Appalachian Trail Record

A list of the current and historical Appalachian Trail record holders.

by Justin Sprecher
January 14, 2022

Achieving the fastest known time, aka FKT, on the Appalachian Trail is the ultimate speed achievement in the hiking and trail running community. In this article, we’ll cover current and past record holders, famous attempts, and a brief history of FKTs.

FKT is the total elapsed time from start to finish on a given route. There is no official governing body for keeping FKT records. However, the website fastestknowntime.com, started by Pete Bakwin and Buzz Burrell, is the most widely agreed-upon collection of records, routes, and attempts related to FKTs.


Current Appalachian Trail Record Holders

Name Time Miles Per Day Direction Gender Style Date
Karel Sabbe 41d 7h 39m 53 miles North Male Supported 2018-08-28
Joe "Stringbean" McConaughy 45d 12h 15m 48 miles North Male Self-supported 2018-08-31
Jennifer Pharr Davis 46d 11h 20m 47 miles South Female Supported 2011-07-31
Heather Anderson 54d 7h 48m 40 miles South Female Self-supported 2015-09-24

Historical Appalachian Trail Record Holders

Name Time Miles Per Day Direction Gender Style Date
Karel Sabbe 41d 7h 39m 53 miles North Male Supported 2018-08-28
Joe "Stringbean" McConaughy 45d 12h 15m 48 miles North Male Self-supported 2018-08-31
Jennifer Pharr Davis 46d 11h 20m 47 miles South Female Supported 2011-07-31
Heather Anderson 54d 7h 48m 40 miles South Female Self-supported 2015-09-24
Karl "Speedgoat" Meltzer 45d 22h 38m 48 miles South Male Supported 2016-09-18
Scott Jurek 46d 8h 6m 47 miles North Male Supported 2015-07-12
Andrew Thompson 47d 13h 31m 46 miles South Male Supported 2005-01-01
Pete Palmer 48d 20h 11m 45 miles North Male Supported 1999-01-01
Joey Campanelli 48d 23h 48m 45 miles South Male Self-supported 2017-09-22
Liz Anjos 51d 16h 30m 42 miles North Female Supported 2020-08-27
David Horton 52d 9h 42m 42 miles North Male Supported 1991-01-01
Dan Binde 53d 22h 57m 41 miles North Male Self-supported 2017-07-19
Matt Kirk 58d 9h 48m 37 miles South Male Self-supported 2013-08-07


NOTEWORTHY ATTEMPTS

Attempting the FKT on the AT is not for the faint of heart. Many attempt the trail multiple times before setting the FKT or throwing in the towel. Below are a few noteworthy attempts.

Although he finished, near the end of Joey Campanelli’s 2014 attempt he received support during Hurricane Aurthur and was disqualified.

Injuries ended trail running legend Karl Meltzer’s 2008 and 2014 attempts.

Scott Jurek’s 2021 attempt garnered immense media and sponsorship attention. A week into his attempt Scott suffered a quad tear and had to leave the trail.


appalachian-trail-path


Understanding FKT

There are two types of FKT records, self-supported and supported.

  • Self-supported FKTs: Also known as thru-hiker style FKTs, are attempts where an athlete carries all of their gear. They can use any means of support along the trail that is equally available to all hikers. Mailing packages to a post office, staying in motels, and resupplying in trail towns are all acceptable forms of self-support.
  • Supported FKTs: also known as ultramarathon style FKTs, are attempts where an athlete has a crew assisting them along the way for things like food drops, navigation, and pacing.

Records have been kept on the AT since the first thru-hike by Earl Shaffer in 1948. Many credit David Horton’s 1991 FKT as the beginning of the ultrarunning style speed competition on the AT. During the 10s the pace ramped up and new FKTs were set almost every year. In 2020, the cancellation of races due to the COVID-19 pandemic caused another surge of FKT attempts on all trails.

Today, setting the FKT on the AT has become one of the most prestigious accomplishments in the endurance sports world. It attracts high-profile athletes, corporate sponsors, and media attention.

FKTs have been set traveling both north and southbound directions. Some favor heading NOBO, the traditional direction of travel, and some favor SOBO to get the most rugged terrain out of the way at the start.


blood-mountain-appalachian-trail


Appalachian Trail Record Holder Profiles

1. Karel Sabbe

  • Time: 41d 7h 39m
  • Date: 2018-08-28

In 2018 the Belgian ultrarunner Karel Sabbe became the current supported FKT holder with a time of 41d 7h 39m. His NOBO attempt beat Joe "Stringbean" McConaughy’s record by 4 days. Karel was the first person to average 50+ miles a day on the AT.

Unlike many attempting FKTs, Karel is not a professional runner and a relative newcomer in the ultrarunning scene. He works as a dentist in Belgium and has said running is a “hobby that got out of hand.”

Karel previously held the supported PCT FKT. He was the first person to hold the supported AT and PCT FKTs at the same time.


2. Joe McConaughy

  • Time: 45d 12h 15m
  • Date: 2018-08-31

Joe “Stringbean” McConaughy is the current self-supported AT FKT record holder with a time of 45d 12h 15m. In 2017 when he set the record he also beat the supported record held by Karl Meltzer. Therefore, he held both supported and self-supported FKT titles at once.

This achievement is particularly notable because Joe had to carry all his supplies and set up camp every night, unlike Karl. On top of that, Joe lost nearly two days to an injury in the White Mountains of New Hampshire.

From Seattle, Joe got the nickname “Stringbean” from his mother, who said his body shape looked like a string bean.


appalachian trail record holder Joe McConaughy

© facebook.com | Jennifer Pharr Davis

3. Jennifer Pharr Davis

  • Time: 46d 11h 20m
  • Date: 2011-07-31

Jennifer Pharr Davis first set the female supported AT FKT in 2008. In 2011 she finished in 46d 11h 20m, nearly a day faster than Andrew Johnson’s record from 2005. Her all-gender record stood for 4 years until it was broken by Scott Jurek. Her 2011 attempt is still the current supported female FKT. Both her attempts were completed traveling southbound.

Pharr Davis also holds the female self-supported Long Trail FKT which she set in 2007. She was named one of National Geographic’s Adventurers of the Year in 2012. She lives in Asheville, NC.


4. Heather Anderson

  • Time: 54d 7h 48m
  • Date: 2015-09-24

Heather Anderson, aka Anish, is one the fastest and most decorated long-distance hikers in the world. She currently holds the female self-supported FKT on the AT with a time of 54d 7h 48m. When she set the record in 2015 she crushed the record for any gender, 4 days faster than the previous best time held by Matt Kirk.

She holds the overall self-supported FKT on the PCT and the female self-supported FKT on the Arizona Trail. In 2018 she became the first female to complete a calendar year triple crown, completing the 8,000-mile hike in just 8 months. In 2019 she was named a National Geographic Adventurer of the Year


appalachian trail record holder karl meltzer

5. Karl Meltzer

  • Time: 45d 22h 38m
  • Date: 2016-09-18

One of the most widely known ultrarunners, Karl “Speedgoat” Meltzer started his professional running career in 1999. After leaving the trail due to injury in his 2008 and 2014 attempts, Karl set the support FKT in 2016 with a time of 45d 22h 38m. He beat Scott Jurek’s 2015 FKT by a mere 9 hours.

Due to his status as an elite ultrarunner, the attempt received significant media coverage and his trip was documented by Redbull. At 48 Karl is the oldest AT record holder in the modern era of FKTs.

Karl has won the most 100-mile ultramarathons of any runner. He lives in Sandy, UT.


6. Scott Jurek

  • Time: 46d 8h 6m
  • Date: 2015-07-12

The term household name doesn’t generally apply to ultrarunners, but if it did Scott Jurek would be it. One of the most dominant runners of the last 20+ years he set the supported AT FKT in 2015 beating Jennifer Pharr Davis’s record by just 3 hours. His time of 46d 8h 6m stood only a year before Karl Meltzer broke it in 2016.

In 2021 Jurek made national news with his attempt to once again break the supported AT FKT. After only a week he suffered a quad tear and had to call off his attempt.

Outside of running, Jurek advocates for a plant-based diet and has been a vegan since 1999. He lives in Boulder, CO.


andrew thomspon avatar

7. Andrew Thompson

  • Time: 47d 13h 31m
  • Date: 2005-01-01

The third time was the charm for Andrew Thompson. After attempting to break Pete Palmer's record in 1999 and 2001 he set the supported FKT in 2005 with a time of 47d 13h 31m. His record stood until 2011 when it was broken by Jennifer Pharr Davis.

Unlike other attempts, Andrew was the first to set the FKT by traveling southbound to get through the difficult northern terrain while his body was still fresh.

Andrew is one of only 15 people to have completed the Barkley Marathons. He lives in Orford, NH, a trail town of the AT.


pete-palmer-avatar

8. Pete Palmer

  • Time: 48d 20h 11m
  • Date: 1999-01-01

In 1999 Pete “Cujo” Palmer broke David Horton’s supported FKT heading northbound with a time of 48d 20h 11m. Wanting it to be a personal challenge, Palmer didn’t seek media attention or sponsorships and was entirely self-funded. His crew was made up of mostly friends and family who donated their time.

At the time of his record, Palmer was 46 making him one of the oldest to set the FKT on the AT. Palmer worked as a US Postal Service mail carrier in his hometown of Avon, CT.


9. Joey Campanelli

  • Time: 48d 23h 48m
  • Date: 2017-09-22

In 2014 Joey “Flash” Campanelli completed the AT a day faster than Matt Kirk’s self-supported FKT. Due to inclement weather from Hurricane Arthur and a foot injury near the end of his trip he accepted a ride into town from his father, breaking the self-supported standards.

Determined to try again in 2017 Joey achieved success setting a new SOBO self-supported FKT of 48d 23h 48m.

Living in Alta, Utah, Joey has set many other shorter FKTs in the mountain west including Nolan’s 14, one of the most notorious trail-running routes in the world.


10. Liz Anjos

  • Time: 51d 16h 30m
  • Date: 2020-08-27

​​In 2020 Liz “Mercury” Anjos attempted to break both male and female supported FKTs. Her finishing time of 51d 16h 30m was short of both Karel Sabbe and Jennifer Pharr Davis’s times. It did however set the female supported FKT for a northbound attempt. Liz’s 69-mile first day is an AT FKT record for the longest first day.

She began running at the age of 14 and ran her first ultramarathon in December of 2019, less than a year before her AT FKT. Based in Portland, OR Liz is a classically trained pianist who has toured internationally as a pop keyboardist.


david-horton-avatar

11. David Horton

  • Time: 52d 9h 42m
  • Date: 1991-01-01

David Horton’s 1991 FKT of 52d 9h 42m is credited as ushering in a new era of ultramarathon style attempts on the AT. It also marks the start of increased scrutiny, competition, and tracking of FKT attempts.

A pioneer in the ultrarunning community, David is the race director for some of the toughest races around. The most famous is the brutal Hellgate 100k. Totaling 66.6 miles (107km) the Hellgate is held in December when the weather can range from 80F to blizzard-like conditions.

David is a professor of health sciences at Liberty University and has run over 100,000 miles.


dan-binde-avatar

12. Dan Binde

  • Time: 53d 22h 57m
  • Date: 2017-07-19

Dan “Knotts” Binde claimed a new self-supported FKT of 53d 22h 57m in 2017. However, his SPOT tracker had technical problems and large sections of the trail are missing. His logs and SPOT data also show discrepancies. The AT community conducted an investigation into Dan’s claim which was inconclusive.

Later in 2017 Joe McConaughy and Joey Campanelli both finished record-breaking self-supported attempts of 45 and 48 days respectively. This eased the controversy around Dan’s short-lived FKT time.

Hailing from Minnesota, Dan has attempted the speed record on the AZT and has thru-hiked over 24,000 miles.


matt-kirk-avatar

13. Matt Kirk

  • Time: 58d 9h 48m
  • Date: 2013-08-07

A former school teacher from North Carolina, Matt Kirk set the self-supported FKT in 2013 going southbound with a time of 58d 9h 48m. His time beat the previous 60.5 day record by Ward Leonard that had stood for 23 years.

Notability, Matt also did the entire journey without riding in a car, accessing all his resupply points by foot. To keep his gear light Matt handmade many of the items he used on his attempt.

It was after his first thru-hike of the AT in 2001 that Matt became obsessed with long-distance hiking and running.


Appalachian Trail Overview

appalachian trail map

The AT is one of the oldest and most renowned long-distance trails in the world. Holding an AT FKT puts you in exclusive company with the most elite athletes in the hiking and running communities.

Completed in 1948 and running 2,185 miles, the AT’s southern terminus is Springer Mountain, Georgia and its northern terminus is Mt. Katahdin, Maine. Clingmans Dome is the highest point at 6,643 feet and the notoriously rugged trail features approximately 515,000 feet of total elevation gain.

90% of thru-hikers head northbound starting in early spring and finishing in late summer. The remaining 10% head southbound starting in early summer and finishing in late fall. A thru-hike typically takes most hikers 4 to 6 months. Quite a difference from the self-supported records of 45 days (male) and 54 days (female)!

Justin Sprecher photo

About Justin Sprecher

By Justin Sprecher (aka "Semisweet"): Semisweet is a Wisconsin-based thru-hiker, adventurer and digital storyteller. You can find him exploring the upper midwest on foot, in a canoe and on a bike.

About Greenbelly

After thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail, Chris Cage created Greenbelly to provide fast, filling and balanced meals to backpackers. Chris also wrote How to Hike the Appalachian Trail.

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