Endurance running legend Scott Jurek, 41, set a new supported thru-hike record of the 2,189.2 mile Appalachian Trail, running from Georgia to Maine. Jurek finished the long-distance run in 46 days, 8 hours and 7 minutes, beating the previous record held by 2012 National Geographic Adventurer of the year Jennifer Pharr Davis by three hours. Jurek started his journey at Springer Mountain, GA., on May 27 and ended at Mount Katahdin in Maine on July 12, averaging nearly 50 miles a day.
Jurek was an endurance running icon in the mid-2000s, winning the Western States 100 seven consecutive times, setting a course record in the Badwater 135 and winning the grueling Grecian 153-mile Spartathalon three times. Jurek sees this current accomplishment differently than previous victories, saying in a press release that, “While a goal is to complete the trail in record time, my main goal is to inspire others to explore the outdoors and their own personal and life goals.”
Jurek’s wife, Jenny, led the support effort along the 2,200 mile route and even paced her husband on some legs of the trail. Other pacers and support personnel included endurance running star Karl Metzler, ultra-runner Krissy Moehl, Topher Gaylord – the former president of North Face and Mountain Hardware and Paradox Sports co-founder, Timmy O’Neill. While Jurek was supported by some of ultra-running’s top superstars, the trek definitely took its toll, with Jurek enduring multiple strains and sprains and a knee injury early in the run. Jenny told National Geographic that, “It’s so hard to watch a spouse suffer.”
“You have to eventually inhabit a different world. Imagine living a lifetime of roots and rocks every day, pretty much a life cycle of dirt and vegetation. And toward the end, it was like 500,000 steps sandwiched between a daily birth and death. I’m not sure if Scott will ever be the same physically as an athlete, but I feel certain he’s spiritually and intellectually changed forever,” says O’Neill.
While Jurek now holds the supported record, the unsupported thru-hiker record for the Appalachian Trail is held by Matt Kirk and was set in 2013 with a time of 58 days, 9 hours and 38 minutes. If it seems like long distance trekking records are being set regularly, they are. Last summer Seattle native Joe McConaughy, 23, set the record for the fastest supported thru-hike of the 2,650 mile Pacific Coast Trail, finishing the trek in just 53 days, 6 hours and 37 minutes, averaging over 50 miles a day.
For more information on hiking the Appalachian Trail, checkout the Appalachian Trail Conservancy.