Speed hikers are de facto trail runners. Speed hiking and trail running are rising in popularity. Maybe it is reflective of our times. We hurry to finish work, so we can hurry to get in our trail run, so we can hurry to get home to our favorite television show, so we can hurry and visit Facebook before we hurry to bed. That way we can get plenty of rest in order to hurry through the next day.
The trail runner might tell you that running on a wooded pathway is more aesthetically pleasing than running along an exhaust-choked street. Or they might tell you running on natural surface trails is better for your feet and knees than running on asphalt or concrete. Trail running is arguably a more efficient way to cover more trail miles than is walking, hiking, or backpacking.
And if you like trail running and you like the Appalachian Trail, why not combine your likes and run the Appalachian Trail?
Record-setting speed hikers often need help reaching their goal. A support team, usually the friend, spouse, or parent of the aspiring record setter, meets them at trail road crossings to help feed and shelter them, so the hopeful hikers can travel unencumbered. Therefore, records set by this group are “supported” thru-hikes.
Others do it all on their own, carrying their food, clothing and camping gear, and organizing their own resupply. This is a different record category – “unsupported” thru-hikes. The record unsupported thru-hike is 60 days. Unsupported thru-hikes don’t have a crew or any outside help, but these unofficial rules get murky. Can an unsupported thru-hiker accept a candy bar from a friend, or a ride to the post office to pick up his resupply package?
A major advantage of thru-hiking as a sport is its diversity of dogmas. There are as many opinions on the best way to thru-hike as there are thru hikers. No rulebooks on how to hike exist like in basketball or football. And that’s where the oft-repeated phrase comes in: “hike your own hike.”
So if Jennifer Davis wants to set a record for speed hiking the Appalachian Trail, let her. She’s hiking her own hike. If folks want to take a crack at the unsupported thru-hike record, let them.
Just get out of the way when they blow by.