Scott Jurek Sets Speed Record on the Appalachian Trail
July 12, 2015 6:16 AM   Subscribe

Today, ultra-distance runner Scott Jurek will mark the end of a 47 day journey when he summits Mt. Katahdin in Maine. If he reaches the top before 4pm, he will break the previous Appalachian Trail world speed record set in 2011 by Jennifer Pharr Davis, who completed the trek in 46 days, 11 hours, and 20 minutes. You can follow Jurek's progress here.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates (55 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
 
Because it's (way, way, way the fuck over) there.
posted by Etrigan at 6:25 AM on July 12, 2015 [5 favorites]


Good luck Scott! This stuff is always so inspiring. I guess I don't really have an excuse to skip my run this afternoon.
posted by Fizz at 6:26 AM on July 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


I wish him luck, 'cause that sort of emotional and physical investment deserves a payoff. That said, holy shit that's insane.
posted by Mooski at 6:34 AM on July 12, 2015


Lets see, Wikipeda says that the trail is 2,200 miles long. So 2,220 divided by 47 days equals 46.8 miles per day on average. Holy heck, that's insane.

I've love to see some stats on stuff like how many calories he ate a day or how many shoes he went through.
posted by octothorpe at 6:47 AM on July 12, 2015 [4 favorites]


Are we sure he isn't just on the run from the FBI?
posted by AlonzoMosleyFBI at 6:52 AM on July 12, 2015 [4 favorites]


46 days would make a heck of a trip to Argentina.
posted by leotrotsky at 6:54 AM on July 12, 2015 [6 favorites]


I've love to see some stats on stuff like how many calories he ate a day

Tha's a good question and hopefully there's a post-mortem detailing some of the nitty gritties of his daily pace/diet/etc. One thing Jurek is known for is his adherence to a strictly vegan diet. There was a slight kerfuffle a week or so ago when another distance runner questioned Jurek's ability to successfully and healthily complete the trek on his diet.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 7:01 AM on July 12, 2015 [7 favorites]


HOLY SHIT VEGAN ATHLETE FTW
posted by Kitteh at 7:05 AM on July 12, 2015 [8 favorites]


I'm more impressed by the elderly or disabled hikers who complete the entire trail (in six months, or in six years, depending on whether they do it in one shot or in stages). Not to take away from Jurek's accomplishment, but I worry that a record-setting attempt like his (along with the publicity) gives the impression that the trail is a SuperHardCoreChallenge that only the MostFitAthletes should even attempt. When, actually, if someone in their 70's or 80's can hike the 2100+ miles, then regular schlubs like you and me can do it, too!

Something like this: If these people can hike the Appalachian Trail, then so can you.
posted by math at 7:15 AM on July 12, 2015 [14 favorites]


I'm pretty impressed by this.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 7:18 AM on July 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


Dang, this is wild. I can see on the tracker he's only got a few miles to go, but they look pretty brutal. Goooooo Scott!
posted by dorque at 7:18 AM on July 12, 2015


> hopefully there's a post-mortem

Do you have inside information on what happens to people who complete the hike?!
posted by I-Write-Essays at 7:26 AM on July 12, 2015 [8 favorites]


Something like this: If these people can hike the Appalachian Trail, then so can you.

If I could quit my job to take off for six months in the woods, yeah.
posted by octothorpe at 7:32 AM on July 12, 2015 [17 favorites]


If you want to see a little more about what normal thru-hiking life is like on the AT, I met this guy hiking in the Shenandoah this April and he some fun youtube videos from the trail.

There's also Terry "Seven" Coyle who makes videos where he basically say's hi to everyone cool on the trail (2014, 2013 is split between six videos) to show what the social scene is like living in the woods for a few months.
posted by peeedro at 7:35 AM on July 12, 2015 [4 favorites]


That guy is so rad. Good for him...
posted by ph00dz at 7:40 AM on July 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


Dude is an amazing athlete. Really exciting day for the ultra community.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:51 AM on July 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


It speaks well of Jurek and Jennifer Pharr Davis that this will come down to minutes of difference. Normally he blows competitors out of the water. Truly some of the best athletes ever in terms of mind and body.

Jurek is the sort if it was announced he was running to the moon, I would have to seriously consider it for a moment.
posted by nickggully at 7:57 AM on July 12, 2015 [4 favorites]


It speaks well of Jurek and Jennifer Pharr Davis that this will come down to minutes of difference.

Well that, and that Jennifer Pharr Davis isn't sitting near the slopes of Mt. Katahdin with Smithers uttering the phrase "Release the hounds."

Because, you know, I might be tempted to do that if I were her....maybe.
posted by eriko at 8:02 AM on July 12, 2015 [11 favorites]


Wow. His weight loss has been dramatic. Managing nutrition and just caloric intake over the course of something like this must be tremendously difficult.
posted by slkinsey at 8:08 AM on July 12, 2015 [7 favorites]


Managing nutrition and just caloric intake over the course of something like this must be tremendously difficult.

I went to a talk a few years ago given by a couple who circumnavigated Iceland in sea kayaks, where they talked about putting entire sticks of butter in their oatmeal multiple times a day and still losing weight. Trying to do this vegan blows my mind.
posted by dorque at 8:13 AM on July 12, 2015 [3 favorites]


I'm surprised that for running such a vast distance, - so many days, so many objective and subjective obstacles - the difference in the record times is so tiny.
posted by Flashman at 8:20 AM on July 12, 2015 [7 favorites]


There is something so anti-climactic and non-celebratory about finishing the trail, descending Katahdin and ending up in Millinocket. It's like going to Newark for your honeymoon.
posted by machaus at 8:35 AM on July 12, 2015 [9 favorites]


I casually read Pacific Crest Trail logs, and the impression I get is that weight loss and the attendant aesthetic effects is often more determined by body type than diet. In general men seem to lose more actual and visual weight than women, for example.

I don't think anyone can claim that long-distance speed hiking is a healthy endeavor. Like, exercise is necessary for good health but that doesn't mean hiking 40 miles a day for over a month is even more healthy. It's incredibly taxing no matter your diet. That's part of the challenge!

Interestingly enough - the two fastest known record holders for the PCT - fastest supported hike Josh Garrett and fastest self-supported hike Heather Anderson - are both vegan as well.
posted by muddgirl at 8:37 AM on July 12, 2015 [6 favorites]


Wow. His weight loss has been dramatic. Managing nutrition and just caloric intake over the course of something like this must be tremendously difficult.

I'm not sure you could eat enough calories even with meat and dairy, but those photos don't look healthy at all.
posted by Dip Flash at 8:59 AM on July 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


... the impression I get is that weight loss and the attendant aesthetic effects is often more determined by body type than diet.

I'm no expert, to say the least, but this notion is contested by acclaimed ultra marathoner Marshall Ulrich. His FB page is quite interesting on this topic, not least for the extent to which he is able to keep things civil. But what he seems to be saying is that a vegan diet can work just fine for distances and physical challenges that do not extend into multiple weeks. But for something like this, it's more or less impossible to get enough calories, etc. on a vegan diet and over time there is not only weight loss, but muscle wasting as the body starts to consume itself. He shows before/after pictures from a 52 day, 3,000 mile run on a varied omnivorous diet and it's effectively impossible to tell the difference. He lost a total of four pounds.
posted by slkinsey at 9:13 AM on July 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


It speaks well of Jurek and Jennifer Pharr Davis that this will come down to minutes of difference.

Pharr Davis lost days and days due to snowstorms in New England, even to the point of having to come back after losing the trail in a snow-storm, and had a one-two support crew while Jurek has a team and is even sponsored (hence the big Clifbar headband). I admire Jurek a lot, but if Pharr Davis (and the previous record holder) hadn't had snow, he wouldn't be close to the record* at his pace. To be fair, he chose to go the opposite direction so he wouldn't have to deal with that, and he's also had trials and tribulations to deal with on the trail that would floor most "normal" people like flu and leg problems. It's a huge accomplishment for which he's worked very hard, but the one that I'm in awe of is Pharr Davis, with her minimal support crew (and minimal publicity, which can also be a driver) just churning up the miles day after day: who Jurek predicted he'd beat by four days, but now might only do it by minutes and seconds with an entire team, sponsorship, and even other ultra-runners coming by to lend support and rethink pacing.

*Though you have to wonder how an even smaller record would have motivated him. . .
posted by barchan at 9:30 AM on July 12, 2015 [18 favorites]


I'll admit I don't know the whole story of why Jurek decided to run when he did, but I will say it's much more difficult to run even 20 miles in humid and hot weather than it is in cooler weather, let alone ~50 miles/day. While I agree with you that his support crew is much better than Pharr Davis', I'd personally prefer to take the days of delay and run in cooler weather than running in June and July.

Both records are definitely impressive but I'm sure in the next few years someone will probably do it in closer to 40 days.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 9:36 AM on July 12, 2015


Ah, my mistake -- Pharr Davis ran it in June and July, as well! Really incredible.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 9:41 AM on July 12, 2015


I'm not going to be a proxy for vegan ultrarunners in an argument about a sport I don't compete in. Personally, I think their records speak for themselves.
posted by muddgirl at 10:00 AM on July 12, 2015 [3 favorites]


I heard the author of this online article about Jurek’s quest, posted four days ago, talk about him that night.
posted by LeLiLo at 10:15 AM on July 12, 2015


but I will say it's much more difficult to run even 20 miles in humid and hot weather than it is in cooler weather,

Of course you have to factor in snow conditions, but I run much better in July/August/September than I do the rest of the year. I love humidity and heat. My body craves it while running.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 10:16 AM on July 12, 2015


Friends and supporters are reporting on Facebook that he finished the run, as of about 1 PM. If this is correct, the record is broken by about 3 hours.
posted by beagle at 10:27 AM on July 12, 2015


I think that picture is of him climbing but not quite at the summit. This post says that as of 1:18pm, he's 1.2 miles away. Very close. This, from about 5 minutes ago, shows the crowd waiting for him.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 10:31 AM on July 12, 2015


Yeah, the DeLorme tracker agrees he's not quite there yet. Some folks are posting prematurely about a finish.
posted by beagle at 10:33 AM on July 12, 2015


I'd like to know more about his sustenance. He must be burning at least 6,000 calories a day. I found an Ask Mefi question about this, and it seems if you are willing to drink vegetable oil you could intake about 20,000 calories a day.

I wish him well for a speedy finish, and for his knees.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 10:49 AM on July 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


He made it. Finished around 2:03 local time. Total elapsed time 46d 8h 8m (some saying 20m). First picture of the finish posted to Twitter.

Poppin' bottles.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 11:10 AM on July 12, 2015 [7 favorites]




(ha, jinx (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates!)
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 11:13 AM on July 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


It's pretty crazy that he broke the record by such a slim margin on a race that long; that's a difference of only 0.287%. I wonder what the absolute limit for a human on the AT is - maybe without the injuries you could shave a day or so off that?
posted by fifthrider at 11:38 AM on July 12, 2015


I wonder what the absolute limit for a human on the AT is - maybe without the injuries you could shave a day or so off that?

It's definitely interesting to ponder, but it's so tough to think what a limit here may be since so few people have even attempted it. With each person who does it, though, more knowledge is gained. When is the right time to go, which direction, best nutrition plan, pacing strategies, etc. I really think that 40 days is possible (eventually), but things have to break just right. No severe illnesses or injuries, weather cooperates, and appropriate caloric replacement. Jurek is a pretty competitive guy and I'm sure he learned a ton. My guess is he either tries again or helps coach someone else. Next person to break the record, I'd guess, will beat by a day or two.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 11:53 AM on July 12, 2015


Next, Jurek can try to break the record for running through the Louvre.
posted by LeLiLo at 12:13 PM on July 12, 2015


See, I think he may appreciate it more if he just slowed down a little.
posted by newdaddy at 2:15 PM on July 12, 2015 [10 favorites]


He did it.
posted by BuddhaInABucket at 2:50 PM on July 12, 2015


See, I think he may appreciate it more if he just slowed down a little.

There's an expression that goes "hike your own hike." If you'd enjoy it more going slower than he did go ahead and do so, but don't tell other people that they should do what would make you happy.
posted by peeedro at 3:27 PM on July 12, 2015 [3 favorites]


45 miles a day? A-maze-ing. That is hard to fathom.
posted by zardoz at 4:16 PM on July 12, 2015


45 days wrecking a good walk in pursuit of some fleeting glory.
posted by humanfont at 4:53 PM on July 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


In A Walk in the Woods, Bill Bryson mentions a runner who set an early record for through-hiking the AT. (I can't find my copy of the book or the guy's name on Wikipedia, so this is not a very useful comment.) According to Bryson, the guy spent most of his time running through Maine weeping; it was that lonely and draining.

For some reason, physical toughness is easy enough for me to understand; the mental toughness necessary to see something like this through, much less so. I admire it unreservedly, though.
posted by Zeinab Badawi's Twenty Hotels at 5:19 PM on July 12, 2015


My husband aspires to at the very least section-hike the whole trail and is also an aspiring marathoner, and he's been following the Jurek quest from the beginning. He even went with a friend to meet up with him in Pennsylvania at a road crossing where his support crew was also meeting him--that was about 3 weeks ago, roughly halfway through.

I'm a little skeptical sometimes about these sorts of extreme athletic challenges, but there's really something to admire about this one. Here's a guy who does the athletic equivalent of 6 impossible things before breakfast on a routine basis, and even so, this particular quest for him was, from what I've heard, a mighty mental battle to persevere.
posted by drlith at 5:26 PM on July 12, 2015 [3 favorites]


Interestingly enough - the two fastest known record holders for the PCT - fastest supported hike Josh Garrett and fastest self-supported hike Heather Anderson - are both vegan as well.

I was thru-hiking the PCT the same year that Heather (trail name Anish) came zipping through... we'd started to hear rumors that some (basically unknown) hiker was just going for it. I was hoping to at least spot her, but she passed me at some point probably while I was stuffing my face in town on resupply. Her accomplishment was just incredible. I didn't know that she'd done it vegan, if so that makes it even more incredible, and in my book a greater accomplishment than Jurek's, because she was self-supported. Man, the PCT would be a breeze to hike if you had a support team!

It's so hard to get enough calories... on the longest section of the trail without a resupply (in the high sierra), I budgeted 4000 calories a day (which is not even close to what my body needed, but I had firmly converted over to the ultra-light religion by this stage and wanted to go fast, i had no stove or other cooking equipment). My bright idea was dehydrated potatoes and olive oil... mix them together in a clear Ziploc baggie, and hang them off my pack for the afternoon so they would kinda 'cook'. I'm not claiming I'd thought this through. Oh lord, it was the most vile thing, even with the teeny thing of siracha I allowed myself. I almost feel nauseous thinking about it, you could feel the graininess of the not-properly hydrated potatoes. Anyhoo it was so awful that I just ditched the potatoes and took to drinking the olive oil. That was fun. Since I was now out a not-insignificant chunk of calories, I was basically starving the whole time and just hauled ass to get through the Sierras. Must go back and do it slow some time, it's so incredible. I was a complete thru-hiking n00b when I set out. My entire pack weighed something like 60lbs (dry weight) on Day Zero. By the time I hit the Sierras it weighed 12lbs. I learnt a lot that summer.
posted by amorphatist at 6:19 PM on July 12, 2015 [4 favorites]


For his next one, he's going to set a record for speed-running through the Metropolitan Museum. Does anyone keep speed-eating records for Michelin-starred restaurants?
posted by 1adam12 at 6:24 PM on July 12, 2015


45 miles a day? A-maze-ing. That is hard to fathom.

I don't know actually, that seems more or less fathomable. If Eddie Izzard can run/walk 43 marathons in 51 days - which is certainly no mean feat considering his build and previous athletic conditioning, it seems well within the bounds of fathomability that one of the world's top ultramarathoners would be able to do double that, or what is realistically, more like triple or quadruple that once you're considering elevatation and track conditions.

It's still utterly insane - but, I think, fathomable. People are tough.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 6:41 PM on July 12, 2015


45 miles a day? A-maze-ing. That is hard to fathom

It's still utterly insane - but, I think, fathomable. People are tough


Yeah, bear in mind that Anish / Heather Anderson averaged 45 miles a day as well, with a backpack and all her supplies, and entirely self-supported. But she be cray cray.
posted by amorphatist at 7:13 PM on July 12, 2015


Lets see, Wikipeda says that the trail is 2,200 miles long. So 2,220 divided by 47 days equals 46.8 miles per day on average. Holy heck, that's insane.


Looking at his bio page, that almost looks like a light stroll for this guy - his 24 hour record for most distance covered is the utterly mind boggling 165.7 miles.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 8:17 PM on July 12, 2015


> He must be burning at least 6,000 calories a day
Reporter Tries to Eat [omnivorously] as Many Calories [8290] as a TdF Rider
posted by morganw at 9:40 PM on July 12, 2015


Some people just seem to have an innate distance running ability, Eddie Izzard as mentioned above, who I would have put at or near the bottom of the list of people able to do 43 marathons in 51 days.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 1:44 AM on July 13, 2015


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