Scott Jurek completed the Appalachian Trail record,
running walking hiking it in less than 47 days (sorry for you if you thought he was running). This achievement is also supposed to be his “masterpiece”. Great. This was the suspense for more than 46 days in the small ultrarunning community and so many people talked about it. Suddenly, it was the big thing: everybody was excited.
The dude just did 3 hours or so better than the previous record, owned by a not-so-famous hiker. During his attempt he had a crew, support from sponsors (look at the picture and try to find one without the name of a brand) and many runners that came and carried stuff for him. There was a live GPS tracking (so that you can track him when you sit your ass in front of your computer), a truck following him and even a ceremony (where he got citations for breaking the park rules – kind of sarcastic). All of that for 3 hours of difference. Over a 2200 miles course, this is not so significant, especially between a runner and a hiker. But also, having support makes a lot of difference. Some will argue than the previous record holder knew the trail before her attempt (she hikes it in 2008 and set the record in 2011) to beat the record but Jurek had the opportunity to do it as well. He just decided not to.
This attempt showed that there is a lot of room to break this record again: with some issues during the hike (knee/quad/stomach), it will not a surprise if somebody try to do better soon. The so-called masterpiece will then not be as prestigious as other achievements (e.g. won the Western States Endurance Run seven consecutive times).
For now, the new record belongs to Jurek and he did a great job that almost nobody can do today. But beyond the result, what matters most is the journey.
In that sense, the story and journey of the previous record holder, which did it alone, without much support is more inspiring. She just went out and did it. No bullshit, no big daily picture posted on the internet with a sponsor name, no GPS tracking. She just do her thing without making a big deal of it.
I am not so sure if Jurek’s journey is so inspiring but I definitively have a profound admiration for Jennifer Pharr. This recent story reminded me that the most inspiring people are just not the most famous.