Belgian Dentist Breaks Appalachian Trail Speed Record – Runner’s World

Belgian Dentist Breaks Appalachian Trail Speed Record  Runner’s World

Karel Sabbe broke the Appalachian Trail speed record by more than four days.

The Appalachian Trail speed record seems to be getting quicker and quicker. In previous years, the new records were hours better than the previous marks. But now, a Belgian dentist beat the current record by four days for the 2,189-mile trail.

Karel Sabbe, 28, from Ghent, Belgium, reached Katahdin Mountain in Maine on August 28 in the afternoon. That gave him a total time of 41 days, 7 hours, 39 minutes, leaving him well under Joe McConaughy’s 2017 record of 45 days, 12 hours, 15 minutes.

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On average, Sabbe completed roughly two marathons of distance per day since he started on July 18.

At the top of the trail, he stayed for two hours, resting for the first time in two days after going through the night to complete the final section.

“I was smelling the barn,” Sabbe told Runner’s World over the phone. “It would’ve been a short sleep anyway because I wanted to finish, and I wanted to break the six weeks barrier, too.”

Sabbe now holds the Appalachian Trail speed record and the Pacific Crest Trail speed record, making him the first person to hold both records at the same time. In 2016, he broke the Pacific Crest Trail speed record, which was also owned by McConaughy at the time.

For this trip, Sabbe relied heavily on his experiences and rookie mistakes from the Pacific Coast Trail. He ate better. His crew, which included friends, his wife, his brother-in-law, and his and his wife’s parents, performed to perfection getting Sabbe through some stops in minutes. They also helped him consume roughly 10,000 calories a day.

“At first, you crave carbs, and then that shifts to fat, and I was eating pizza, potato chips, lots of candy, M&Ms, granola bars, and things like that,” Sabbe said. “I usually ate on the uphills so I didn’t waste time.”

His brother-in-law, Jo Biebuyck, who was also the crew chief, even helped him keep up his dental hygiene.

“During PCT, [it] was very bad because I would never brush my teeth, and I was having all of this soda and sugar, which is not good for your teeth,” Sabbe said. “Every few days, Jo would come up to me with a toothbrush with toothpaste and say, ‘Do this now.’ I had mouthwash this time, too.”

And, most importantly, unlike previous record holders’ attempts from McConaughy, Scott Jurek, and Karl Meltzer, Sabbe was fortunate enough to not get injured at any point on the trail.

“I had talked to Joe (McConaughy), Karl (Meltzer), Scott (Jurek), and Jennifer Pharr Davis before and during the trip, and they gave advice and every now and then I heard from them as I was going,” Sabbe said. “Karl said to ice my shins to prevent shin splits because I get those easily so I iced every night.”

The record attempt is in the books, and is just waiting on official Guinness Book of World Records approval. That shouldn’t be a problem, given that Sabbe tracked the entire route using a GPS tracker that marked his location every two minutes, and also had Strava going on his Suunto Spartan Ultra watch, which he charged once every night and lasted the entire day.

In addition, he also had two strangers he ran into on the trail sign a form that confirmed where he was and that they had seen him.

“The FKT websites don’t require as much, but I wanted to go for the world record because it’s nice to go for that,” Sabbe said. “They require a lot more paperwork so we did everything we could from getting forms signed to taking selfies at certain junctions and landmarks.”

With the FKT in the bag, Sabbe has a few extra days because he finished earlier than expected. After two hours at the top of Katahdin, he went to enjoy some local pizza and beer and was in bed early. He’s also happy to finally be sitting down, which he was not allowed to do while he was running each day. But he’s not staying still for long.

“I was imagining a close call for the record but now we have some extra days so we’re going to Bar Harbor, (Maine) and hitting Boston and then New York City to catch some of the U.S. Open,” Sabbe said. “I really love tennis.”