In the span of less than a week, I discovered two thru-hiker news stories online. The first told the tale of 75 year-old Tom Young from North Myrtle Beach, SC who conquered the stretch from Springer to Katahdin in a week shy of six months. A few days later I came across the story of 26 year-old Joe McConaughy, who did the same deed, but in the course of his trip shattered both the supported and unsupported (he carried a 25-pound pack the entire way) speed record by landing at the “Northern Terminus” sign in 45 days, 12 hours and 15 minutes.
Most people fall heavily on one side of the following argument or the other: Is it more fulfilling to hike for enjoyment, like Tom “Grey Eagle” Young, or hike with a mission, like Joe “Stringbean” McConaughy?
I land somewhere in the middle. Back in my halcyon days of 26.2 milers, I was totally mission minded. A marathon was something to be conquered, not enjoyed. The enjoyment came after the race. And when I tackle my first week-long section hike on the AT, there will definitely be a mission mindset at play. Given X number of days to complete X number of miles, one can’t help but assign goals to the thing. However, I’m hoping to schedule myself enough hiking days so that, while staying focused on time/distance markers, I’m not hammering my body to achieve them and allowing myself some rose-sniffing opportunities along the way.
Of course, age and ability play a part for me, too. I was never an elite marathoner; my PR was 3:28, so I never expected to run with the human tornadoes when the gun went off. Likewise, even if I was in my twenties I couldn’t maintain the pace of a world-class ultra athlete like Stringbean. I’m thinking shooting for 100 days would have been an aggressive enough goal for me.
Today, being north of fifty and all? Let’s just say that this blog isn’t called “Slowing Down to Enjoy the View” for nothing…