2019 Athlete of the Year: Nika Meyers
Nika Meyers set a blisteringly fast fastest-known-time on the Long Trail this fall, besting what had until this summer been a longstanding men’s FKT.
Nika Meyers, Bridgewater Corners, Vt.
It was a record-breaking year for speed attempts on The Long Trail. Between June and October, three people set new unsupported fastest-known-times (FKTs) on the 273-mile trail that bested a prior men’s record that had remained untouched for nine years.
One of those people was 30-year-old Nika Meyers of Bridgewater Corners.
On October 2, Meyers finished the trail in six days, 11 hours and 40 minutes. Her attempt was “Unsupported,” meaning she carried every piece of gear she used and each item of food in a pack on her back. The only thing she picked up along the way was water.
“There was no ‘unsupported’ record for a female hiker, so I used Jennifer Pharr Davis’ 2007 self-supported (meaning she cached food ahead of time at stops along the way) record of 7 days 15 hours and 40 minutes,” said Meyers. In 2018, Meyers also completed the Triple Crown of American long distance hiking trails: the 2,650-mile Pacific Crest Trail, the 2,200-mile Appalachian Trail and the 3,100-mile Continental Divide Trail.
“I wanted to try experiencing the Long Trail in a new way,” Myers said of this thru-hike. “I averaged about 42 miles per day and hiked from about 3:30 a.m. to 9:30 or 10 p.m., aiming for a minimum of five hours of sleep every night,” she said. Instead of setting firm mileage days based on other FKTers’ progress before her, she set out to take the notoriously rugged trail day by day—hiking until her body told her to stop. “I wanted to see what I could do.”
Though she only did the occasional weekend day hike over the summer, Meyers, like the two men who also scored unsupported FKTs on the Long Trail
this summer, beat Travis Wildeboer’s 2010 time of 6 days, 17 hours and 45 seconds—a record that remained untouched despite many attempts over the past nine years.
This summer, Josh Perry, a 24-year-old hiker from Yorkshire, England hiked the trail unsupported in 6 days, 9 hours and 48 minutes to finish on June 13. He held the record for just a short while, as Jeff “Legend” Garmire, a 28-year-old ultrarunner from Colorado hiked it in a blistering 5 days, 23 hours and 48 minutes to finish on July 24.
As Pharr Davis said of Meyers’ feat, “There are very few who can appreciate the demands of a six-day unsupported thru-hike on The Long Trail. As someone who has come close to her mark, I consider her efforts nothing short of Olympian.”
Meyers also, in her first attempt at an FKT, broke a men’s record that had stood for 10 full years. In the world of FKTs on long-distance trails, men and women have historically competed in separate time categories. Hikers like Meyers are closing that gap.
“Nika Meyers is one of my heroes,” says Pharr Davis. “She pours herself into conservation and outdoor education with the same passion and intensity that she used to set a FKT. She is a wonderful example of someone who has given back to the trails that have given her so much.”
For more 2019 Vermont Sports Athletes of the Year, head here.
Featured Photo: Nika Meyers at the end of her North-South Long Trail thru-hike. Photo courtesy Nika Meyers.