Boulder’s ultrarunner Scott Jurek + ambition versus age

Inside Scott’s attempt to take back his Appalachian Trail world record.

By Jess Mordacq Oct 8 2021

In 2015, Boulder-based ultrarunner Scott Jurek set off to beat the record for the fastest time hiking the Appalachian Trail, finishing the 2,193 miles in 46 days, 8 hours and 7 minutes.

Though Scott still holds several records, Belgian Karel Sabbe ran the Appalachian Trail in 41 days, 7 hours and 39 min in 2018. At the start of August, 47-year-old Scott returned to the trail in the hopes of covering 54 miles a day in his second record-breaking attempt.

When BLDRfly editor Paul Hagey and his wife Jen first moved to Boulder, they often saw Scott with one of his children as an infant tucked into a carrier at Boxcar as he worked on his 2018 book “North,” which chronicled his record-breaking run/hike north on the Appalachian Trail.

Boulder adventurist and YouTuber Ryan Van Duzer joined Scott on his third day running south from Maine, documenting the remainder of his journey on his YouTube channel. In the chronicle, Ryan, who is close friends with Scott, interviewed him about the attempt and his perspective on it after returning home to Boulder.

A trail runner himself, Ryan hit the Appalachian Trail for the first time to provide support for his friend, chatting with Scott for 20-25 miles every day to keep his spirits high. On an average day, Scott kept on a 3-mile-per-hour pace by 5 a.m. and ran until around 9:30 p.m. He saw his crew and family two or three times between for food and rest.

In Ryan’s video, though Scott’s wife says he’s more physically and emotionally prepared this time around — because he’s older and has experienced the trail before — the distance is also more physically taxing on his aging body than it was six years ago.

Six days in, Scott started experiencing muscle strain in his right quad, forcing him to cut his day short to rest and ice. But he struggled to overcome and accepted defeat on the seventh day while working through the mental challenges in such a long-awaited goal.

Though Scott trained in Boulder’s foothills, which replicate steep and technical stretches of the Appalachian Trail, it’s impossible to predict certain trail elements or how Scott’s body would react to the endeavor’s strain. In an update at the end of Ryan’s film, Scott continues recovering two weeks after leaving the trail, processing his second attempt.