Spotlight: Appalachian Trail - FKT
For this instalment of the series, our Spotlight shines on a guy who ran a very long way, very quickly, solo, and took the time to film the whole thing. Read on, and have a watch.
Within the world of ultra-running and long distance hiking, there is an accolade known as an FKT - a Fastest Known Time. Which is simply what it sounds like - the fastest time known to have been achieved on a given route.
To have an FKT to your name is no small feat, but to have one on one of the classic North American Long Distance Trails (The AT, CDT or PCT – bear with us the acronyms) is not far from superhuman. The Appalachian Trail is the most renowned trail out there (with The Continental Divide Trail and Pacific Crest Trail completing the acronym trilogy and rounding out what is informally known as a Triple Crown - when all three national trails have been hiked by one person!).
When attempting to cover 2,190 miles, through 14 states, from Springer Mountain, Georgia to Mount Katahdin, Maine (or vice versa), on foot, simply getting from one end of the AT to the other in one go (Known as a Thru Hike) is quite a challenge. Many people in fact choose to ‘section hike’ the trail, doing it in chunks over the course of a few years. But in 2017 Joe McConaughy - or Stringbean as he’s known on trail (most Thru Hikers go by a ‘Trail Name’) - did the Appalachian Trail in 45 days. He hiked and ran almost 50 miles/16 hours a day, every day, for a month and a half. And set a new Fastest Known Time for his troubles. The two preceding record times had been set by ultra-running superstars (one of them, Karl ‘Speedgoat’ Meltzer, has a shoe named after him) that had support crews cooking food, massaging legs and giving moral support at regular meeting points, and with pacers setting the speed on trail. Stringbean just did it on his own. His time has since been bettered by another crewed runner, but he still holds firm in our hearts as the guy that got out there, in the wild, and got it done alone! And no-one has beaten his Self-Supported record either.
He has just released a 14 minute film on his achievement that’s free to view on YouTube - and we highly recommend it. It’s a great little look at just how good it is to be out in the wilderness! ‘Stringbean’s’ love for the wild, for freedom, and his mum’s “Have fun, sweetie” send off all make it exactly our kind of adventure.
P.S. Check out Made to Be Broken on Netflix for a film about Karl ‘Speedgoat’ Meltzer on the AT, and take a quick look at those shoes named after him here.