Each year, roughly three million people hike the Appalachian Trail for at least one day, and just over 3,000 attempt to thru-hike the entire trail — which spans 2,190 miles over 14 states from Mount Katahdin in Maine to Springer Mountain in Georgia. This summer, Red Bull ultra-marathoner Karl Meltzer attempted to conquer the “A.T.” faster than anyone in history. The 48-year-old known as “Speedgoat” assembled a team consisting of his father, wife and several close friends. Approximately 4.3 million steps later, Meltzer owned the record (45 days, 22 hours, 38 minutes). We caught up with “Speedgoat” — who is resting now.
How did you train for this?
The whole mental aspect of it is mind-boggling. Waking up every morning at 4:15 and knowing you have to jog, hike, walk, scramble around for 15 hours a day is daunting. But I’m an ultra-marathoner, I run about 70 miles a week in the mountains.
What did you eat?
My breakfast was very small. I ate yogurt every day, with a banana. Once I got going, they started feeding me more. I’ll eat anything, from bacon to honey buns to a large steak to good vegetables at dinner, some beets and asparagus, whatever they could cook. Fried chicken, pierogis, pasta. I remember sitting one place and someone brought a pint of ice cream. I think I consumed that in three minutes — a whole pint of ice cream. That sounds crazy, but your body is just like, “Give me food!”
Where did you go to the bathroom?
We’d find a place in the woods a little bit, dig a hole, I’d use it, then I would burn my toilet paper on the side somewhere safe, and then we’d cover the hole. My crew would do all that stuff for me.
Did you have any run-ins with any animals?
No negative run-ins. I saw six bears. But I do run with music, so I would assume that more bears saw me. I turn the music up, and I don’t worry about it. Saw a couple rattlesnakes, couple copperheads, a lot of deer, but nothing that was scary out of the ordinary.
What kind of music did you listen to?
Grateful Dead would be my go-to. But it wasn’t all Dead. It was just a lot of jam-band music from Phish to Strangefolk to Widespread Panic, a little John Denver mixed in there, too.
Did you suffer any injuries?
I had some bad days. I was injured through most of Pennsylvania. I had tendonitis of my right shin. Pretty standard for this overuse. Go figure, right?
Will you try to break your own record?
No. It’s too much of a journey of misery, man. No way! I’ve got nothing to prove. I’m going to just chill out and relax for a while.
On the Trail
Start: Aug. 3 at 5:00 a.m.
Finish: Sept. 18 at 3:38 a.m.
Time: 45 days, 22 hours, 38 minutes
3.28 MPH average speed
4,330,207 steps taken
345,122 calories burned
22 pairs of shoes worn through
10,350 ounces of water consumed