental effort, Jurek will hike back down the mountain with only a few photos and his name added to the Appalachian Trail lore of fastest known times, or FKTs. The Appalachian Trail Conservancy does not recognize any speed records.
“There’s no trophy at the end,” the previous record holder, Davis, told Newswire last week. “It is an amateur pursuit based on the honor system, and that makes it pure and unique in our culture.”
And Jurek’s record may not last long. His friend and fellow elite ultramarathoner Karl Meltzer is already planning his own record attempt—after a failed 2014 venture—next summer. To strategize for the trip, Meltzer crewed Jurek for more than a week in June.