National Geographic Adventurer of the Year Jennifer Pharr Davis will talk endurance
Hiker Jennifer Pharr Davis became the first female to earn the Fastest Known Time, a speed record title, by covering the 2,185-mile Appalachian Trail in 46 days, 11 hours and 20 minutes in 2011.
She was not prepared for what came next.
“I was struck afterwards that no one understood the significance, and I got criticized a lot for setting the record,” Davis said.
Much of the criticism came from people who questioned whether or not she actually covered the entire distance, or could have done so by averaging 47 miles each day.
That criticism spurred her to write her book, “The Pursuit of Endurance: Harnessing the Record-Breaking Power of Strength and Endurance.” Davis will share some of the stories from the book during a free presentation at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, June 26, at the Park City Library.
These stories are focused on the endurance of seven individuals in the trail community, Davis said.
“The endurance is applied to their on-trail and off-trail struggles,” she said. “Although what they have accomplished on trail is phenomenal, off-trail, there are very relatable people.”
Two of the book’s subjects are ultra-runner Scott Jurek, who broke Davis’ Appalachian Trail record by three hours, and Scott Williamson, an extreme hiker who survived a bullet wound in his spine.
Davis, who was voted by National Geographic as Adventurer of the Year in 2012, had crossed paths with Jurek, Williamson and many of the others throughout her adventures, which include hiking more than 14,000 miles on various trails around the world.
“The trail world is a pretty tight-knit community, so that made it easy to find people to write about,” she said.
Some, like Williamson, were a little hesitant to share their stories.
“Very few people know of him and his accomplishments, and he kind of likes it that way,” Davis said. “But since we are good friends, he allowed me to tell his story in a way he was comfortable with.”
Davis wanted the book to accurately portray her subjects, because she had read misrepresentations of them in national magazines and papers.
“I feel like the record holders are misunderstood people — ostracized or criticized in the way that wouldn’t be the case if people knew more about them,” she said. “In many of these stories, my friends would come across as ‘untouchable.’”
Davis said painting these people in that kind of light does them a disservice.
“It’s because I feel their best traits are that they are so down-to-earth,” she said. “The joy of the writing process was sharing stories of people who aren’t very well-known, but who have this huge ability to inspire people.”
Davis hopes Wednesday’s audience members find her talk and the book “hearwarming” and “inspiring.”
“I would like them to focus on their innate ability to take one more step or reach a little farther to reach something — whether that is to hike 50 miles, get a job promotion or get out of debt,” she said. “I want this to be an empowering experience that will lead to long-term success.”
Setting the Appalachian Trail record was a powerful experience for Davis.
“It was really a low-budget effort between me and my husband to see what my best was on the trail, and my motivation was tied to showing that women are equal to men in terms of extreme endurance,” she said. “I felt I owed it to myself to let my body go and do what it wanted to do before I entered another phase of my life (motherhood), which is super sweet and slow as I lug children down the trail.”
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