“Live your own life. Yesterday I was 10 years old, blink and you’re gonna be there.” -Karl Meltzer
Karl Meltzer, the winningest 100 mile runner on the planet, ultra marathoner, aka the Speedgoat; does what he does yet again. Karl is famously known for being the first human to run the Red Bull Human Express which is the full 2,064 miles which follows the original Pony Express Trail that goes from Sacramento, California to St. Joseph, Missouri. It took him 40 days in total to do so. In 2016 Karl set out to break the speed record for the Appalachian Trail, a 2,190 mile journey that resulted in a new fastest time. It took him 45 days, 22 hours and 38 minutes to do so. On Saturday, February 10th 2018 Karl competed in the Lone Star 100 mile and not only set a new course record at 23:38:18 but garnered his 40th 100-mile race victory. On top of that accomplishment, Karl has set another record by going 18 years consecutively with at least one 100-mile victory. We had Karl at the UltrAspire design headquarters to talk about his recent win and the steps he took to reach that mark.
Why did you choose Ultra Running?
Karl: I was always a runner when I was a kid, it was sort of just in my blood. I was a better cross country runner than track runner. I moved out west from the east coast to ski and ended up running around the mountains in Utah for fun. That sort of just developed into me hearing about trail races and wanted to check em out, doing what I was doing I met ultra athletes and the idea was mentioned and it really intrigued me. After winning Wasatch in 98 I kinda realized I can try to make a living doing this. As I kept getting wins and picking up sponsors it solidified that this was what I was going to do.
Do you remember what it felt like to break your first record?
Karl: I think it was kind of how it is now, I just had my 40th 100 mile win and its tough to explain how it feels. It just kind of happens, and you don’t really know how it feels. I typically don’t feel like I did anything special when it happens but those moments turn into special days if that makes sense? When I won Wasatch 98′ and I was coming into the finish line and I knew I had the record down I was excited but it really did not sink in until about a week later. Really when it comes to records I like to remain humble, it is a nice thing to achieve but I like to keep pressing forward rather than focus on what was done.
What level do you hope to reach in your athleticism?
Karl: in 2008 I partnered with Backcountry.com and I went to do the AT (Appalachian trail) to break the record. I was not successful the first time. I finished the trail and told myself Ill be back for this. I continued racing for a while and decided to go back, this time I funded the entire thing myself and failed again, at the same time I learned a little more you know? It was shortly thereafter I was approached by Red Bull and they asked if I wanted to do it again. In 2016 I knew that if I could break this record it would be the stamp on my career. I went 3 or 4 times to recon the area and prepare for this attempt. Ultimately, I ended up breaking the record and it was a very special time for me. The record was re broken in 2017 and it made me think, what do I move onto now? And I realized I don’t really care how many wins I have or beating this person or any of that. I really just want to stay healthy and be able to keep doing this as long as I can.
Speaking of the AT, on the hard days where did you draw mental strength from?
Karl: I really don’t like to fail. I knew out there that I was not going to give anything less than 150% no matter how hard times could get. On the hard days during the AT, and this can go for any race, but during the bad patches all you can do is laugh at it and move on. Obviously I wasn’t laughing at the time but afterward you can look back and shrug it off. But in the moment I try to let myself think about it like this, “who gets to do this?” Who gets to have a supportive company stand behind you like Red Bull did for me and allow me the opportunity to do this. I try to remember all that I am grateful for during those rough patches. I made it a point to try and bounce back the next day after a rough patch, that is really all you can do. As appreciative as I am of the motivating talks from others that really doesn’t help at the time. I have to draw from something inside of me, and eat food. Lots of it, that really helps the bounce back.
If there was one thing the world could know about Karl Meltzer, what would that be?
Karl: This is a tough question, but I think a core value I have is to live your own life. Doing your own thing and not following the trend if you don’t want to. You know I can’t take any money to my grave, so I don’t chase that. I want to be able to have fun and do the things that matter to me. So yeah, live your own life is a strong core value of mine.
Karl Meltzer has had a long list of achievements, broken many records, and has been at the forefront of Ultra Running throughout his career. You can click this link to see Karl’s journey through the Appalachian trail. You can follow Karl on social media on Twitter @Speedgoatkarl or on Instagram @MeltzerKarl and on Facebook @ Karl Meltzer.