Minnesota native ultramarathoner breaks Appalachian Trail speed record


In one of the most impressive feats of endurance running, Minnesota native Scott Jurek became the fastest person to complete a hike of the entire distance of the Appalachian Trail - 2,189 miles - when he crested the summit of Mount Katahdin in Maine Sunday afternoon, 46 days after he began his journey.

The 41-year-old Jurek, who grew up in Proctor and attended college in Duluth, broke the previous record for a supported "thru-hike" by more than three hours, Runner's World reports. He is one of the most accomplished ultramarathoners in the country, according to the publication.

Jurek began his venture on May 27 at 5:56 a.m. at the southern end of the trail in Springer Mountain, Georgia. He averaged about 50 miles per day walking or running through wooded areas, trails, and mountains as he traveled through 14 states, according to Runner's World.

He finished the trek Sunday at 2:03 p.m. EDT when he reached the end of the trail on top of Mount Katahdin, and celebrated with crew members who had been supporting him throughout.

A sore quad and knee early on forced Jurek to take a slower pace than he wanted, so he ended up running three back-to-back all-nighters toward the end to make sure he would finish in record time, members of his support team said to Outside Magazine.

The previous record was set in 2011 by Jennifer Pharr Davis.

Runner's World describes Jurek as one of the most dominant ultramarathoners in the world. He's won many of the sport's most prestigious races, including 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.

He said recently, though, that this challenge is likely his last competitive venture and he's contemplating retirement.

What, no trophy?

So what does a guy get for setting a new record on the Appalachian Trail? Besides sore muscles, his name will be added to the Appalachian Trail lore of fastest known times, or FKTs, Runner's World notes. The conservancy doesn't acknowledge speed records in any formal way; there are no trophies or medals, either.

“It is an amateur pursuit based on the honor system," the previous record holder, Davis, toldNewswire last week, "and that makes it pure and unique in our culture.”

Jurek graduated from Proctor High School and earned a bachelor's and master's degree from the College of St. Scholastica in Duluth, according to this bio. After college he moved to Seattle, and now lives in Boulder, Colorado.

Jurek wrote a memoir in 2012 called Eat & Run, about his life as an ultramarathoner and a vegan, which was a New York Times bestseller.

About the Appalachian Trail

The Appalachian Trail is a public footpath that crosses the scenic and wild lands of the Appalachian Mountains in the eastern U.S. It was built by private citizens and opened in 1937.

The trail, known by many as simply the A.T, is managed by the National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service, Appalachian Trail Conservancy, numerous state agencies and thousands of volunteers.

It's quite a feat to simply finish hiking the entire trail - called a "thru hike." The conservancy recommends people take five to seven months to attempt a thru-hike. Jurek finished it in less than seven weeks.

Only a fraction of the people who start a thru hike successfully finish it. Last year, about 2,500 people began the long trek, according to the conservancy, and 729 of them completed it.

A few million others use the trail each year - some are serious hikers who complete long sections of it at one time, while others are casual users who come for day hikes.

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