Joe “Stringbean” McConaughy smashed both self-supported and supported FKT (Fastest Known Time) records on August 31st 2017. McConaughy started the trail on July 17th 2017 at 6:31 am EST in Georgia, and reached Katahdin on August 31st at 6:38 pm EST, meaning he thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail, unsupported, in an astounding 45 days, 12 hours and 10 minutes.
Remarkably, this means that if his record is verified by community-recognized officials (which it most likely will be), he will have finished the trail eleven hours faster than the previous supported record holder, professional ultrarunner Karl Meltzer, and nine days faster than the previous unsupported record set by Heather “Anish” Anderson.
Even more astonishing is the fact that without outside support and fueled only by his own power, he averaged around 48 miles per day, finishing the last stretch of the 2,189 mile trail with a grueling 110 mile push in one go, that took him 37 hours to complete.
In the world of Appalachian Trail FKT claims and attempts the past few years have been relatively drama-filled. In 2015, Scott Jurek’s self-supported FKT was verified, but there were several complaints, including a littering charge as he celebrated his finish in Katahdin with champagne.
Kaiha “Wild Card Ninja” Bertollini claimed the self-supported speed record in 2016, but her claim was never verified as many factors of her hike were questioned, including that she had been spotted skipping sections of the trail. A few weeks ago, Dan “Knotts” Binde attempted to claim a new self-supported record, which will most likely not be verified due to his GPS device malfunctioning.
To avoid the same issues and fate as Bertollini and Binde, Stringbean meticulously followed the expectations and guidelines set forth by Peter Bakwin, unofficial arbitrer of FKTs and founder of the online community that tracks FKTs. McConaughy thoroughly used a GPS to track his location, and used his Instagram account to provide time-and-date stamped photos and updates.
In keeping with community guidelines, he acknowledged his intentions to break the record, and was careful in not receiving support during his hike, unlike a previous hiker who faced controversy as he gave his credit card to other hikers and requested their help in picking up food for him in town. Stringbean’s record has yet to be verified by Bakwin, but with the amount of evidence, there’s no reason to believe it won’t be.
McConaughy announced his attempt on the FKT proboard with the following statement:
“Hello all! My name is Joe McConaughy, aka Stringbean. I would like to announce my intentions to pursue the self-supported FKT of the Appalachian Trail. I have gotten into contact with Heather Anderson and have deep respect for what she has done, both of the AT and PCT. In order to best provide clarity for my self-supported effort, I will follow the guidelines that have been established by previous attempts like Heather’s.
I will begin my attempt in mid to late July, and the best way to track my progress is by following along at @thestring.bean on Instagram. In order to prevent unwanted aid that might question my attempt, all posts will be backdated. In addition, I will be carrying a GPS Gen 3 Spot tracker. It will not be made public, but Peter Bakwin will be receiving real time updates. I am happy to share this link to anyone interested in verification. I consider these precautions very important to honor my efforts, and will also have video/photo documentation.”
Setting an FKT record on the Appalachian Trail is no easy feat, and McConaughy had the community support behind him, even Meltzer was cheering him on, following along on his instagram and commenting with encouraging words. Stringbean ran nearly 50 miles a day, carrying his food and shelter for the whole journey, and is now taking time to recover. The thru-hike had a profound physical impact, including severely swollen joints, weight loss, and dramatic muscle fatigue.
When announcing his finishing time on his Instagram, McConaughy wrote:
“I’m am in shock and pain, joyful and thankful, humbled and tired, in disbelief and exhilaration. I will be forever perplexed and appreciative of what the wilderness brings out in myself and others. I hope anyone watching is at least inspired to become more involved in the outdoors. Every day has been a battle, but I am very thankful to be safe and have accomplished my dream ever since the PCT. I’ve had a lot of time in my own thoughts, and what I took away most from this journey is community. It is the people you love and who surround you who provide the greatest joy. It really took a village.”
Who Is Stringbean?
McConaughy is well known in the thru-hike and record setting world, having already broken a speed record on the Pacific Crest Trail in 2014. He set the supported speed record at 23 years old, when he completed the 2,660 mile trail in 53 days, 6 hours and 37 minutes. He has a history of long-distance running, having been a Division 1 collegiate runner and competing in track and field and cross country for Boston College.
His Pacific Crest Trail FKT was dedicated to his cousin Colin McConaughy, who after a short battle with Neuroblastoma, passed away on January 12 2012.
Congrats go to Stringbean on this incredible accomplishment, which takes remarkable mental fortitude and incredible human endurance. We can only watch in awe at this remarkable feat, and we can’t wait to see what he does next.