Joe “Stringbean” McConaughy Smashes Self-Supported (and Supported) AT Record

On August 31 2017, Joe “Stringbean” McConaughy reached Katahdin after thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail in 45 days, 12 hours, and 10 minutes. If verified (which is looking likely), this record will smash both the self-supported and supported fastest known time (FKT) on the AT.

The self-supported AT FKT was last set by Heather “Anish” Anderson in 2015, with a time of 54 days. McConaughy’s FKT will also beat the current supported record set by Karl Meltzer in 2016. His time was 45 days, 22 hours, and 38 minutes. Since these are technically different records, Anderson will still hold the women’s self-supported record, and Meltzer will still hold the overall supported record.

McConaughy is an accomplished long-distance hiker and runner. He thru-hiked the Pacific Crest Trail in 2014 in just over 53 days, and he competed in both track and cross country for Boston College, a Division I school. Completing the 2,190-mile AT in just over 45 days means McConaughy had to hike around 50 miles per day, with no outside support.

This has been a relatively high-drama few years in the world of AT FKT attempts and claims. Scott Jurek’s 2015 supported speed record was verified, but raised complaints that he was drawing crowds to the trail, and was charged with littering as he celebrated with champagne on Katahdin. In 2016, Kaiha “Wild Card Ninja”Bertollini’s claimed the self-supported speed record, rousing huge debate on both sides calling into question many factors of her hike, including that she had been seen skipping sections of trail. Her claim was never verified. Several weeks ago, Dan “Knotts” Binde claimed the new self-supported record, which will likely go unsubstantiated due to a malfunctioning GPS device.

McConaughy began his record attempt with little outside knowledge or fanfare, but did announce it on the FKT proboard on July 15:

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.

McConaughy began his hike in the early morning of July 17 on Springer Mountain, and verified his location through GPS updates. FKTs are not officially recognized by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, and are governed by their own set of rules that will possibly become stricter as more attempts get made.

45d11h57m – a new self supported and overall Fastest Known Time record on the #appalachiantrail. 

A post shared by Joe McConaughy (@thestring.bean) on

The Trek has reached out for comment, and will follow up with this story when more information becomes available. All images from McConaughy’s Instagram. Find the originals on his Instagram account here.

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Comments 6

  • FM : Sep 13th

    “FKTs are not officially recognized by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, and are governed by their own set of rules that will possibly become stricter as more attempts get made.”

    One of the rules that should become more strict is what is considered support on a self-supported attempt.

    I’m reading from several news articles that this thru-hiker claimed the title for FKT under “self-support”, yet I also read he:

    1) apparently implied a need for medical supplies by advertising his wound to others instead of walking off the trail to buy antibiotic cream for his open sore foot,

    2) solicited medical advice concerning his bloody urine (possible case of Rhabdo) from two ER doctors treating a heat exhausted trail runner instead of going into town to a doctor for advice or treatment,

    3) took salt tablets from a trail runner concerned about his apparently discussed attempt to self-treat his bloody urine condition by “chugging” lots of water (which would have killed him by diluting his electrolytes)

    4) asked for batteries from a hiker so he could run all night instead of going into town to purchase them, and

    5) ordered *delivered* pizza at a shelter instead of walking to the restaurant to buy it (e.g. the shelter he walked to is not a pizza restaurant like the stores and restaurants alongside the trail in SNP are).

    These events may only represent the “tip of the iceberg” of many more similar incidents since the mentality to deceitfully blur the line of support and “trail magic” is clearly evident.

    I was blown away by intgrity of the other ultrarunner named Joe who a couple years back attempted to break the 2013 record, but injured his foot in Mahoosic Notch, called his father to take him to the ER, then through social media disqualified himself of the title instead of hiding the fact. Admirably, he completed his attempt which would have shaved about 2 days from the record. Such integrity is surprising and noteworthy–I commend him. I hear he’s attempting the record again soon, and I wish him all the success his character and athletic ability deserves.

    • Cricket : Sep 15th

      I think one of the beautiful things about FKT attempts are that they realistically are all unofficial so it’s up to the individual. For me the definition of unsupported is whether or not it is prearranged. If you manage to find assistance by yourself then you deserve credit for asking people on the trail.
      I kind of hope they stay like they are and aren’t made official as don’t feel like speed is really the main point of the trail!

      • FM : Sep 16th

        Yes, “as long as it is not pre-arranged”, that’s what AT self-supported FKT 2013 said about his cheating. None of it was “prearranged”, so it was okay to walk into shelters, announce his notoriety as a record seeker in an apparent attempt to provoke a desire to become a part of it and have them contribute to his run in some way, then offer to “buy” their food (in a deceitful attempt to equate “buying” with “self-support”) so he would have to walk to town in the legitimate sense of self support. When they responded to his solicitation to purchase with freely offered support, he then refers to his underhanded solicitation as “trail magic”.

        AT FKT 2013 came to a highway trail-head depleted of supplies in a remote section of VA, saw he had around 5 miles to town or a store, didn’t want to waste 2-3 hours supplying himself by walking to the store, so he took a chance and proceeded forward 1 mile to Matts Creek shelter, found hikers there and offered to buy food from them, just as he did in a similar situation in VT. Two people called him out on it, one at each location. Transparency doesn’t release a criminal from the consequences of his thefts, neither should it release a record setter from his cheating.

        One should not be patted on the back (“credited”) for such “ingenuity”. He failed to properly prearrange his supplies (needed in excess of 6000 caloried per day but only mail dropped 3500 calories per day due to his miscalculation) and compensated for his error by deceitfully straining the definitions of words like “trail magic” and “self-support”. Call it for what it obviously is. Yogi-ing is fine for a general thru-hiker, but when it is applied to a record attempt, it’s an attempt to steal several hours from the next record seeker.

        If one is allowed to cheat, they will all be tempted to cheat in order to remain competitive. Consider Lance Armstrong who said doping was pandemic in his sport, and that they pretty much all do it. An honest AT record seeker with a conscience like Joey Campanelli doesn’t stand a chance in such a morally vacant environment where anyone can blur the definition of rules to their convenience to compensate for mistakes in their prearranged planning.

        Now if JM said he mis-dated his social media posts and didn’t publicize his GPS data because he didn’t want people showing up on the trail supporting him and calling question to his attempt, then by his own rule, neither should he take supporting advantage of the ones that were already there. I’m simply holding him to his own stated principles.

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