Route: Appalachian Trail

Location
Maine, US
New Hampshire, US
Vermont, US
Massachusetts, US
Connecticut, US
New York, US
New Jersey, US
Maryland, US
Pennsylvania, US
Virginia, US
North Carolina, US
Georgia, US
Tennessee, US
Description

"I found things in the woods that I didn’t know I was looking for..." - Jennifer Pharr Davis

"The trail has a way of answering the questions you most need answered, even if you are afraid to ask." - Heather Anderson

The Appalachian Trail (AT) runs 2,189 (in 2015) miles from Georgia to Maine. Along with the Pacific Crest Trail and the Continental Divide Trail, it is one of the "Big 3" National Scenic Trails. Like many of these trails, the route has changed slightly over the years, and there has been a general tendency for the trail to become longer over time as reroutes are made to take the route off of roads.

Speed records on the AT are known going back to the first true thru-hike by Earl Shaffer in 124 days in 1948 (south to north). In 1960, Lochlen Gregory and Owen F. Allen completed the trail in 99 days (south to north), a time that was matched by Earl Shaffer in 1965 (north to south this time). Then, in 1970, Branley Owen dropped the AT record all the way down to 73 days, using good backpacker style which we call "self supported". Warren Doyle lowered the overall AT record to 66 days, supported at road crossings by his father during much of the hike. This supported style took hold after Doyle's accomplishment, and in 1978 John Avery shaved 9 hours off the FKT, hiking and running for 65 days, and receiving support throughout the trip. These trips established stylistic norms and also guidelines for FKT aspirants. These early FKTs were finally blown away by Ward Leonard's 60.5 thru-hike (self-supported) in 1990 (see below). [I am indebted to Jennifer Pharr Davis for this section. Her forthcoming book The Pursuit of Endurance has very much more detail on these early records and personalities.]


"Grandma" Emma Gatewood was the first woman to thru-hike the AT alone. Here is what Wikipedia says about Gatewood's first AT thru-hike: In 1955, at the age of 67, Gatewood told her children (who were by then adults) that she was going for a walk. They did not ask where or for how long, as they knew she was resilient and would take care of herself. About 5 years earlier, Gatewood read an article in National Geographic about the AT and thought "it would be a nice lark," though in retrospect considering the difficulty she added "It wasn't." The magazine gave her the impression of easy walks and clean cabins at the end of each day's walk. Thus she took little in the way of outdoor gear. She wore Keds sneakers and carried an army blanket, a raincoat, and a plastic shower curtain in a homemade denim bag slung over one shoulder. She would later say "For some fool reason, they always lead you right up over the biggest rock to the top of the biggest mountain they can find." A bestselling book about Gatewood was published in 2014.

My motto is, "Carry as little as possible. But choose that little with care." - Earl Shaffer, first AT thru-hiker

Most people today are pantywaist. Exercise is good for you. - Emma Gatewood, first solo female AT thru-hiker (1955)

"Every morning it's wonderful, every evening I want to quit." - Chris Bakwin (AT hiker, 2017)

 

Here's a rough timeline of speed trips.  (Women in italics.)

Earl Shaffer 1948   self supported, northbound 124d
Emma Gatewood 1955 self supported, northbound 146d
Lochlen Gregory & Owen Allen 1960 self supported, northbound 99d
Earl Shaffer 1965 self supported, southbound 99d
Branley Owen 1970 self supported, ? 73d
Warren Doyle ? supported, ? 66d
John Avery 1978 supported, ? 65d
Ward Leonard 1990 self supported, ? 60.5d
David Horton 1991 supported, northbound 52d9h42m
Jenny Jardine 1993 self supported, accompanied 87d
Pete Palmer 1999 supported, northbound 48d20h11m
Andrew Thompson 2005 supported, southbound 47d13h31m
Jennifer Pharr Davis 2008 supported, southbound 57d8h38m
Jennifer Pharr Davis 2011 supported, southbound 46d11h20m
Elizabeth Thomas 2011 self supported, northbound 80d13h11m
Matt Kirk 2013 self supported, southbound 58d9h40m
Heather Anderson 2015 self supported, southbound 54d7h48m
Scott Jurek 2015 supported, northbound 46d8h7m
Karl Meltzer 2016 supported, southbound 45d22h38m
Dan "Knotts" Binde 2017 self supported, northbound 53d22h57m
Joe "Stringbean" McConaughy 2017 self supported, northbound 45d12h15m
Joey Campanelli 2017 self supported, southbound 48d23h48m

 

 

Another AT record that has been pursued a few times is the most miles that can be run on the AT in 24 hours. In March 2004 Matt Kirk has run 99 miles through Shenandoah National Park, beating David Horton's previous record of 91 miles. Scott Brockmeier started the attempt with Matt, but was unable to complete the traverse.

FKTs

Images

Comments

Going for overall FKT (with assistance) on the AT leaving at first light, 5:56am from Springer Mountain on Wednesday, May 30th, 2018. Challenging overall FKT as well as fastest assisted and fastest assisted northbound. Using a Garmin Inreach with tracking updates every 10 minutes. View map at RoadID.com/WheresHarvey. Glad to have company for anyone interested in running. Thanks!

Going for overall FKT (with assistance) on the AT leaving at first light, 5:56am from Springer Mountain on Wednesday, May 30th, 2018. Challenging overall FKT as well as fastest assisted and fastest assisted northbound. Using a Garmin Inreach with tracking updates every 10 minutes. View map at RoadID.com/WheresHarvey. Glad to have company for anyone interested in running. Thanks!

Harvey Lewis

Cincinnati, Ohio 

Love to have you follow on Facebook - Harvey Lewis Ultrarunner and Instagram Harvey Lewis Ultrarunner

Hi there! Going for the self-supported record of the AT, starting at first light on June 16th. I'll be going Northbound (back to my beautiful home state, Maine)! I'll be following the guidelines and procedures set before me by Stringbean and Anish. Anyone is welcome to follow along with my journey on my IG @miss.clare.in.the.wild, and while I would love all the support in your heart, please do not offer any assistance during my attempt, so I can follow along with proper self-supported decorum. Cheers! Clare "Star" Olson Olympia, Washington

Admin note:  Clare stopped after about 9 days. Instagram:  "After a couple hours It stopped raining. I had hoped I’d stop being miserable after it stopped raining, but that wasn’t the case. I felt so lonely. I wanted someone else there to share everything with, good and bad. The miles ticked by easily and I found i cared less and less. My brain went in loops and my heart pouted in the corner. “I promise we’ll never have to hike again after we reach Kahtahdin,” I whispered to myself."

Harvey Lewis' FKT attempt is also being discussed here: https://whiteblaze.net/forum/showthread.php/129659-Harvey-Lewis-2018-AT… As best I can tell, at the end of Day 14 he is 17 (ish) miles behind Stringbean's pace?

Update on 6/17:  Harvey started falling behind Stringbean's pace on Day 14, and has continued to lose ground each day since.  27 miles behind end of Day 18, but coming closer to matching Stringbean's daily miles again.

Update on 7/19:  Harvey finished the AT today in 49d15h or so, the 8th fastest time to date.

From Eric Strumpf:

Greetings! I am formally announcing my intent to challenge the self-supported FKT for the Appalachian Trail. My hike will begin at Mt. Katahdin in Maine on June 27th and I will continue southbound (SOBO) until I reach Springer Mountain in Georgia. The record is currently held by Joe “Stringbean” McConaughy (@thestring.bean) who finished the 2,191 miles in 45d 12h 15m last August. He did a phenomenal job and leaves a daunting legacy. I am dedicating this hike to Marine Sergeant Jacob “Jake” Pope who lost his left leg to an IED while serving in Afghanistan. He will move into his adapted home built by Homes for Our Troops next week. I am also hoping to raise awareness and funding for this great organization. If you feel so moved, please contribute at: https://www.myhfotusa.org/ATChallenge.

You can follow my journey using the following link and PW: https://share.garmin.com/EricStrumpf / ATFKT2018

I will provide occasional updates via Instagram but will focus primarily on moving down the trail. There is a rich history of hard-charging endurance athletes and AT ambassadors who have advanced this challenge to what it is today. It is with great respect and humility that I make this attempt. Best wishes to all!

Admin note:  Eric's InReach stopped sending signals in the morning of July 1.  It appears that his attempt is over.

Hi all, I'm now about one week before starting my speed record attempt on the A.T. and as it's getting really busy with last-hand preparations I'm announcing it officially here now. 

I'm Karel Sabbe from Belgium and I'm a 28 year old hiker / ultrarunner. I learned a lot about running a long-distance hiking trail by setting the F.K.T. on the Pacific Crest Trail in 2016, which is why I take on this new challenge and why I believe there's a possibility that I'll make it. I also have long-distance hiking experience from hiking New Zealands Te Araroa Trail, the Pyrenean High Route, the Sierra High Route, Corsica's GR-20, .. I also ran the Marathon des Sables in 2016 during which I learned a lot about running in heat and how to hydrate in those conditions.

My friend and brother-in-law Joren Biebuyck will be there to support me all the way again (he's a physiotherapist which is very helpful during this record attempt) and he also has a lot of crewing experience from being there the entire PCT which is way more remote and harder to access for crews. 

In addition I'm having some friends coming over to run sections with me (of 1-3 weeks), and my wife Emma will be there during the entire month of August. 

I'm going for the overall record set by Joe McConaughy last year, and I've been in touch with him a lot discussing my record attempt. He'll probably join us for a weekend as well which would be awesome. Jennifer Pharr Davis, Scott and Karl have all been really helpful as well with advice - that is one of the nice things about this FKT community.

Like my PCT run I will also verify this record as a Guinness World Record attempt, because it is nice to go for an official world record and to have a neutral and professional instance analyze all my data and claims. After my PCT run they asked very detailed questions like "Why were you running at 40mph on day 29 in the evening?" (I forgot to switch off my Strava and was in the car to go to a pizza place near the trail). 

I will start on Springer Mountain, on the 18th of July and will be going northbound. It will be very hot but Joe has proven that it is possible to do it at this time of year. Other times of the year have other hazards so I'm feeling OK with what is coming and will try to adapt and overcome as things come up to us (heat waves, storms, etc.)

Like during my PCT run I will use a tracker that updates my location every 4 minutes. In addition I will track everything on Strava and will upload to Strava when cell service allows. The live-tracking website will be www.ATspeedrecord.com . We'll try to include Joe's GPS data on this site so you can see Joe moving on the map as well so people can have an idea of how I'm doing compared to the current record. We'll try to add Scott's data as well but he hasn't been able to extract it yet from his DeLorme device/website. 

Updates will come on the Facebook page Karel Sabbe Ultrarunning. 

The reason of the attempt is pretty simple: I love running and I love adventures. It's a unique opportunity to be able to run a trail like this with a crew, and I feel privileged to be able to do it. I don't know the Appalachian Trail which is a weakness but also a strength as I'm very curious to what's coming and to the scenery that I'll run through. I think the A.T. is a unique trail and I look forward to hike/run it. I also have the possibility of being record holder of both A.T. and P.C.T. at the same time which would be a first (David Horton and Joe McConaughy have held both records but not a the same time I think). 

Hoping for a safe and unforgettable experience! 

Wish me luck,

Karel