BOILING SPRINGS—While most area residents were still in bed early Friday morning, Scott Jurek was starting another leg of what he hopes will be a record-breaking journey.
Jurek, a long-distance ultrarunner from Boulder, Colorado, passed through the Midstate Thursday and Friday on his way to become the fastest thru-hiker on the Appalachian Trail.
He’s chasing a daunting record set by a friend, Jennifer Pharr Davis, who hiked the 2,160-mile trail from Georgia to Maine in 46 days, according to National Geographic.
The Appalachian Trail Conservancy said most thru-hikers complete the journey in five to seven months, with an average of about six months.
That means, like his day on Friday, that Jurek has quite a few early starts, a number of late nights and some impending overnight hikes to complete the task.
“I’ve always wanted to run one of the national scenic trails,” Jurek said without breaking his stride on the trail. “I’m at a point in my career where it makes sense to do this. (Something like this) takes a toll on the body. It’s a really personal journey to see what my body can do.”
Jurek is no stranger to long-distance running. He is known by runners across the country for his ultrarunning, his book “Eat and Run” and his diet as a vegan.
It was enough to draw fans from the woodworks who waited for Jurek on his much publicized trail run.
Among them was Mathew Kennedy of Boiling Springs. Kennedy follows Jurek on Facebook and Instagram and was eager to join him on some part in his journey on the trail. An avid hiker himself, as well as an ultrarunner, he was surprised to see just how many others came out to see Jurek pass through the area.
“I didn’t realize how many people there would be,” he said. “It seemed like at every cross street on the trail, there were five or 10 people waiting to see him.”
Fans like Kennedy weren’t disappointed when Jurek appeared on the trail.
“He’s a very inspirational person,” Kennedy said. “I was really amazed by how down-to-earth he was, and very friendly and very welcoming. Some famous people aren’t like that.”
Some of those waiting for Jurek had refreshments, others were looking for pictures and autographs, and some like Kennedy offered Jurek some vital services, such as a place to shower.
Seeing those runners and hikers wait for him and knowing that some of those were inspired by him is what keeps Jurek on the trail heading to Maine.
“That’s what pushes me to keep going farther,” Jurek said. “Anybody has the ability to ... do something they didn’t know they could do.”
At the moment for Jurek, that means trying to shave off more days as he hikes through the northeast – with Maine looming as one of the toughest segments of the trail. Jurek lost a day due to an injury, but he said he hopes to gain back as much time as he can to keep on equal or better pacing as Davis.
When he does reach the end of his trek at Mount Katahdin in Maine, he said he is going to “find a place I can sit down and not move for a while.”