Scott Jurek bested the previous record holder by three hours
It took him 46 days, eight hours and seven minutes
For typical hikers, the trail takes about five to six months to complete
Covering an average of 50 miles a day, seasoned ultramarathoner Scott Jurek faced injury and feats of physical and mental toughness like never before in becoming the fastest person to complete the Appalachian Trail.
Jurek, 41, started the 2,185-mile trail in Springer Mountain, Georgia, on May 27 and finished, 14 states later, on top of Mount Katahdin in Maine on Sunday surrounded by supporting family and friends.
He completed the trail, which typically takes five to six months, in 46 days, eight hours and seven minutes, besting the previous record holder, Jennifer Pharr-Davis, by just over three hours.
“I’m just super pleased,” Jurek told CNN on Monday. “I’ve never done one of these and for me it was this whole new experience that took me to places and challenged me mentally and physically like nothing else before,” he said.
Jurek, who has been racing for 21 years and has completed over 100 ultramarathons, said it has always been a dream of his to complete one of the national scenic trails but that he wanted to wait to do it toward the end of his career.
“It takes a lot of out of you and physically your body doesn’t come back as strong because it’s such a huge undertaking,” he said.
Jurek covered an average of 50 miles a day to break the record, typically waking up at 5 a.m. and ending his day at 8 or 9 at night. He ran the downhill and flat portions while walking the uphill parts, burning approximately 5,000 to 6,000 calories a day. He ate Clif bars and jells throughout the day to fuel his body, and sandwiches when time allowed.
Seven days into the hike, Jurek was significantly slowed down when he tore his left quad muscle and injured his right knee on the trail.
He told CNN in a phone interview that in the first three days after being injured, he could only walk, and no more than 38 miles a day. It took just over a week to heal and afterward, he said there was a fine line between pushing too hard and covering the distance required in time.
Jurek recounted nights where he finished his day at 1 a.m. and slept for just one hour.
“It becomes a fine balance of sleep deprivation and how many miles you can put in,” he said.
Jurek was supported by his wife throughout the entire trip and different friends who joined for short periods of time.
Completing the Appalachian Trail has been a tradition for 40 years, according to Ron Tipton, executive director and CEO of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy. Each year, thousands of hikers attempt to hike the trail in a year, but only about one in four makes it all the way.
“Approximately 15,000 people have completed the trail,” Tipton said. “The reasons they don’t complete the trail vary from injury, fatigue and I’d say the most common reason is they don’t realize how hard it is and they aren’t ready for the experience.”
The Appalachian Trail Conservancy said it followed Jurek’s hike closely but emphasized that this is not a formal competition.
“That 515,000 feet of up and down is equivalent to going from zero elevation to the top of Mount Everest 16 times,” Tipton said.
Jurek kept a social media diary of his journey on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.