LISTEN to today's show!
National Geographic Adventurer of the Year and Appalachian Trail record setter Jennifer Pharr Davis sets out on a new quest to find out what defines endurance, where it comes from, and how we can harness it to achieve our dreams.
On July 31, 2011, Jennifer Pharr Davis set the FKT (fastest known time) record on the Appalachian Trail, completing the trail in just 46 days, 11 hours and 20 minutes—a feat that takes most hikers six months. Hiking an average of 47 miles per day, Davis was the first woman to claim the overall title on the Appalachian Trail.
Since her thru-hike record, which she held for four years, Davis has set out on a new quest—the quest to find out what exactly defines endurance, where it comes from, if gender plays a role, and how we can we harness it to achieve our dreams. THE PURSUIT OF ENDURANCE: Harnessing the Record-Breaking Power of Strength and Resilience, aims to answer those questions, and more, through interviews with renowned endurance athletes, fellow record setters, an exercise physiology expert, and through her own accomplishments in the world of endurance hiking, backpacking, and trail running.
THE PURSUIT OF ENDURANCE is part memoir, part guidebook to hiking, and a timeless manual to achieving your dreams within and outside of the sports world. Davis takes readers along as she trains and sets her record, analyzing and trail-testing the theories and methodologies espoused by her star-studded roster of mentors, including:
• Warren Doyle, record holder of the most miles on the trail (36,000) and founder of the Appalachian Trail Institute, is an all-around controversial hiker who exemplifies the importance of avoiding complacency and the necessity of questioning your surroundings and yourself.
• David Horton, who completed over 160 ultramarathons despite once losing the ability to run due to a freight accident, demonstrates that having a purpose is important to moving forward.
• Scott Williamson, who illustrates that persistence is key to endurance after he failed five times before finally becoming the first person to complete a continuous round trip of the Pacific Crest Trail in one season.
• Heather Anderson, the first person in history to hold the self-supported records for both the Appalachian Trail and Pacific Crest Trail simultaneously, further proving that women can find contentment—and femininity—in adventure.
• Scott Jurek, the famed ultrarunner and hiker who eventually defeated Jennifer’s record by just three hours.
Suggested Interview Questions:
· According to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, 685 people reportedly completed the Appalachian Trail in 2016, up from just 182 in 1990. Why do you think, now more than ever before, people are attracted to long-distance hiking?
· As you discovered through personal experience and research, gender does not affect one’s ability to succeed in long distance sports. What physical and psychological reasons did you find that enable women to compete with, and often outperform, men in endurance sports?
· How have the lessons about overcoming adversity on the trail translated to moments where endurance was needed off the trail?
· What surprised you most about your interview with Shawn Bearden, professor of exercise physiology at Idaho State University, regarding the qualities of an ‘ideal’ endurance athlete?
· Before the new millennia, Appalachian Trail Fastest Known Times (FKT) were rare, sometimes with twenty-year intervals between records. The past three years have each seen an athlete claim a new supported or unsupported FKT. How has the sport evolved over recent years and what factors are affecting the increased frequency of trail records?
· Long distance hiking appears to be solitary undertaking in many aspects. However, in The Pursuit of Endurance, you emphasize how a hiker’s support is integral to their success on the trail. How does a strong support system intersect with endurance?
· Each of the athletes you mention in The Pursuit of Endurance have unique backgrounds, motivations, trail experiences, support systems, and uniquely embodied endurance. What do you hope readers take away from each of their stories?
· Do you ever plan to attempt another FKT? Why or why not?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jennifer Pharr Davis is an American long-distance hiker, author of Becoming Odyssa and Called Again, a speaker, a National Geographic Adventurer of the Year, and an ambassador for the American Hiking Society. She has hiked more than twelve thousand miles on six different continents. Pharr Davis lives in Asheville, North Carolina, with her husband, Brew, and their two children.