On Saturday, May 11th, Raleigh’s Ben Strunk, 30, will set off from Clingmans Dome in an attempt to set the trail’s fastest known time (FKT) by completing the statewide journey in 24 days, covering an average of nearly 50 miles per day. The current FKT is held by Diane Van Deren, who ran the then 900 mile MST in 22 days. There is not currently a FKT on the 1175 mile version of the MST.
The run will benefit the Friends of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail, a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting and maintaining the trail. The organization also leads trail recovery efforts after the recent hurricanes in eastern North Carolina. Before Ben steps foot on the trail, he’s already raised nearly $1,500 for the Friends! Thank you, Ben!
Strunk is not the typical long distance runner. Six years ago, he weighed over 300 pounds after finishing undergraduate school. In his first year in graduate school at the University of Florida, he lost over 100 pounds and turned to long distance running to keep off the weight. Since moving to Raleigh in 2014, Strunk has completed more than a dozen marathon and ultramarathon races.
Strunk says he chose the Mountains-to-Sea Trail as his next challenge to inspire others to go after their dreams.
“Humans are incredible. I believe with the right attitude and effort, people can achieve anything, regardless of what they look like or where they come from. This challenge is an opportunity for me to put that belief to the test,” he said.
Each day, Strunk plans to run for up to 14 hours and will burn 6,000-8,000 calories. He will be joined by family and friends serving as crew members throughout the run. They will meet him at intervals throughout the day with food and water supplies, first aid support, and lots of needed motivation.
“I think the first week in the mountains, spring rains, and high temperatures will be my biggest obstacles on this journey. Although I have been training for months, it is extremely difficult to train and prepare for the toll on my body and the variables I could face on this run.”
A live tracking link will be posted each morning on Strunk’s social media accounts on Instagram or Facebook. Donations are accepted through a Facebook fundraiser. The suggested donation is just $12.00, one penny for each mile of the trail.
Ben Strunk can be reached for comment by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can view his announcement video here.
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