Few runners have endured long miles the way Karl Meltzer has. The winningest 100-mile runner in history—he’s won 38 of ‘em—the resident of Sandy, Utah, has earned plenty of hardware and battle scars in his 20 years in the sport.
As a runner, coach and race director, Meltzer, whose nickname is “Speedgoat,” has achieved an enormous bounty of success. He’s won 57 ultra-distance races, including the daunting Hardrock 100 in Colorado a record five times. He’s also played a world record 230 holes of golf in 12 hours and covered the entire Pony Express Trail (2,064 miles) on foot in 2010.
Now the 48-year-old trail running legend is going after one of the few things he’s been unsuccessful at twice—achieving the fastest known time (FKT) on the Appalachian Trail. In early August, Meltzer will begin his quest on the 2,189-mile trail from Mt. Katahdin, Maine, and run, trek, hike and walk all the way to Springer Mountain, Georgia.
His goal will be to break Scott Jurek’s 2015 record of 46 days, 8 hours, 7 minutes. It’s a record he helped Jurek achieve as a support runner last summer, and Jurek will do the same for Meltzer this summer. (Jurek covered the trail from south to north between late May and early July last year.)
Meltzer, a Red Bull and Hoka One One athlete, will have to average more than 50 miles per day to achieve the record. (Red Bull has created a multimedia page that will monitor his progress.) But he knows first-hand what it will take. In addition to being on the trail last year with Jurek, Meltzer first attempted to break the record in 2008 but came up just short—finishing in 54 days, 21 hours, 12 minutes. (At the time, the record was 47 days, 13 hours, and 31 minutes.) He also attempted it in 2014 but stopped after about 1,500 miles when he fell off pace and wasn’t doing well physically or mentally.
“I’m going to give it one more try. Hopefully the third time will be a charm,” Meltzer told Competitor.com. “I was planning to go back this year before Scott did it last year. I’ve done all my homework and recon and hopefully the stars will align this time around.”
Meltzer was part of Jurek’s small crew of supporters last year. In addition to Scott and Jenny Jurek, Meltzer will be supported at various points on the trail by his 74-year-old dad, Karl Meltzer, his wife, Cheryl, and friends Eric Belz and Mike Mason. Meltzer will be taking 15 pairs of Hoka Speedgoat shoes with him (it’s the sticky rubber mountain running shoe built especially for him), plus a few pairs of Hoka Challenger ATR 2.
“I think what makes the Appalachian Trail unique is that there is a certain vibe on it,” Meltzer said. “When you walk on the AT or go for a long run on it, it’s like you’re in a long green tunnel. You can just feel the aura when you’re out there.
“What Scott went through was very inspirational,” Meltzer said. “Hopefully I can bring some of that energy into my attempt.”