There’s a New Long Trail FKT

This October, a Bridgewater Corners resident quietly set a new Women’s Unsupported FKT on the Long Trail, beating what was until this summer a longstanding men’s FKT.

For more about Nika Meyers, see “Tales from the Triple Crown,” from our August, 2019 issue.

Nika Meyers was a little delirious as she ran the last 10 miles of the Long Trail on October 2. In doing so, the 30-year-old from Bridgewater Corners set the Women’s Unsupported Fastest Known Time (FKT) for the 273-mile trail. She hiked the Long Trail from north to south in 6 days, 11 hours and 40 minutes, tracking her progress with a Spot Device.

Though two attempts at the unsupported FKT were made by men this summer (Jeff Garmire ultimately set a new record of 5 days, 23 hours and 48 minutes in late July), the only previous attempt at such an FKT by a woman was by Jennifer Pharr-Davis in 2007.

Davis hiked the trail in a “self-supported” fashion, resupplying as she went, in 7 days, 15 hours and 40 minutes. Meyers, in contrast, set out from the Long Trail’s northern terminus with seven days of food in her pack, budgeting for 3,500 calories a day and no resupplies in between.

“It was something I’d been thinking about for a long time,” said Meyers, who has hiked the Triple Crown of National Scenic Trails—the Pacific Crest, Continental Divide and Appalachian Trails—in addition to the Arizona Trail and Long Trail (see our August, 2019 cover story). She met Pharr-Davis while working as a Green Mountain Club employee in 2013, and actually consulted her before taking on the FKT.

Meyers took an unusual approach: instead of setting daily mileage goals, she decided, at Pharr-Davis’s recommendation, to focus instead on hiking as far as she could each day. Her goal? To see how hard she could push her body with the goal of matching Pharr-Davis’ time.

“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,” said Meyers, who didn’t train beyond casual hiking throughout the summer. “I’ve hiked most trails not knowing where I’m going to end up that night and I did the same here. I knew that if I fixated on where other people had camped ahead of me, the whole picture of the task ahead would just become crippling.”

After three final days of torrential rain, during which she developed sores on her ankles and nearly ran out of food, she met her mother and partner at the trail’s terminus. “It was magical. They brought a Thermos of hot tea and my mom’s homemade cookies. We sat by the trail and called my dad and twin sister, and then I hobbled very slowly to the car.”

Though there was no prior women’s unsupported FKT to break, Meyers’ time of 6 days, 11 hours and 40 minutes bested Travis Wildeboer’s longstanding men’s unsupported FKT of 6 days 17 hours and 15 minutes, which was set in 2010 and only just broken in June 2019.

“I was excited about how fast I’d done it, but in the couple of days after I finished, my whole body ballooned into this amoeba creature that was unlike anything I’d experienced on any of my thru-hikes,” said Meyers. “It really made me wonder, is it all worth it?”

Meyers, who coaches middle school Nordic skiing and works for the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies in Colo., will give a talk at the GMC’s Waterbury Center visitor center on Dec. 20, titled “Rugged Happiness: Setting the Unsupported Female Record on the Long Trail” at 7 p.m.

For a few gear recommendations from Meyers’ past thru-hikes (and some great long-distance backpacking gear in general) click here.

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Featured Photo Caption: Nika Meyers, after setting the women’s unsupported fastest known time on the Long Trail on Oct. 2. Photo courtesy Nika Meyers

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