Skip to main content

Man Sets New Speed Record for Hiking the Appalachian Trail in Just 45 Days

The Appalachian Trail may not be the longest long-distance recreational trail in North America, but it’s certainly the most iconic. Thru-hiking its 2,200 miles from Georgia to Maine typically requires six to seven months. But, one Seattle man just smashed the existing Appalachian Trail record by tackling the entire length in just 45 days.

Appalachian Trail hikers, Appalachian Trail record
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Last week, 26-year-old endurance athlete Joe McConaughy summitted Mount Katahdin (with the Instagram photo to prove it), marking the completion of his month-and-a-half-long journey. For south-to-north thru-hikers, the Maine mountain is the northern terminus of the iconic trail. The photo was the last step of a grueling trek where he averaged 48 miles per day for six-and-a-half weeks straight. Along the way, McConaughy — known on the trail as “Stringbean” — tracked his journey via GPS. Via his waypoints and regular Instagram updates, his record-setting time was verified by Peter Bakwin of the Fastest Known Time web board. Since there is no sanctioned body for keeping records set on the AT, it’s the next best thing.

Appalachian Trail hikers
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Stringbean fueled his days by consuming up to 10,000 calories every 24 hours. He noted that “eating was a part-time job” that involved downing 200-300 calories every hour. There were a few breaks along the way, but at night and during what little down-time he found, he ate. There were plenty of other challenges, of course. Wildlife — including rattlesnakes, bears, and tons of insects — was ever-present.

McConaughy’s biggest hardship proved to be injury. Maintaining an almost inhuman pace took a huge toll on his body. Midway through the trip, he notes that his knee swelled up to the size of a watermelon and he took a wrong turn in the White Mountains; both instances threatened to derail his record-setting hike. In an interview with Runner’s World, he recounts numerous other injuries to his hamstrings, ankles, and calves, plus insect stings and even rhabdomyolysis, an awful side effect of extreme running when muscle tissue begins to break down and release damaging proteins into the blood.

Appalachian Trail hikers
Image used with permission by copyright holder

The inspiration for McConaughy’s journey came after he set the supported speed record for hiking the 2,660-mile Pacific Crest Trail. Like many extreme athletes, he couldn’t help but wonder what was next. The AT seemed like the next logical step. So, he went on to train by running ultramarathons, including several 100K and 50K races (which his friends documented in this short film), and hiking hundreds of miles in Canada’s rugged Banff National Park. He notes, however, that none of this fully prepared him for the AT’s brutal terrain.

His ascent of Mount Katahdin included a final, 110-mile slog. Battered and bruised, he summitted the peak to find that the 37-hour push “included some of the happiest times for me. I did some of my best running then.”

Editors' Recommendations

Mike Richard
Mike Richard has traveled the world since 2008. He's kayaked in Antarctica, tracked endangered African wild dogs in South…
5 mountain biking habits everyone on a mountain bike must learn ASAP
Ride hard, stay safe, avoid injury
Pedaling a mountain bike up a hill is harder than going down. Riders coming down should stop.

If you have jumped into the world of mountain biking like so many over the past few years, you may find that it can be an overwhelming space. Even figuring out what type of mountain bike you need (or that there even were different types) can feel like a lot.

With the first step of actually purchasing a mountain bike behind you, there are quite a few other things you want to consider. What mountain bike helmet should you get? What should you bring on each ride?

Read more
More people disappear in the Alaska Triangle than anywhere else
The mystery of the Alaska Triangle is solved. Well, sort of
Clouds surrounding a mountain in Alaska

If you’re into alien conspiracies, unsolved mysteries, high school geometry, and tropical islands, it doesn’t get more intriguing than the Bermuda Triangle (aka Devil’s Triangle). That was, of course, until the mystery of The Triangle was finally solved a few years ago! Well ... not really.

No matter, because we now know the Alaska Triangle exists and the mystery behind it is way, way more interesting. So much so that the Travel Channel even made a TV series out of it, where "[e]xperts and eyewitnesses attempt to unlock the mystery of the Alaska Triangle, a remote area infamous for alien abductions, Bigfoot sightings, paranormal phenomena, and vanishing airplanes." So, yeah, the Alaska Triangle has everything the Bermuda Triangle has, but with more mountains, better hiking, and a whole lot more crazy.

Read more
Going camping? You should take Irish Spring Soap with you, and there’s a really good (and weird) reason why
We bet it's not for the reason you think, either
Camping views through larch trees in the Enchantments during fall

Even if your mind has turned to colder times and the thought of hitting the slopes has you willing winter into existence, the reality is that we still have plenty of fall to come. Cooler weather and shorter days make fall an excellent camping season, with plenty of time for stargazing and getting cozy around your campfire. But it's not just us humans who like to get comfy as the weather turns.

Regular campers will be all too familiar with the ongoing challenge of keeping critters away from their tent or RV. Often, we focus on larger animals — after all, a bear trying to snag your lunch is more of an immediate danger than a swarm of bugs all after a bite of you — but there's one critter we often overlook. Around this time of year, mice and other small rodents are hunting for somewhere warm and cozy, and your sleeping bag or the inside of your RV is just the place they're looking for. Fortunately, there's a tried-and-tested camping hack to deter them, and the best news is that it's safe for pets and kids.

Read more