• 2 adventurers spoke Thursday at Montrose Regional Library
• Davis: set time for fastest time on multi-state trail
• Hajjar says stories can be inspiring
By Andrew Kiser
Endurance hiker Jennifer Pharr Davis was battling dehydration, hypothermia, shin splints and all kinds of other illnesses during the first days of trying to set a record for the fastest time on the Appalachian Trail.
And yet, after the initial pain and “struggling to go one mile per hour,” Davis wound up setting the record for the fastest time back in 2011. A trek, which is over 22,000 miles long, spans 14 states which start from Maine and goes to Georgia, usually takes five or six months to make but for Davis, she completed it in 46 days. (Her record was later broken four years later).
That experience of not quiting despite the pain led her to write a book, “The Pursuit of Endurance: Harnessing the Record Breaking Power of Strength and Resilience.” Her novel has led her on a national book tour with one of the stops being Thursday at the Montrose Regional Library.
Davis alongside fellow adventurer Jane Parnell spoke to residents about their individual books and climbing experiences. (See Sunday’s Montrose Daily Press edition for Parnell’s own adventures).
For Davis, her husband gave her the motivation to continue on her eventual career-performance.
“I tried to quit. I had shin splints, got a bout of hypothermia, I got sick,” Davis said. “I got to a road crossing and my husband was there and I told him I was done. He said, ‘If you want to quit that’s fine but you can’t quit right now.’ Because he said I felt too bad to make a good decision.”
But after that talk, she had a stronger outing and told her husband she’s going to clear the route. She did and now she’s in the record books.
“I definitely learned to not quit on a bad day,” Davis said.
Battling adversity isn’t anything for Davis up on the Appalachian Trail. Davis, who grew up in North Carolina, said she knew that long series hiking was something she wanted to attempt. She wound up not completing it not once but three separate times with the final trek breaking the record.
“For me, I just wanted to know what my body could do and what my best was,” Davis said. “I love the Appalachian Trail and I thought that was the piece to figure it out.”
Tania Hajjar, a reference librarian for the Montrose Regional Library, who organized the event said hearing Davis and Parnell’s hiking and climbing stories are key as outdoor lovers can be motivated by the two adventurers.
“I think for our area, which is such a recreational area, we have so many outdoorsy people here,” she said. “To meet women of this stature, I think is really incredible.”
Davis indicated as part of her book, it’s not only about hiking the Appalachian Trail but a collection of interviews with her fellow endurance hikers and runners. Davis said her own and her colleagues’ struggles can relate to non-outdoorsy people’s day-to-day lives.
“They shared their stories about what allowed them to get through the lowest points either on the trail or off trail or everyday life,” Davis said. “Because what I experienced strongly is that there is a connection between physical endurance and mental and emotional endurance.
“It’s the same toolset that you would use to approach a long-distance trail, surgery, divorce or climbing out of debt or all of the things people go through in life. I just thought it was a very useful topic to talk about.”
Andrew Kiser is the Montrose Daily Press’ sports/business writer. Follow him on Twitter @andrew_kpress.