On August 13th, Belgian UltraRunner, Karel Sabbe, claimed the new supported speed record when he stepped foot on the cement monument at the Northern terminus of the Pacific Crest Trail. 27 year old Sabbe began his journey, determined to test the height of physical capabilities.
Averaging 50.6 miles a day on his 2659-mile trek, he ran close to two marathons a day to set the new height of long-distance backpacking. After a remarkable 52 days, 8 hours and 25 minutes in the wilderness, Sabbe emerged victorious.
The previous supported speed record was held by Joe McConaughy, who finished in 53 days, 6 hours and 37 minutes (49.44 miles/day average). During Sabbe’s trek, some re-routing was required due to a wildfire in the Hauser Canyon area. But that wouldn’t stop him from claiming the new record with just over 24 hours to spare.
In order to succeed in breaking such a challenging record, Sabbe often only slept a handful of hours per night to ensure he was putting down enough miles. On one particular night, he slept for 3 short hours before tackling a 57 mile day. A matter of both physical and psychological stamina, Sabbe’s impressive journey remains unmatched.
While the unsupported record requires that the trekker relies only on his or her own devices to dominate the impressive distance between Mexico and Canada, the supported record involves logistical assistance. The supported hiker typically has a team or an individual to secure sleeping arrangements and to cook meals, allowing the hiker to focus solely on getting from place to place.
In Sabbe’s case, Joren Biebuyck played a large part in trail logistics as he followed Sabbe’s speedy journey and offered his guidance in physiotherapy. Through the combined efforts of Sabbe and Joren, new heights were reached on the PCT this week. The most impressive PCT speed record yet earned itself a place in history. In his daily life Sabbe practices dentistry, and continuously pushes his limits by participating in challenges like the Marathon Des Sables (156 miles).