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46 Days: Keeping Up With Jennifer Pharr Davis on the Appalachian Trail


Jennifer hiking on the trail

image taken from the book

Last summer (2011) Jennifer Pharr Davis left Mount Katadhin on June 16th heading southbound on the Appalachian Trail for Springer Mountain, Georgia - 2181 miles away. Of course there were a lot of other hikers on the trail hiking northbound or southbound, so what made her hike special? She was trying to set the record for the fastest hike.

Jennifer was an athlete who excelled at long distance hiking and running. She already had hiked the fastest time for a woman on the Appalachian Trail in ('08), but she thought she could do better. She thought she could set a new record, but not just a new women's record, she was after the fastest time - period.

To achieve her goal she would need help. Her plan (like other fast trail hikers and runners) was not to backpack the trail, but travel as light and fast as possible. Support hikers /runners walked with her, when possible, and carried her gear, food, etc. She was truly pampered so that all she had to worry about was following the white blazes.

You might think that does not seem fair, but remember she had to average over 45 miles a day for 46 days straight. I know very few people who can walk or run 45 miles in a day and even less that could keep that pace for two days in a row.

On July 31, 2011, Jennifer stopped walking at the sign on top of Springer Mountain. The new record was set at 46 days, 11 hours, and 20 minutes, a day faster than the previous record.

A large part of Jennifer's success was due to her many helpers - most of whom were only able to help for a short term. Jennifer's husband, Brew, coordinated the helpers. He arranged hiking partners, food, water, shelter, showers, laundry, etc. The helpers formed the support group that met Jennifer at each road crossing and access point. They basically helped keep her moving, so they called themselves the Pit Crew. Jennifer would arrive at an access point and the Crew would take over. They took care of her needs. Then after a very short pit stop, she was up and walking again.

Despite all of his Pit Crew duties, Brew also found time to write a blog on the daily routine. Last summer when we were in Colorado, I tried keeping up with his blog. It was captivating.

The book, 46 Days: Keeping Up With Jennifer Pharr Davis on the Appalachian Trail, is the blog entries of Brew Davis.

Brew's blog was about what he did to support Jennifer. As a part of the daily entries, he told of where he found fast food and what he purchased, how difficult it was to find a certain trailhead, and what wildlife was spotted. After reading a couple of days of the routine, it seemed at first boring to me, but ... I still picked up the book and kept reading. I wanted Jennifer to succeed, I was rooting for her. I wanted the Pit Crew to do whatever it took to keep her walking. Perhaps because the book was orginally written as a blog or journal, Brew was able to make the story seem alive.

46 Days is a good read and would be interesting to anyone who likes hiking or endurance sports.

Happy fast walking trails


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