Updated: Jan 13, 2022
*Insert Captain America meme*
So, you want to do a thruhike and you have spent tens of minutes on the internet looking for a strategy for how to make it the entire way... But you don't know where to start.
If you are reading this because of a random internet search (and not because you're one of my many amazing supporters) then you already have your trail in mind. You've decided that months of walking with minimal showers and toilets being luxury, are a good thing. So I will let you know the ultimate strategy that I used to finish 3 through hikes in 3 years.
Whether you run marathons every week, or have been marathon couch sitting the last 5 years, start slow. I don't mean add a mile a day. I don't mean do 20 miles but only at a mile per hour. I mean go slow. For the first 400 miles, I would not hit a 20 mile day. For the first 2 weeks I wouldn't do more than 10 miles in a day. It's not about staying ahead. If the goal is to do it faster than everyone else (and this is your first thru) you won't finish, let alone finish fastest.
I saw so many (soooo many) super fit, super fast and motivated people come out to the trail and pass by me... laughing. Only to be passed up by everyone they had left in the dust because of injury or burnout. Running on a treadmill for 20-30 miles is not the same as walking on a trail with a pack on. You have to build up your muscles and joints while also staying aware of your surroundings. The slowest starters that take their time by doing shorter mile days and more breaks will be better conditioned for the later months where they will be doing marathon (26 mile+) days while the overconfident are nursing shinsplints and malnutrition.
The first 400-500 miles are when the injuries can knock you back weeks or even months. There are exceptions, of course, but feel free to test this theory yourself. Long distance hiking isn't about survival, it's about endurance. As any distance runner, the best way to build endurance is repetition and slowly adding miles.
If you think this plan doesn't work for you, cool. You are welcome to go out and try for yourself. That's the great thing about hiking your own hike, it's yours. My strategy has worked for everyone I have talked to that implemented it. Which is at least 2.
Start slow, build up to a steady pace, then finish slow. After all the last one to (Maine, Canada, Mexico) wins.
Thank you everyone who supports my hiking/adventuring habits!
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Thanks again, and until next time, get outside