Fueled by Beer and Junk Food, Ultra Runner Karl Meltzer Sets the Appalachian Trail Record

Karl Meltzer Hiking Appalachin Trail
Josh Campbell/Red Bull Content Pool

Karl Meltzer isn’t your average ultra runner. Not that any ultra runner—people who run more than a marathon—is average. But Meltzer is extraordinary.

Nicknamed the “Speedgoat,” Meltzer made a name for himself in the fast-growing sport of ultrarunning in 1996 after completing a 100-mile race in a little over 28 hours. Originally a skier, the 48-year old worked as a bartender at a ski resort in Utah during the winter months and used the summers to run. Now based in Sandy, Utah, he is considered one of the most accomplished ultrarunners in the world, holding the record for the most career wins (38, to be exact) in 100-mile trail races. 

But setting the record for the 2,190-mile Appalachian Trail was still far from a cake walk for Meltzer. On his first attempt in 2008 he completed the trail a week off the record and on his second in 2014 he called it quits with roughly 600 miles to go. This time around, he decided to approach his diet a little bit differently than you might expect. 

Unlike the former Appalachian Trail record holder, Scott Jurek, who maintained a strict all-natural vegan diet, Meltzer indulged in steak, fried chicken, ice cream, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, chocolate bars, hamburgers, steamed vegetables, pasta, and energy drinks (Red Bull, in particular) daily. And to cap off each night’s meal? An ice-cold beer, or two, depending on how he felt.

Meltzer completed the course in 45 days, 22 hours, and 38 minutes, making an incredible push the last two days, at which point he ran 83 miles non-stop to complete the final leg of the journey by 3:38 Sunday morning. Throughout the course of the trail, he averaged roughly 47 miles per day at a pace of 3.2 miles per hour. After finally crossing the finish line, Meltzer treated himself to a few slices of pepperoni pizza and of course, a beer. “It’s been a long journey,” Meltzer said. “I’ve been trying to get this record for eight years, and I was finally successful. It just took me three tries to do it. It’s a very special time right now, definitely a stamp on my career.” 


Think you’ve got what it takes to be an ultra runner but not sure how to get started? Check out our running tips for beginners from ultramarathoner Dean Karnazes, who once ran 50 marathons in 50 consecutive days. Or if you’re already a seasoned distance runner looking to build extra strength, brush up on our strength training guide designed specifically for marathon runners. And don’t be afraid to work a beer into your training plan every now and then. Clearly, it works. 

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