Ultrarunner Karl Meltzer has won 38 x 100-mile races; the world record for Most 100 Mile Wins. It has always been his dream to hold the speed record for The Appalachian Trail and put a stamp on his illustrious career. Karl runs for Red Bull and Hoka One One, Drymax, Ultraspire, and Ryders Eyewear and has his own signature line of “Speedgoat Branded Products,” including Speedgoat Karl’s 100 Mile Blend Coffee.
Sasha Frate: There aren’t many people who ever make it to hike the Appalachian Trail, let alone run it. How does it feel to make your mark on this legendary trail, covering its 2,190 miles in a record time of 45 days, 22 hours and 38 minutes?
Karl Meltzer: I’ve been chasing this record for 8 years, and after making two other attempts in 2008 and 2014, I made one more try at it in 2016. Although it is mentioned that I “ran” the AT, it is 90% hiking, averaging 3.4 mph for about 14 hours per day. No doubt that it feels great. Finally, I can say I’ve put a stamp on my career.
SF: How did you earn the name “Speedgoat”?
KM: I was driving home from the Pikes Peak Marathon in 1993 and a friend saw a jackrabbit cross the highway. I said, “look, it’s a speedgoat.” It’s stuck ever since. My buddy and I fought over the name, but I was a lot faster.
SF: Your father exposed you to the mountains and you created an outdoor career in ultrarunning. Do you think you would have ventured this direction if you hadn’t had his influence as a kid?
KM: For sure I would have done something in the outdoors. I generally did not like going to school and always felt that we live once and should pursue our passion, rather than take the standard course of action of going to college, focusing on making a good salary and saving it to take to my grave. I’ve always “worked to live, not lived to work.”
SF: Your RedBull stats show that you’ve run through 22 pairs of shoes, 465,000 feet of elevation gain/loss and 121 crashes on the Appalachian Trail race. How accurate were these stats? Are there more of your own stats to tell?
KM: The stats are very close to accurate; the actual shoe count was 19 and crashes are in that ballpark. I went down a few times a day. The number of times I almost went down is probably 800.
SF: 690 hours of Grateful Dead? Only Grateful Dead for 690 hours?!
KM: Not all GD, some John Denver, Johnny Cash, AC/DC, Def Leppard, Neil Young, Phish, Kieth Urban, Strangefolk. A real mix, but GD is my favorite.
SF: How do you occupy your mind and what do you do for fun while running for countless hours alone on the trails?
KM: Listen to music, dance around the rocks and enjoy the scenery of the green tunnel. I generally never run with others, so it was easy for me be alone in the woods. If I seem to get bored, I just ask myself, “who gets to do this?” Me!
SF: Have you ever had any run-ins with dangerous wildlife or particularly challenging situations on your long runs?
KM: Not really. I saw 6 bears, which ran away from me, jumped over a few Rattlers and Copperheads and had a few close-up conversations with deer, but nothing intimidating or scary. I only saw one moose in Maine from a distance.
SF: In your final push you ran 23 hours straight to complete 85 miles! What helped you mentally and physically to power through this last stretch?
KM: I was on autopilot and could easily have gone further. When the end is near, we smell the barn and having run 75 x 100 mile races, this distance was “child’s play.”