During my days as a marathoner, I often toyed with the idea of running an ultra or two, specifically ones of the 50-mile variety. But the time/effort dedication to training when I was juggling so many other things kept me from doing so. Instead, I’ve enjoyed watching others accomplish things far greater than “mere” 50-milers on the national and world stage.
Enter Karl Meltzer and his quest to set the speed record for completing the Appalachian Trail. After two previous attempts, in 2008 and 2014, he hit the AT atop Katahdin in Maine in August 2016, pointed himself south, started the clock at 5:00AM, and blew through the 2,188-mile trek in a record 45 days, 22 hours and 38 minutes, eclipsing famed ultrarunner Scott Jurek’s record set the previous year. (In a profound show of true sportsmanship, Jurek actually helped crew Meltzer’s attempt, and celebrated his competitor/friend’s accomplishment on Springer Mountain in Georgia along with Karl and the rest of the crew. Powerful stuff!)
His run at history was captured in the 2016 documentary, “Karl Meltzer: Made To Be Broken.”
The documentary, at 41 minutes, is short enough for the fidgety crowd, but long enough to give a true sense of the ups an downs of both the Trail and the effort required to complete it in such a compressed amount of time. (Note: The typical trip takes 4-6 months)
Speaking of compressed time, that was my sole complaint with the documentary. I wouldn’t have minded leaving a bit more in the film and a bit less on the cutting room floor. An additional ten or fifteen minutes of footage wouldn’t have taken much away from the pacing (no pun intended), in my opinion. But that’s just nitpicking and personal preference, to be honest. Overall, it was very well done.
If you appreciate the majesty and mystery of the AT as I do, and enjoy superhuman feats of endurance as I do, this film is well worth watching. It was funny, and serious; beautiful, and ugly (that big, deep blister!), motivating to this runner/hiker, and downright inspirational. If you hike, run, or just enjoy an intriguing documentary, check it out. If you have a Netflix subscription, it’s free. Indulge!