Appalachian Trail Speed Record Smashed by More Than Four Days

The race to record the fastest known time (FKT) on the Appalachian Trail continues, this time with Belgian ultrarunner Karel Sabbe laying down an impressive new mark. On Tuesday, Sabbe completed the 2190 mile (3523 km) AT, besting the previous record held by Joe McConaughy, who set the FKT for a supported thru-hike just last year. Sabbe didn’t lower the bar by a little however, he dropped it considerably, throwing down the gauntlet for whoever is going to give it a go next.

Sabbe’s new speed record for hiking the AT end-to-end –– starting on Spring Mountain in Georgia and heading north to Mount Katahdin in Maine –– now stands at 41 days, 7 hours, 39 minutes. That tops McConaughy’s record by more than four days. That’s an incredible gap and an impressive time for covering such a long distance. Essentially, that means that the Belgian dentist was able to cover more than 53 miles (85 km) per day, each and every day, for well over a month.

The record-setting attempt began back on July 18, with Sabbe setting out from Spring Mountain. Throughout this trek north, Sabbe offered live tracking data for others to follow along and uploaded his Strava information as well. He even went so far as to contact Guinness to have an impartial, outside judge track and verify his record as well.

Obviously Sabbe is fast on the trail, but no one knows that better than McConaughy. Back in 2016, the Belgian broke his record on the Pacific Crest Trail as well. The record for the 2660 mile (4280 km) PCT, which still stands today, is 52 days, 8 hours, and 25 minutes.

It should be noted once again that this record is for a supported FKT, meaning that Sabbe had a team that assisted him along the way. Typically that means they provide him food and water, set up camp, and sometimes pace him on the trail. The speed record for the fastest unsupported trek on the AT still belongs to McConaughy, who went it alone on his journey.

Congrats to Karel on this amazing speed run. Excellent work!

Kraig Becker