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Seattle man sets PCT speed record

A 23-year-old Seattle runner has broken the unofficial speed record for spanning the Pacific Crest Trail from Mexico to Canada by close to a week.

A sore and somewhat gimpy Joe McConaughy on Sunday finished the final 27 miles of the trail and crossed into Canada to complete the 2,663-mile trek in 53 days, 6 hours and 37 minutes.

"When I got to the border, I laughed and cried and thought of everything I've gone through for about an hour," McConaughy says. "It's surreal. It's weird. It's so overwhelming."

Then he went straight to the first restaurant he could find "and ordered the biggest plate of ribs I could get and chowed down," McConaughy says.

The previous record was set last year by hiker Josh Garrett in 59 days, 8 hours and 14 minutes.

McConaughy averaged right at 50 miles a day on the trail, usually keeping a 4 mph pace between camps set up daily by his two-man support crew that kept him regularly fed and hydrated while meeting him at checkpoints along the trail, which includes a stretch through Jackson County along the Cascade crest.

It’s a pace that has astonished many within the cult-like PCT family, where speed hiking has been a trail staple since the 1990s yet runners still make up only a sliver of those testing their mettle there.

McConaughy was on pace to finish in 53 days when he passed out of California and into Jackson County on July 24 near where the trail bisects Interstate 5.

 McConaughy began his quest June 15 as a distance run to raise money for families battling cancer and to honor his 2-year-old cousin Colin, who died from a rare neurological cancer in January 2012. Through his "Run for Colin" Facebook page, McConaughy has raised about $28,000 in pledges through Sunday.

The tall and lanky McConaughy, whose trail name was “String Bean,” has only the unofficial record because the Pacific Crest Trail Association does not keep official speed records.

McConaughy, who has never run a marathon, averaged more than two daily.

After Sunday's plate of ribs, he was back in his parents' Seattle home and took his first real bath since he began his journey, he says.

"The water was disgusting from all the dirt, but I soaked for two hours," McConaughy says. "It felt so good."

He plans to lounge a bit to heal his sore feet and ankles while trying to recoup some of the 17 pounds he lost while on the trail.

Next month he's off to Austria for a gig teaching English there, McConaughy says.

Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470 or by email at mfreeman@mailtribune.com.

Seattle runner Joe McConaughy has set a new record for traversing the Pacific Crest Trail, finishing in just over 53 days. (MT file photo)