SEATTLE - A Seattle woman, 34, has set an unsupported speed record for hiking the 2,189-mile Appalachian Trail through 14 states from Maine to Georgia in 54 days, 7 hours and 48 minutes.
Heather Anderson (trail name “Anish”) is no fleeting moment in trail-record history. In 2013, she set the unsupported backpacking speed record for the 2,663-mile Pacific Crest Trail from Mexico to Canada in 60 days, 17 hours and 12 minutes.
On Thursday, after averaging 42 miles a day since Aug. 1, she walked off Springer Mountain in Fannin County, Georgia, the way she started the odyssey on Maine’s Mount Katahdin – alone.
Anderson is the first to hold the unsupported record on the AT and the PCT simultaneously.
She achieved “unsupported” status by packing her food, mailing it to food drops along the way, collecting what she needed herself, and carried her own supplies, water and shelter.
On July 12, ultra marathoner Scott Jurek, 41, set a supported speed record for the Appalachian Trail in 46 days, 8 hours, 8 minutes, boosted by a team shuttling his stuff.
Anderson has broken the AT unsupported record of 58 days, 9 hours, 38 minutes set in 2013 by Matthew Kirk.
The previous women’s unsupported record was 80 days, 13 hours, 30 minutes set by Liz “Snorkel” Thomas.
The women’s supported speed record of 46 days, 11 hours, 20 minutes was set in 2011 by Jennifer Pharr Davis.
Considered unathletic as a kid, Anderson wrestled with weight issues until she discovered her love for backpacking. But even after taking the leap from enjoyable hiking to the suffering of record attempts, she said she’s been pestered by self doubt as well as competitive naysayers.
“The trail has a way of answering the questions you most need answered, even if you are afraid to ask,” she wrote in the first Facebook post announcing her record and her years of struggles with self-esteem.
“I was too afraid to ask, but the trail knew the question in my heart: ‘Was the PCT a fluke?’ The AT answered with a resounding, ‘No!’ ”
Every footstep was a commitment to face her perceived inadequacies, she said.
“So now, I walk off of Springer Mountain, alone just as I came. My pack, my feet, and my heart are light, unburdened at last.”