A 23-year-old man from Shoreline now holds the record for the fastest hike on the 2,660 mile Pacific Crest Trail.
Joe McConaughy tells KIRO Radio’s Dori Monson Show that he completed the Canada to Mexico route on foot in 53 days, 6 hours, and 37 minutes. That’s an average just a little under 50 miles, or nearly two marathons per day, for 53 days straight. The previous record for an assisted hike like his was 59 days, 8 hours, and 59 minutes.
The toughest part, he says, was the first 200 miles, which he sees as the make-or-break point for a lot of people attempting the journey.
“That’s when people realize wow, I’m taking four months out of my life to do this and I’ve been miserable, so they’ll get off the trail,” he says. “Once you make it past that 200 miles, then it becomes more you’ll get off the trail because you have an injury or maybe some people don’t have enough money to make it all the way through.”
After fighting through a nagging Achilles tendon the first 11 days, McConaughy says he settled into the trek with the help of his support team.
“Eventually, we just worked out the swelling, started taking more Ibuprofen, started working out all the knots in my legs that had accumulated that we hadn’t taken care of, and kind of realized how to take care of my body on the trail because it is really a different animal than what I’d been used to running in college.”
McConaughy was also motivated by the memory of his 2-year-old cousin. He says losing Colin to Neuroblastoma cancer was very shocking to his whole family. He was inspired to run for his cousin after seeing another record holder who did it for his mom.
“It kind of got me thinking I could really make this into something that mattered to me and make it bigger than just myself and bigger than just going out and doing some things I enjoy, and really doing it for my family and doing it for Colin,” says McConaughy.
The days on the trail started early, with McConaughy waking up at 5 a.m. He carried one of two packs along with him, either the small pack he called ‘David’ or the larger one, ‘Goliath.’ Typically, he would carry David, but if the terrain made it unlikely his support team would reach him at a checkpoint by nightfall, he’d be carrying Goliath, which had room for a sleeping bag and a tent.
Most nights though, the support team would meet up with him to refresh his supplies and provide help stretching and recovering.
“I’d get into camp and they’d immediately take my pack, put stuff in it, feed me a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, throw food, throw Gatorade, throw whatever I needed in front of my face,” says McConaughy. “Having those people behind you that fully support you and do so wholeheartedly is just incredible.”
When asked whether mind or body was the biggest obstacle, McConaughy says it was tougher pushing through mentally.
“The body is something I kind of learn to just ignore and master and if it was something that wasn’t going to be a long-term injury…I could run through it,” says McConaughy. “What that came down to was being able to tell myself to shut off that part of my mind that says it hurts and realize this is something my body just needs to strengthen itself through.”
McConaughy says he just wanted to let his mind wander and opted not to bring along an iPod.
“There are so many things in front of you and out there on the trail, it’s just you and your thoughts and whatever pops into your mind.”
Now, only a day back at home, McConaughy’s trying to get used to all the stimulus he escaped.
He’s also adjusting physically. At the start of the journey, McConaughy weighed around 165 pounds and at the end, he was at 147. After only a day back relaxing and munching, he says he’s already made a big jump back and now weighs 160, which he says seems like it might be another record in itself.
Outside of establishing a new record, McConaughy also achieved another great feat; he raised $28,000 to help families overcome cancer. A couple of filmmakers also documented McConaughy’s journey so you may get to experience his trek with your own eyes. Learn more abut McConaughy’s experience at runforcolin.com.