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.
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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