Jennifer Pharr Davis is an amazing athlete who's best known for being the fastest person on the Appalachian Trail.
In her latest book Called Again: A Story of Love and Triumph, Jennifer writes about her record-breaking feat on the trail in 2011.
Put your mind around this -- 46 days, 11 hours and 20 minutes for 2,185 miles, beating the last record by 26 hours. I’ll save you the arithmetic. That’s an average of 46.5 miles a day, day-in, day-out from Katahdin, Maine, to Springer Mountain, Georgia; she went southbound.
Called Again is like a mystery where you know the ending. Yes, she beat the previous record, and in her book she tells you how. Her story isn’t just about numbers. It’s about how and why she decided to try for the overall speed record and how she did it with the help of many hiking friends. This is an honest book.
Maine .. had sucked the life out of my body.
She's not embarrassed to tell you that she cried a lot, especially at the beginning of her trek.
Jennifer set the woman's record in 2008. However, she had to work a lot harder and smarter to beat Andrew Thompson, the last record holder. Brew, her husband and crew chief, planned the logistics and worked just as hard. He provided Jennifer with food, water, and shelter and got other ultra-hikers to walk with her as much as possible. He met her at trail crossings and made sure she was well supplied.
Her trek wasn’t without drama, which she describes vividly. In Maine, she developed shin splints almost from the start but she kept going. A little later, she had terrible stomach pains, which prevented her from eating. But she kept going—and going and going.
Whether you day hike with a couple of friends or try to set a record, not every day is a beautiful walk in the woods. It may be difficult for casual hikers to accept that you can hike on cold, wet days when you aren't feeling well. She writes about a mountain up north.
…I arrived at the exposed ridge leading to the summit and the strong, bitter wind took my breath away. They also … made my fingers, wrists, and face feel like ice.
A little later, she writes that the pain was too consuming.
When her shin splints gave her the most pain, she faced Mahoosic Notch on the Maine-New Hampshire border, a boulder field stuck in a narrow canyon. It’s known as the hardest mile on the A.T. You have to use your hands, core, and butt. That was Jennifer's shortest day-- 30 miles.
Consistency and Focus
Every morning her alarm was set for 4:45 am and she was moving by 5 o’clock. The end of the day was not set but it was past 9 p.m. and she had to hike with a headlamp. In this way, she was able to put in these incredible long days without actually running. Most of the time, she was doing three miles an hour.
One of the reasons I wanted to keep going was because I was curious how my body would respond. Trying to discover your maximum potential is an exhilarating experience.
How many of us have taken the opportunity to discover our maximum potential? This book will not help you complete the Appalachian Trail; it's not a how-to or a trail guide. However, it will encourage more people to "get out there."
Called Again is well-written and an entertaining read without being chick-lit.
Over and over again, Jennifer expresses her gratitude to her husband, friends, and her God for the ability to do this. She feels that they’re doing all the work; all she has to do is walk—and eat.
If there’s one criticism of Jennifer’s story, it’s that she doesn’t acknowledge or feel grateful for the financial resources she has to accomplish this feat. Her hiking helpers have come on their vacations to hike with her. Gas and equipment aren’t cheap. More importantly, time is the most expensive commodity -- time to train, plan, get your gear together, drive to Maine, and actually walk. With all the numbers she gives, she should have discussed this aspect as well.
Jennifer is now the fastest completer on the A.T. She’s smart, good-looking, and personable. So I want to know why she’s not on Wheaties boxes.
Traveler postscript: Ms. Pharr-Davis wrote about her first thru-hike on the A.T. in Becoming Odyssa, Epic Adventures on the Appalachian Trail.