Ultrarunner Scott Jurek, 41, recently set an unprecedentedly fast speed record on the East Coast's famed Appalachian Trail. He charged through the 2,180-mile, 14-state route, spanning from Georgia to Maine, in just 46 days and 8 hours. That broke the existing record by more than three hours.
Jurek, an accomplished distance runner currently living in Boulder, Colorado, started at Springer Mountain, the AT's southernmost point, and headed north, averaging nearly 50 miles a day, to finish at Katahdin Mountain on July 12.
He gained 515,000 feet of elevation during his month-and-a-half long journey. Jurek continued to set a fierce pace through torrential rain, 100-degree heat and many sleepless stretches that went all night long.
GrindTV caught up with the legendary endurance athlete to hear his side of the story.Now that you've had some time to recover and reflect, what impact does this AT accomplishment really have on your life?
Scott Jurek: It reinforced that we are stronger than we think we are. Just when we think that we have nothing left to give, we find that extra strength to do what we thought was impossible. Experiences and life-transformative lessons are the best impacts of doing something epic like the AT.
What was the single most hairy moment you had on the trail and how did you dig through it?
On Day 7, in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, I developed a severe left quad muscle tear while having a patellafemoral (runners knee) issue in my right knee. With two bad legs, I wasn’t able to even limp, and I thought for sure my journey and attempt at the record was over. I got over it by doing everything I could for rehab (icing, pneumatic compression, etc.) and only hiking/power walking for the next two days (37 miles and 39 miles).
Mentally, I focused on small goals each hour and getting to landmarks on the trail. I also focused on my walking technique with each step to minimize force on my injuries. I used music occasionally to take the edge off. I really tried to tune into the trail and become a part of my surroundings, meditatively taking in the sights, sounds, smells and textures of the trail. Thinking back on your upbringing, what lesson applies most to how you muscle through challenges so inconceivable to so many?
Throughout my AT journey, my mother was a huge inspiration to me and the lessons I learned from her and the 30-year struggle she endured with multiple sclerosis. Even when she was losing all of her physical abilities, she was so positive and so strong.
What piece of gear did you value most during your AT journey?
My Brooks PureGrit 4 trail shoes. My feet were the one part of my body that was always in contact with the trail and because of that, my shoes were the most critical gear I utilized. Providing protection against the trail while allowing my feet to sense what was below on the trail made the Brooks PureGrits the perfect choice for a rugged and demanding trail like the AT.
No matter how fast or slow people may experience the AT, what does this magical trail have to teach us all?
The AT teaches us that beauty and adversity lie around the bend, and we must embrace both to make us whole and better human beings.
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