Happy Feet

Speed hiker Andrew Thompson stomps all over your idea of endurance athletes

May 15, 2006
Outside Magazine

When Thompson hobbled up Georgia's Springer Mountain on August 1, 2005, he notched a superhuman record: the fastest hike on the 2,174-mile Appalachian Trail. Sleeping only five hours each night, the 30-year-old from Derry, New Hampshire, averaged 46 miles per day over 47 days.

Outside: OK, cut to the chase: How did the sleep deprivation affect you?
Thompson: I had horrible hallucinations the entire time. Like Dave Matthews's face on the side of a tree.

How does one train for something like this?
Run 118 miles per week, with no days off, for three months. After training I did the Barkley ultramarathon in April, then started the AT in May, going north to south.

How did you mentally prepare?
I failed on my first two attempts, and I was ready for closure. My self-motivation level was through the roof.

What did you carry?
Almost nothing. My pack weighed probably six pounds. Water, food, jacket. My partner, Jon Basham (who drove ahead each day), would have a tent and meal ready when I arrived.

Any advice for normal hikers who want more miles?
There's no substitute for an early start. And regardless of your pace, you gotta keep moving: Those little five-to-ten-minute breaks add up quickly.

Will you ever hike the AT again?
I'll always love it, but no more long-distance hikes on the AT for me. Now I'd like to summit all of Colorado's fourteeners.

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