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[Update, Sept. 8: After we first published this article, the Red Bull website tracking Meltzer’s progress posted an update from day 33 (September 4). Meltzer reportedly completed only 23 miles that day, due to poor sleep. As of the morning of day 34, Meltzer had 695.4 miles and approximately 13 days 8 hours remaining — requiring an average of just over 52 miles a day to break the current record.]
[Correction: We originally stated that Meltzer needs to finish on or before September 17 to break the current record. In fact, he has until mid-afternoon Eastern on September 18.]
If Karl Meltzer keeps up his pace, he will have a shot at the new supported speed record for the Appalachian Trail (AT) later this month.
As of August 29, day 27 of his journey, the veteran ultrarunner had completed more than 1,200 of the 2,190 miles of trail that stretch from Maine to Georgia. (That was the last date for which data was available on the website tracking his progress, which is hosted by Red Bull, one of Meltzer’s sponsors.)
Meltzer, 48, of Sandy, Utah, started at the AT’s northern terminus, the summit of Maine’s Mount Katahdin, on August 3. Through August 29, he averaged just under 45 miles per day.
The current record of 46 days 8 hours 7 minutes was set last summer by Scott Jurek. Meltzer needs to finish on or before September 18 by mid-afternoon Eastern time to claim the record — meaning he would have to average around 50 miles a day starting August 30.
The notoriously rocky, root-laden and topographically difficult trail has thrown several challenges at Meltzer so far, including dense fog and windy conditions in his first week that required longer days than he and his crew had planned.
The crew had a brief scare at the beginning of week three, when they lost contact with Meltzer at the end of a long day near Pittsfield, Massachusetts; he was able to connect with a stranger who gave him a floor to sleep on before the runner and his crew were reunited in the morning.
Meltzer sets off for another day of running on August 19, above. Below, a pre-AT portrait of Meltzer. Photos: Interpret Studios/Red Bull Content Pool; Josh Campbell/Red Bull Content Pool.
Shin and knee pain slowed him during week three, but he has since resumed record pace, averaging over 50 miles per day several days of week four.
“Karl looks great [and he’s] eating lots of food,” says Meltzer’s crew chief, Eric Belz. “[His] spirits are high, laughing and joking at crew stops. No complications.”
Meltzer, who has won more 100-mile races than any other runner, is making his third attempt at the AT speed record. The New Hampshire native completed the trail in 2008, slower than record time, and did not finish a 2014 attempt.
According to Red Bull, Meltzer had run through seven pairs of shoes, eaten three pints of ice cream, burned over 165,000 calories and run 2,164,125 steps as of August 25.