Running to beat the clock on the Appalachian Trail

By his own definition, 56-year-old Israeli Carlos Goldberg is one of “the crazier ones” choosing to run the Appalachian Trail against the clock. Aiming to break the record: Carlos Goldberg taking a breather on one of his runs. Carlos Goldberg …

By his own definition, 56-year-old Israeli Carlos Goldberg is one of “the crazier ones” choosing to run the Appalachian Trail against the clock.

Carlos-Goldberg
Aiming to break the record: Carlos Goldberg taking a breather on one of his runs.

Carlos Goldberg classifies weekend Appalachian Trail hikers as “normal.” Then there are the “crazy” ones who dedicate half a year to completing the 2,175-mile trail that winds through 14 states on the American East Coast. Finally, there are “the crazier ones, who try to do it against the clock.” That category would include Goldberg.

The Israeli farmer and educator set out on May 7 with the singular goal of completing the trail in record-breaking time “unsupported” – which means that he’s carrying his own his supplies. He runs proudly, as he always does, with an Israel Defense Forces Golani Brigade insignia sewn onto his backpack.

The current 60-and-a-half-day record for an unsupported Appalachians hike was set years ago. “That’s the record I am trying to shatter,” Goldberg told ISRAEL21c. “You have to aim at the record to keep your stamina going.”

Ready for something different

Goldberg, who emigrated from Argentina to northern Israel with his family just after high school, is now 56 and has plenty of responsibilities to keep him on the home front. He helps tend a farm, vineyard and orchard, and directs two educational councils in the upper Galilee.

Moreover, his wife and three grown children weren’t keen on him leaving. “It’s hard for the family; they worry about me,” he admitted just days before his flight. “I’m also worried because it’s the first time I’ve done this kind of distance. It’s three times more than the longest trail I have done.”

Yet he couldn’t get the idea out of his head when it popped in nearly a year and a half ago. The Appalachian route, the mother of all nature trails, is the model upon which the Israel Trail and others were based.

“I used to run marathons, and I was ready for something different four or five years ago, so I looked on the Internet for endurance races,” said Goldberg. As a result of his research, he became the third Israeli – and the oldest – to run the Sahara Marathon in Africa. “I decided half a year later to do the Israel Trail, which is about 900 kilometers [560 miles]. I have the non-official Israeli record for completing it in 12-and-a-half days.”

But he wasn’t ready to hang up his shoes yet. On Israel’s 60th Independence Day two years ago, Goldberg joined a 1,250 kilometer (about 777-mile) Border Run around the country’s periphery, carrying all his supplies on his back. It took him 15-and-a-half days.

“Everything is possible”

To prepare for his Appalachian adventure (which calls for crawling and climbing in addition to running) “Galilee Man” trained six times a week, running for two-and-a-half hours daily with a backpack weighing 30 to 40 pounds. To realize his goal of completing the Appalachian Trail in 60 days, he figures on running 37.28 miles daily from 5.30 in the morning until nine in the evening. In addition to the equipment and first aid supplies he brought from Israel, he sent himself care packages of food and supplements at mail drops along the route.

Living up near the Lebanese border, with his parents and siblings and their families nearby, Goldberg said he has always felt like a modern-day pioneer. His experience as a combat medic in the Golani Brigade enhanced his confidence in his ability to deal with difficulty.

“Everything is possible,” said Goldberg, who was born in a Paraguayan town where his family members were the sole Jews. “There is no limit to the ability of the human body under the one essential condition that you accept a project such as this as a military operation, prepare yourself, take no shortcuts, put all the mundane things aside and dedicate yourself and an entire year just to this objective.”

Aside from one semester at a New England college, Goldberg is unfamiliar with the United States. “When I run, especially in places I’ve never been before, I feel like the Conquistadores felt when they came to America,” he said.

Updates on Goldberg’s run are posted on his Facebook page. On May 9, he wrote about an encounter with a grizzly bear: “Fortunately for me, he didn’t eat ‘kosher’ meat. I gave a yell, causing this massive animal to move 50 feet to the side of the trail until I had passed.”

A ‘command center’ staffed by friends in Israel is tracking Goldberg’s progress. In addition, Israel’s Channel 10 news television program is devoting a weekly Saturday night segment to his progress until he returns home on July 13.

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About Abigail Klein Leichman

Abigail Klein Leichman is a writer and associate editor at ISRAEL21c. Prior to moving to Israel in 2007, she was a specialty writer and copy editor at a daily newspaper in New Jersey and has freelanced for a variety of newspapers and periodicals since 1984.