The literal breakfast of champions
EC: Fueled by Bacon and Red Bull, Appalachian Trail Runner Sets Speed Record
Photo by Carl Rosen/Red Bull Content Pool
| Credit: Photo by Carl Rosen/Red Bull Content Pool

Anyone who has ever seen grown men put tape on their nipples before a 10k can tell you that runners are crazy. Even crazier are ultramarathoners, who run for days on end in the woods while racking up hundreds of miles in the process. So when Appalachian Trail Runner Karl Meltzer ate bacon, candy, and Red Bull while running the 2,190-mile course, no one batted an eyelash. The fact that Meltzer did it in a record 45 days, 22 hours, and 38 minutes while eating a pile of junk food was a bit more surprising, however. Who said you can't eat like a garbage can and still be healthy?

Meltzer's running with bacon tactic was part of a broader strategy which, of course, put calorie-dense foods at the fore. According to the New York Times, he glurped down a Red Bull every 10 miles, drank one beer every night before bed, kept Tang in his water bottle, and packed his pockets with bacon. Because when you're running all day straight for over a month, you don't need to worry about ingesting too many calories. And you can pretty much consume as much sugar as you like without any guilt. It worked for him, as Meltzer set an Appalachian Trail speed record during his attempt.

Meltzer's feat was a bit different than your usual fun run. He covered nearly 48 miles per day over rocky, rugged terrain. There were moments where he slept on the trail, only to be urged back onto his feet by his crew. Ultramarathon running diets are a bit different than your typical runner's food regimen—they're burning through thousands of calories per day over extended periods of time. Bacon is ultramarathon fuel because it's high in fat, calories, and salt—three things that can help keep you going when your body needs more calories than a mere mortal can really conceive of eating. The same is true for sugary drinks like Tang, which are a good source of glucose for when your body begins to use its own muscles for fuel. Glucose sugar is absorbed rapidly, preventing your body from going into crisis mode during a super-long run.

So even though Meltzer's bacon running diet is a bit unconventional and difficult to swallow for your average runner, there's some method to his madness. But there's also quite a bit of madness, too.