While you've been living your life and enjoying the onset of summer over the past 3+ weeks, ultrarunner Harvey Lewis has been wailing away on the Appalachian Trail, chasing Joe "Stringbean" McConaughy's remarkable FKT (45d12h15m) from last year. Since starting on May 30, Harvey has averaged over 47 miles per day for 23 straight days, and has covered just over half of the distance from Springer Mountain, Georgia, to Baxter Peak, Maine. Despite this prodigious effort by a top ultra runner (Lewis won the prestigious, 135-mile Badwater Ultramarathon in 2014), he's currently roughly 35 miles behind Stringbean's pace. Can he make up the miles in the second half?
You can follow Harvey's progress in real time at his excellent website: https://www.roadid.com/pages/wheresharvey and on social media via #WheresHarvey .
Karl Meltzer, who held the AT FKT before McConaughy, offered this assessment: "Comparing to Stringbean is tough because Stringbean killed the second half, and his last day was even better. We shall see how it goes. Soon ... he's going to hit much more technical [terrain in Pennsylvania], which I don't believe is his specialty, but we'll see. I'm cheering for him for sure, it's cool stuff." [Note that RedBull recently released an excellent 40 minute film on Meltzer's 2016 southbound FKT run, which is also streaming on Netflix.]
While Stringbean completed the AT as a self supported backpacker - essentially self sufficient, buying food in stores and camping along the trail - Harvey is supported by friends who drive a van and meet him wherever the trail intersects roads, as were Meltzer and Scott Jurek before him.
Matt Kirk, who set the self supported (backpacker) FKT in 2013 reflected on the possible "hidden" advantages of going without a full support crew: "Every supported effort seems to have a story of a botched rendezvous. The driver gets lost, the van runs out of gas, a tire pops... Meanwhile, it’s easier and easier for a hiker (or a friend, or family member on behalf of the hiker) to call ahead to some service down the trail. Arranging timely delivery of a meat-lover’s pizza to a trailhead, for example. I’m not even sure I’m up on all the latest tricks anymore…" Kirk added, "My head is still spinning from last year’s performances!" referring to the self supported efforts of McConaughy and also Joey Campanelli, who simultaneously hiked the AT southbound in a speedy 48d23h48m.
"NH awaits..." added Meltzer, referring to New Hampshire's notoriously rugged White Mountains.
The table below shows an approximate comparison of daily miles put in by Lewis and McConaughy through Day 23. Lewis was ahead of Stringbean's pace through Day 10, but then had difficulty for the next 9 days or so, falling to nearly 48 miles behind. The last 4 days or so have been better for Lewis, and he has scratched back some of the lost miles, despite McConaughy putting up some big miles on those days as well.
What do YOU think? Can Harvey's string of big days continue, or will the miles take their toll? Can Harvey match Stringbean's nearly superhuman second half?