Long-distance hiker, author and speaker Jennifer Pharr Davis wasn't satisfied with setting the women's record for fastest thru-hike (trekking a long-distance trail from end to end) of the Appalachian Trail in 2008. So three years later, the North Carolina native hiked the roughly 2,200-mile trail in 46 days, 11 hours and 20 minutes to set the record for the fastest supported thru-hike for anyone, period.
It's an accomplishment she'll discuss in an afternoon appearance at Garden of the Gods this weekend.
Previous attempts to beat the overall record had been attempted by elite male trail runners, but as a hiker, Davis took a different approach. "It's not about speed or strength or muscle," she says. "It's about being smart, consistent, efficient and minimizing mistakes."
On days she wanted to give up, her husband Brew convinced her to continue. On the trail in Vermont, she says, "I was miserable, I was injured, I had shin splints, I was sick, and I just didn't think I had a chance and didn't want to be out there anymore." He told her it was fine if she quit, but encouraged her to keep going because she felt too bad to make a good decision right then.
"So he made me go a little bit farther," remembers the 30-year-old, "and it took about 12 miles and some really good medicine before I started to feel a tiny bit better. But when I felt the tiniest bit better, I no longer wanted to quit."
When she reached the end, at the summit of Springer Mountain in Georgia, she says, "I could finally be happy that it was over and really allow myself to express my fatigue and my gratitude to other people. And I cried, a lot ... but I like to say they were 'everything tears.'"