2008 Multi-Day Wrap-Up


Marshall Ulrich just finished running across the United States in record time, ending in NYC the evening of Election Day.  His massive 52-day effort wraps up a great season of multi-day record runs!  

multidaysFirst summarized on this blog back in June, this was a big year for multi-day running.  While clearly a fringe activity, multi-day runs do capture the imagination; besides the obvious extreme aspect, their real allure might be how they arouse our yearning to “be a runner” instead of “going for a run”; to live the life of a self-propelled person fully and wholly.  Our re-cap follows; this list includes only record-attempts (non-record runs are wonderful but are not included here), and all but Marshall’s are off pavement.

RUN ACROSS AMERICA – Marshall Ulrich

The run website was high-powered but awkward and impersonal; it was hard to figure out what was going on (and still is; fortunately, a Rocky Mt News interview has better info). The promotional aspects of the run were tailored toward mainstream America and a future media play rather than dedicated runners.  The event was put together by Charlie Engle, who experienced an injury early on and apparently biked the rest of the way.  Meanwhile, 57 year old Marshall Ulrich quietly and firmly put the hammer down, demonstrating extraordinary preparation, focus, teamwork, and determination; a great combination of brains and brawn.  He provided a textbook example of how to do a long multi-day.  Marshall and his wife Heather are great people and make a great team; this one deserves to be in the record books.

San Francisco to New York City, 3,043 miles

New Masters and GrandMasters (50+) record: 52 days (58 miles/day)

Overall record: 48 days, Frank Giannino, 1980



Karl is the best-known, fastest, and most-accomplished ultra runner to ever tackle a major multi-day.  This means he had the ability, he certainly had the pressure on him, but did he have the experience?  Karl started during a very wet summer, developed blisters and an early injury that required 4 full days off, then instead of throwing in the towel, soldiered on to complete the venerable AT in 54+ days.  Will he be back? “Maybe in 2010. I’m drinking beer now.”  No doubt; these are big efforts!

The Where’s Karl? website sponsored by backcountry.com provided excellent day-day reports; this blog featured more personal updates, and mountainrunning.com has probably the best AT Record overview anywhere.

Start: Tuesday, August 5, 2008, 7:08 a.m.

Finish: Monday, September 29, 2008, 4:20 a.m.

54 days 21 hours and 12 minutes.

Unofficially the fourth fastest thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail:

Andrew Thompson: 47 days 13 hours 31 minutes (2005)

Pete Palmer: 48 days 20 hours 11 minutes (1999)

David Horton: 52 days 9 hours (1991)

Karl Meltzer: 54 days 21 hours 12 minutes

Scott Grierson: 55 days 20 hours 34 minutes (1991)

Jennifer Pharr Davis: 57 days 8 hours 35 minutes (2008)


AT – Jennifer Pharr Davis

Jennifer was young – 25 – but with far more multiday experience than Karl – 2005 AT thru-hike; 2006 PCT; 2007 Long Trail – when she left Mt Katahdin on June 20. 57 days later she crushed the female record by a month, averaging 37+ mpd, including knocking down 64.8 miles on her second to last day.  

The best interview was by Sherpa John:

“I feel like this is the kinda stuff that chooses you, more than you choose it. I have been thinking and dreaming about blazing down the AT since first hiking it in 05. There is something beautiful about efficiently flowing down the trail. In my opinion, there is no higher test of physical, mental, and emotional fortitude than going after a long-distance trail endurance record.”

57 days 8 hours 35 minutes; fastest female, 6th overall


ADIRONDACK 46 – Jan Wellford

This is another style of multi-day records, the speed summit category (Colorado’s 14ers, California’s 14ers, New Hampshire 4,000 footers, etc.)  This one involves a non-stop ascent of the “Adirondack 46 High Peaks” (Interestingly, there are no height parameters for being one of the “46” and no mention of “why these 46?” is made on the websites; Wikipedia has the only semi-coherent explanation).

During his four year streak of record breaking, Cave Dog (Teddy Keizer) put the ADK 46 on the map with his 2002 time of 3 days, 18 hours, 14 minutes.  Jan used Cave Dog’s methods – great preparation and crew are more important than great fitness and speed – to take exactly one hour off that time. Drew Hass has the best interview with Jan:

“I was pretty much on a high the whole time. Even when it was tough I was having fun, feeling lucky to be out in the mountains doing what I love the most.”

June 24th 4:32 am to June 27th at 9:46 pm; 3 days 17 hours 14 minutes. 



The 500 mile Colorado Trail is an ideal trail to test your mettle; it’s long but not too long, is quite scenic yet has multiple crew access points, and it’s high and wild, yet with easy access and support.  It also has a strong history of record attempts, including Po’s own unsupported record of 2006, where he demonstrated extreme toughness if nothing else while losing 16 lbs off his already efficient climber/ultrarunner frame.

His 2008 effort was not only low-key, it was off the radar entirely. He even declined to be interviewed by Trail Runner Mag, which quoted the story on this blog to write it’s article. Not low-key however, was the magnitude of Po’s CT effort: 

“It was definitely arduous.  That’s an understatement.  It just about finished me off.  Let me just say I’m not looking to repeat this anytime soon.”

July 2008, 8 days, 12 hrs, 14 mins, 5 seconds

Previous: Andrew Basham, July 14-22, 2006, 8d 13h 28m


CT – Sam Thompson

In case there’s any question that multi-day trail records are no longer “soft”, but have become tough standards, Paul met Sam Thompson going the other direction on the CT, trying to break the record also.  In a display of real sportsmanship, Paul finished first and immediately emailed Sam his time, so Sam would know what he needed to shoot for.

After a strong run, Sam pulled the plug in the mountains above Silverton with only 70 miles to go, when his crew’s jeep got stuck in a creek and support could not be provided.



You tell me!


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2 Responses to “2008 Multi-Day Wrap-Up”

  1. Sara Says:

    Thanks for the summary of all these amazing performances. Love that quote from Jennifer about it choosing her. The idea of whittling it all down to living on the run is captivating.

  2. Upcoming Multi-Day Trail Record Attempts « Adventure Running Says:

    […] 2008 Multi-Day Wrap-Up (this site) […]

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