Thursday, June 5, 2008

The Summer of the Long Distance Trail

Ultra runner David Horton (foreground) during his record setting Pacific Crest Trail thru hike. His journey was chronicled in the film "The Runner" by Journey Films (photo from Journey Films website).

This summer two legendary ultra runners will attempt to set new speed records for two of the three long trails in the United States. And further, you can follow each of them through their adventures with daily postings on websites and blogs.

David Horton is no stranger to extreme running feats. At one time he held the record for fastest thru hike of the Appalachian Trail. A couple years ago, he set the speed record for the Pacific Crest Trail, which he still holds. He has also run across the country as part of the Transcontinental Race; won the first two Hardrock 100 mile races; and has directed several races as part of the Lynchurg Ultra Series, including the Mountain Masochist 50 miler, which turned 25 in 2007. Horton has written a book about his adventures on the AT and running across the country and was the subject of the documentary film, "The Runner," which followed his PCT run.

Horton will be calling in frequently to Clark Zealand, who is already posting reports on his blog for his race-directing company, Eco-X. If successful, Horton will have held the speed record on each of the nation's three noted long trails: the AT, PCT, and CDT. To make it all work, he has to cover roughly 2,959 miles in just over 69 days. Ouch!

Meanwhile, starting in early August, on this side of the country, Utah uber ultra runner Karl Meltzer will take a shot at the Appalachian Trail speed record. Meltzer currently sits atop the trail ultra world--winning 6 and 5 100-mile races in the past two years. The AT record has been broken/lowered twice since Horton held it and is currently held by speed hiker Andrew Thompson.

Meltzer has a number of stalwart sponsors (as does Horton), who are helping him with logistics, etc. for the trip. One of Karl's primary sponsors is, who have outfitted an RV to follow the route and serve as bunk and base of operations. They have set up a website, , that will track his progress along the trail, each day. The site currently has training videos, current news, etc.

Each of these guys are big names in the sport, with extraordinary accomplishments to their names. I dig that neither are content to sit back, or to simply run races. They are each thinking creatively and pushing their bodies in new ways. And in both cases, they are organizing ultra races for others, bringing us out to the trails they themselves run, to push ourselves and experience that self-transendence that can come with that kind of effort.

So follow along if you are interested and either way, a tip of the hat and best of luck to David and Karl as they spend all or part of their summers on the long trail.


Anonymous said...

Mike, read your fast packing article in TrailRunner and loved it. I'm ready for the challenge.

Speedgoat Karl said...

Very nice Post Michael! It'll be interesting to see if I can handle the challenge. You are exactly right in saying David and I are pushing our own limits, and slightly raising the bar....if we can. I am excited to get started. Simply put running the Western States 100 next week, is completely on the backburner. The AT is the beast of all beasts. I hope I can tame it and mother nature stays on my side...we'll see. Now go run!

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