Ponying Up: An Interview with Ultrarunner Karl Meltzer


Ultra marathon runner Karl Meltzer is known as “The Speedgoat.” He started running competitively when he was eight. In 1989, Meltzer moved to Utah from New Hampshire to ski at Snowbird and Alta for the season. But like most folks who think they are just “passing through,” he couldn’t convince himself to depart the Rockies after the snow melted. He bought a mountain bike and embarked on a discovery of the Wasatch terrain. But didn’t take long for Meltzer to ditch the bike and start trail running. He never looked back.

To commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Pony Express, Meltzer ran the entire 2,064-mile trail from Sacramento, California to St. Joseph, Missouri in 40 days. The Pony Express served as the premier mail service from east to west for 18 months in the 1860s and became the West’s best form of communication prior to the telegraph. Meltzer hand-delivered a letter from the Mayor of Sacramento to the Deputy Mayor of St. Joseph upon his arrival and was rewarded with an official Karl Meltzer Recognition Day on October 25.

OSG: What’s next on your list?

KM: This year I’m racing in eight 100-milers. I just ran the Rocky Raccoon with a time of 14:27 a few weeks ago. I came in fourth and was psyched about finishing that fast. I’ve got two races coming up soon, the Coyote Two Moon and the Antelope Island Buffalo Run. It’s pretty unheard of for someone to win two races that close together, but that’s my goal. I’m not going to say it’s not hard, but a hundred miles isn’t that far. I know it sounds weird. My mentality changed after running the Appalachian Trail and the Pony Express Trail. After running 50 miles a day for 40 days, a hundred miles doesn’t seem so bad. It’s a full day of running, but then I’m done.

OSG: How do you keep your energy up during the races?

KM: I drink about a half a can of Red Bull at the aid stations, maybe six times during a 100-mile race. I also use EFS gels, recovery drinks and I eat chicken bouillon cubes.

OSG: What is a casual day of running for you?

KM: About 10 trail miles every day. If I get to run every day then I’m happy. I wake up and think, what peak am I going to hit today? After that, the rest of the day doesn’t matter.

OSG: What kind of shoes and socks do you wear?

KM: Hoka Mafate Shoes and Drymax socks. I train in the Hoka Mafates and race in the Hoka Bondis because they are slightly lighter. The Drymax socks are awesome; I never get blisters and I never have foot issues.

OSG: What music do you listen to while you run?

KM: I listen to mostly Jam Band stuff. I listen to the same music every race and then I can pace myself to it. It’s kind of cool to know what mile I’m at by what song is playing. I like to use Sennheiser headphones; they’re the best ones I’ve tried.

Meltzer’s Playlist:

    • Escalator by Strangefolk


  • Diner by Widespread Panic



  • Eyes of the World by the Grateful Dead



  • So Well by Strangefolk



  • Ecstasy by Rusted Root


OSG: Any advice for aspiring runners?

KM: Obviously you have to work hard and train, but the biggest factor is how much fun are you having? It’s all about how you are feeling and how you feed yourself. Some folks get to mile 40 and you’ll see them carrying the couch because they don’t have good strategy. After I’ve hit mile 70, I know it’s in the bag. You gotta be fast at the aid stations, too. Keep it simple.

By The Numbers

    • Total miles run: 2,064


  • Total calories burned: approx. 247,000 (equal to 281 pounds of food or 532 Big Macs)



  • Pairs of shoes worn: 7



  • Gallons of water consumed: 60



  • Cans of Red Bull consumed: 143



  • Pounds of bacon consumed: 14



  • Hours of music listened to: 440



  • Pounds Karl lost on his first day of running: 8



  • Highest temperature: 98°F



  • Lowest temperature: 30°F



  • Highest elevation: 11,138 ft.



  • Lowest elevation: 1,286 ft.



  • Total elevation ascended: 91,068 ft.



  • Total elevation descended: 98,567 ft.



  • Number of wrong turns: too many to count!

About Author

Melissa McGibbon is the Senior Editor of Outdoor Sports Guide Magazine. She is an award-winning journalist and is a member of the Society of American Travel Writers and the Adventure Travel Trade Association. Her work also appears in Outside Magazine, Lonely Planet, SKI Magazine, Backpacker Magazine, Elevation Outdoors, Scuba Diving Magazine, and Matador Network. She is usually in pursuit of adventure, travel, or some daring combination of the two. IG @missmliss // melissamcgibbon.com

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