Back in August I wrote about Karl “Speedgoat” Meltzer’s attempt to break the speed record for a supported thru-hike on the Appalachian Trail. I followed reports of Karl’s progress as he hiked/ran from AT’s north terminus at Mt. Katahdin in Maine to Springer Mountain in Georgia. There were some nail biting moments when it looked like Karl wasn’t going to be able to break the record. Then on September 18th Karl finished in an astounding 45 days, 22 hours and 38 minutes. He went through 20 pairs of running shoes and took 4.3 million steps. Pretty amazing!
I live fairly close to the AT and had planned to camp out along the trail with the hopes of seeing Karl as he zoomed by. It was difficult to know where he was – his team was posting updates on his progress 2 days after the fact. I can understand why – too many people like me would be wanting to take selfies or just chat with Karl. All that downtime would add up and then boom! There goes the speed record. It was not surprising to me that in an interview when he finished, Karl said he was done running/hiking 50 miles a day. It is difficult and probably not a lot of fun. He is 48 years old now and he isn’t quite sure what he will do. “I’ll run more 100s, probably” [as in 100-mile races]. Maybe it is just me but that doesn’t sound much like slowing down.
If Karl does want to keep hiking/running the AT, he can do it on the International Appalachian Trail (IAT), a network of trails that extend beyond Katahdin, Maine into Canada and Western Europe. The IAT was proposed in 1994 by former Maine Governor Joseph E. Brennan. The proposal was to extend the trail through the rest of the Appalachian Mountains into Canada. Working with a group of hiking enthusiasts from Quebec and New Brunswick, they started working to develop an international trail. They formed the International Appalachian Trail organization whose mission is:
“to establish a network of walking trails that extends beyond borders to all geographic regions once connected by the Appalachian-Caledonian orogen, formed more than 250 million years ago on the super-continent Pangea. In addition to connecting people and places, the goal is to promote natural and cultural heritage, health and fitness, environmental stewardship, fellowship and understanding, cross-border cooperation, and rural economic development through eco and geo tourism.”
By 2002 the IAT was extended to Newfoundland and Labrador followed by additional sections in Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island. Soon hikers from Greenland, Iceland, and Western Europe were interested in developing other trail networks to add to the IAT. Currently there are IAT walking trails in Maine, New Brunswick, Quebec, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland, Greenland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Scotland, Northern Ireland, Ireland, Isle of Man, Wales, England, France, Spain, Portugal and Morocco. There are plans to continue adding trails to the IAT network, reconnecting more lands from the supercontinent Pangea.
Maybe the next person who makes an attempt at the thru-hike speed record will decide to keep going, right into Canada and beyond. Now that would be one heck of a hike!
This CNN interview with Karl included some interesting video. http://www.cnn.com/video/api/embed.html#/video/sports/2016/09/21/appalachian-trail-record-karl-meltzer-intv.cnn
Outside Online published this interview with Karl. http://www.outsideonline.com/2116366/karl-meltzer-sets-appalachian-trail-speed-record
The official site for Karl’s AT Run can be found here. It includes interesting information about his journey, including Karl’s daily account of the ups and downs of his trail speed record. http://atrun.redbull.com/karl-meltzer-appalachian-trail
Interested in learning more about the International AT? Their web site includes information about the trails in each of the member countries. http://www.iat-sia.org