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…But the nearby wildlife population of Springer Mountain (and a few human attendees) happened to be the only spectators on hand to see Jennifer Pharr Davis take her final step on a record breaking run on the Appalachian Trail last summer.

And that was fine with her.

“So many friends and family had come to the end to see us finish,” she said while talking on her cell phone and motoring her way to a Nashville speaking event recently. “I definitely cried. … The value of the hike wasn’t wrapped up in the record, the value of the hike was found in the lessons.”

But the record fell regardless.

When Pharr Davis stepped crossed the southern terminus last July 31, she became the fastest thru-hiker in Appalachian Trail history, finishing the 2,181 mile route in 46 days 11 hours and 20 minutes.

She beat the previous record by a comfy 26 hours as she kept up an average pace of 47 miles per day.

So what was her strategy?

More walking and less sleeping.

“The key for me,” she said, “was just putting in long days. I usually started at 5 a.m. and didn’t stop until 9 p.m.”

Since she was moving at such a quick clip, the 28-year-old found herself coming across startled wildlife much more frequently than she had in her previous two thru-hikes.

“I saw 36 black bears and a dozen moose,” she said. “Part of that was because I was starting in the dark and ending in the dark. … I love seeing wildlife. That’s such a little energy boost for me.”

In order to keep that energy up Pharr Davis also dined on easy-to-consume high protein  meals which were often provided by her husband, and her rolling support throughout the hike, Brew Davis.

“It was a constant struggle to get in as many calories as my body needed,” she said. “But it was easier because my husband could bring things like milk-shakes and fruit smoothies. … He was amazing. There was no doubt in my mind that I couldn’t have set the record without him.”

This wasn’t the first trail record to fall at the feet of Pharr Davis. In 2008, she completed the fastest female hike within 57 days. Then she set her sites on Andrew Thompson’s 2005 overall record.

“I began to think about going back and doing it again,” she said. “I believed that I had the ability to do it so I made that my goal. And I had a really wonderful experience going after it.”

Since her fateful trip on the trail, Pharr Davis has kept a steady schedule of speaking engagements when she’s not running her hiking business in Asheville, N.C. Her name has also become well-known in the hiking world as she was interviewed by everyone from Men’s Journal to The New York Times. And she was even named one of National Geographic’s top ten adventurers of the year.

“That was just a really nice honor,” she said.

But that wasn’t what it was about, she quickly added.

Throughout the journey, Pharr Davis said she tried to simply get lost in the hike.

“I learned there is a lot of value in doing the trail that efficiently,” she said.  ”It’s a really fluid experience. You’re really immersed in the trail.”

She also pointed out that the hike was just that…a hike. Not a run.

“I hiked the entire time,” she said. “Granted it was at a decent pace. “Until the end, that is, when an enthusiastic sibling began to egg her on.

“My brother was with me,” she said, “taunting me to run.”

So Pharr Davis finished the last leg of her record breaking trek at a quicker pace than she began.

And when she crossed the finish line, the Springer Mountain crowd went wild.

Some more than others.


Jennifer Pharr Davis has detailed her hiking adventures in her own book entitled Becoming Odyssa. You can also check out her blog at . The photo for this story is the cover photo for the Brew Davis authored book: 46 Days: Keeping Up With Jennifer Pharr Davis on the Appalachian Trail .

[story by Matt Aiken]



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