Jim and I were on our Southwest trip in early January when
24-year-old Meredith Emerson was murdered by a drifter while she
was out on a day hike on the Appalachian Trail in northern
Georgia with her black Lab, but we heard about her disappearance
and the subsequent discovery of her decapitated body 'way out there in
Phoenix Police found the suspect within a few days and he
confessed to her murder, the diabolical end result of a
frustrated robbery attempt. You can read about it
here and on other web sites.
The story really got my attention as I heard more about it on
the internet ultra list, in news stories, and in the AT
Journeys publication. Other murders and abductions on the
Trail have made me wary, but this one hit closer to home. I used
to do long runs and hikes on that section of the AT on Blood Mountain when
I lived in the Atlanta area in the 1970s-1990s. Sometimes I ran with
one or more of my friends, but more often I was out there alone with just one of my "ultra
Labs." I felt safer running with Callie, Bubba, or Tater (that was
before Cody) but obviously having a big dog with her didn't save
Cody runs with me on
Day 4 of my AT trek in northern Georgia (5-3-05)
I was concerned enough before my AT Adventure Run in 2005 to
read all I could about safety on the Trail, write back and forth
to some women who had thru-hiked it, and take a self-defense
course from the police department, but I wasn't too paranoid
about running and hiking from Georgia to Maine. I so badly
wanted to complete this quest -- and there weren't any recent
murders to scare me off.. I'm so glad I went ahead with that
There were only a couple times I was uncomfortable around anyone
for 2,175 miles, and I moved along quickly in those instances
with no harm done. I figured the stronger and faster I looked,
the less likely anyone would want to mess with me. It's very sad
that any hikers, male or female, have to be so careful
nowadays when they should be able to simply enjoy their freedom
in the great outdoors.
Sue on the summit of Blood Mtn., GA on Day
2 of the AT Adventure Run
(Photo by Steve Michael, May 1, 2005)
The last time I passed over Blood Mountain was on May 1, 2005,
the second day of my AT trek. That was well before
Meredith's murder. About the only thing on my mind was keeping
up with my Atlanta running buddy, Steve Michael, who shared the
miles with me the first two days. (You can see some other photos of
the area in our
Picasa "virtual tour" of the
AT. Scroll down to the Georgia album, Day 2.)
I'd probably feel differently about running or hiking through
that area now.
Because of my deteriorating knees, it's unlikely I'll ever run
over Blood Mountain again. That's too bad because I'd like to
bravely hike there in Meredith's memory, just as Jennifer Pharr
is hiking the entire AT in honor of Meredith and other women
who have been murdered while enjoying being out in the
The first I heard about Jennifer's speed hike was in
the March, 2008 issue of Blue Ridge Outdoors magazine.
essay she wrote explains her
reaction to those deaths and why she feels compelled to do
another AT trek in their honor (her first one was in 2005, but I
don't remember seeing her on the Trail). More about Jennifer's
newest adventure in a moment . . .
Since Jim and I don't have beautiful Rocky Mountain photos to
show you again this summer, or tales from those trails and races
to share, we'll give you some links where you can follow several
endurance runners and hikers as they attempt transcontinental journey runs
or try to set new Appalachian Trail records this summer.
Dunno how anyone can
run or hike fast through terrain like this on the AT
in Maine between
the Horns and
Saddleback Mtn. (Day 133, 9-9-05)
We got lots of positive feedback during our AT Adventure Run in
2005 from folks who enjoyed our trek vicariously. People wrote
that they eagerly read each new entry at breakfast or during a break
at work, checking in to see how far we'd gone, look at new
photos, and hear our tales from the trail. I've done
the same with other people's accounts of their journey runs or
hikes, and I know how addictive they can be! Right now I'm
checking in daily to see how Jennifer is doing on the AT,
although her blog posts are several days apart. She is running/hiking
the Trail much as I did, with her husband crewing for her, so
she has more access to a computer than a backpacker.
Most of the adventurers mentioned
below are out on the roads or trails
right now. Karl Meltzer won't begin his AT run until August but
you can check out his web site now and bookmark it for later. I
don't believe any of the runners are posting daily updates to
their web sites like I did (silly me!), but I haven't scanned
all the current journey run links on John Wallace's site yet.
More about his transcontinental journey run site later.
APPALACHIAN TRAIL SPEED RECORD ATTEMPTS
Two ultra runners have announced their intentions to attempt new
women's and men's speed records on the Appalachian Trail
Jennifer Pharr and Karl Meltzer.
1. JENNIFER (JEN) PHARR
I'm sorry now that I didn't try to contact Jennifer through the
BRO magazine when I first read about her trek in March. It
wasn't until John LaCroix, an ultra runner in New Hampshire,
posted a link to the ultra list about her speed record attempt
that I dug deeper and got her e-mail address. John did an
interview with Jennifer and put it on his
blog. (It's good
Photo of Jennifer
Pharr from the Blue Ridge Outdoors web site.
At the end of May I sent Jen a quick note about my trek, with a
link to our web site, and wished her well. Unfortunately, it was
just a few days before her trip from North Carolina to New
England for her wedding to Brew Davis, their honeymoon, and the beginning of her hike --
that's a lot happening in nine or ten days!
Jen graciously wrote back:
Thank you so much for your note and journal. I have been
spending much too much time reading it tonight instead of
working on the wedding or hike planning like I am supposed to be
doing. It is great to hear about your adventure, and I look
forward to having you travel along with Brew and I via the
Please let us know if you have any suggestions or advice for the
upcoming hike. Brew and I certainly are curious about how the
dynamic of "man and wife" will play into the adventure.
I know I have heard your name either from David Horton or
Warren Doyle and it is great to finally personally correspond.
Thank you for being a pioneer for a passion that I will pursue
All the best,
We had time for only one or two more letters, and she was gone.
Jen is attempting to hike the AT
southbound (SOBO) in 60 to 80 days, which is
certainly manageable for this young, fit, and experienced
long-trail hiker. Barely 25, she has hiked over 6,000 miles on
National Scenic Trails since 2005 and has trekked on six
continents. She did a northbound (NOBO) thru-hike of the AT in
2005, so she has considerable "course familiarity" that will help her during
this attempt. She has also thru-hiked the Pacific Crest Trail
and has the unsupported Long Trail (VT) women's record.
Apparently the fastest unsupported
women's hike of the AT is 89 days
(Jenny Jardine). I don't know what the record is for a supported
hike and Jennifer doesn't mention it anywhere that I've seen. (I
wasn't able to find that information before my run/hike either).
Jen's hike is supported by her new husband, Brew, who plans to
meet her at times during the day and carry in supplies so they
can camp on the Trail most nights (some nights will be in motels
or homes). Jen will be covering some long distances and I'm
guessing she'll have to do some running to get the miles done
before dark. She isn't carrying a full backpack.
Brew Davis and Jen, from the
BRO web site.
Her blog is on the Blue Rridge Outdoors
web site. It's
interesting but I'm left wanting more! There is no itinerary
posted or even dates on the entries, other than the month. It's
impossible to follow her journey on an AT map this way. I'd
really like to see what her beginning and end points are for
each day. Maybe she plans to post that after the hike. I
shouldn't complain, though. Although I was quite specific in my
own journal about the trail heads and distances (and a lot of
other stuff) for each day, I gave up posting an itinerary on, oh, about the
second week! It was impossible for me to stick with a schedule
because of all the variables. Since Jen has a 20-day window of
her expected time on the Trail, it's obvious she's going with
the flow, too.
You have to scroll down the web
page each time to get to Jen's latest report.
When you click on one of the entries you'll see links at the top
of the new page to leave a (public) comment or subscribe to the "Pharr Out Blog"
so you can be notified of updates. I just did that today. Since
she isn't writing every day, I won't have to go to the web site
until I get a notice.
Brew has written a couple of
interesting entries, too -- something I never was able to get
Jim to do during my trek! It's great to read his perspective of
the adventure. The one about his "missed connections" is
priceless and reminds me of the times when Jim and I had a few
similar rendezvous challenges.
I'm rooting for Jennifer to meet her goals on this trek, to have
lots of fun, and to remain safe the entire distance. She's a
great role model for younger women.
2. KARL MELTZER
Later this summer Karl will try to
beat Andrew Thompson's AT record set in 2005 (47 days, 13 hours,
31 minutes). The "Speed Goat" is aiming for anything faster than
that from Maine to Georgia. The itinerary on his
shows a Day 48, so he may beat the record by only a few hours or
minutes. Karl plans to begin his run at Mt. Katahdin on August 5
and will be going SOBO like Andrew did.
The ultra speedster is known for
his prowess at mountainous 100-milers but most have been out
West on smoother trails than the AT. He has six wins at Wasatch
near his home in Sandy, UT and four wins at the difficult
Hardrock Hundred (HRH) in Colorado. I took the photo below at
the HRH awards ceremony in 2006. RD Dale Garland (L) is
congratulating Karl (in black shirt) and Betsy Kalmeyer for
Now age 41, Karl has the record
for the most 100-mile wins in one year (six in 2006).
He's fast over the course of a hundred miles, but can he manage
an average of 46+ miles a day for 47 days on a rocky, sawtooth-ridged
trail like the AT -- in the heat and humidity of the East in
August and September? We'll see!
Karl describes himself as a
professional ultra runner. He's one of only a few who can make a
living in this sport. Although there aren't usually any monetary
prizes for winning ultras, runners like Karl often have generous
sponsors and sometimes races will comp their entries, give them
free lodging, and/or offer appearance money. Karl offers
coaching services, runs a summer running camp, and directs the
Speed Goat 50K race.
Like Jennifer, Karl has several
sponsors for his speed attempt. The Backcountry.com web site
that will be "mission control" during the run is
There's a video on the home page now, and a link to get
updates via e-mail. I have no idea how often the site will be
updated once Karl gets going, or how detailed the information
Good luck, Karl!
OTHER LONG TRAIL
For many, many other long trail
thru-hikers' reports, check out the fabulous
Journals web site. You could spend the rest of your
life reading these interesting journals from the AT, PCT, CDT,
Long Trail, and others. Not only is it a great vicarious read,
it's good research if you ever intend to hike or run these
trails (or parts of them).
FROM SEA TO SHINING SEA
If you think setting a speed record
on the AT is daunting, how about trying to run as fast as
you can on paved roads across the breadth of the USA?? Or even
just trying to run across it regardless of pace? No thanks, but
I can appreciate what these folks do.
site for previous, current, and future
transcontinental runs is produced by John Wallace, III who ran
across the country in 2004 and has a keen interest in compiling
the results of such runs. John has an historical list of 210
crossings by 184 individuals since 1909. Very cool.
Listed on the home page are the
crossings, with four already completed and eight or nine in
progress or planned to begin later this summer. You can see at a
glance which direction each runner is going (most go west to
east with the prevailing winds), start and end points, distance
(2,630 to 3,700 miles, depending on route), cause for which they
are running (many folks use these runs to raise money for
charities), and the web site for each run. Some of the runs are
supported by crews, some are not.
Turner, who ran self-supported with a specially-rigged running
cart to carry his supplies, has already finished his
2,630-mile run across the southern part of the US in 37+ days.
He ran from Oceanside, CA to Savannah, GA and slept in his cart
along the way, re-supplying as needed. We've known Glen for about ten years, mostly from the Leadville
race. Jamil Coury took this photo of Glen during the ATY race in
December -- and happened to catch Jim on the right!
L-R: Glen Turner,
Debbie Richmeier, John Geesler, Jim O'Neil on Day 1 at the 2007
2. I'm looking forward to following
Marshall Ulrich and Charlie Engle's 3,200-mile trek across
America from San Francisco to New York City when they begin in
early August. Both are elite, well-experienced journey /
adventure runners. Charlie is, among other things, a movie
producer. His company,
Running America, will produce
a documentary of the run. They're looking for five
people per mile (that's a lot of people!) to run with Charlie
and Marshall along the route, which is shown on the web site. There are
also links to
Marshall's individual web sites..
3. When I talked to race director
Lisa-Smith Batchen last fall at the Teton races she was planning
to do a 3,200-mile transcon run from Huntington Beach, CA to New
York City with Louise Cooper. That run has been postponed until
L to R: co-RDs
Zach Barnett, Jay Batchen, and Lisa Smith-Batchen
at the 2007 Grand Teton race with
first male 100-miler, Andy Jones-Wilkins
Instead, this summer Lisa, an elite
ultra runner and coach, will be doing a two-part run/bike trek
to raise money for AIDs orphans in Africa. She calls it the
"Death Valley 810." Lisa plans
to run from Las Vegas (NV) to the start of the Badwater race in
Death Valley (CA) beginning July 9. Then she'll run 135 miles in
the official race and finish on top of Mt. Whitney -- for a
total of 302 running miles with an elevation gain from 292 feet
below sea level in Death Valley to 14,496 feet above sea level
on top of Whitney. The second part of her journey will be the
non-stop 508-mile Furnace Creek bicycle race through Death
Valley in October.
RUNNING AROUND THE
If you think running about 3,000
miles from one coast of the U.S. to the other is extreme,
consider that some folks run across Europe, Australia, or the
entire globe! At least one turned out to be a hoax a few years
ago, but most of these attempts are well-enough documented and
observed to be verified as real.
My favorite runner in this group is
Rosie Swale-Pope who has been
running around the world self-supported the last five years. She
recently returned to her home in Wales after the adventure
of a lifetime. What an inspiration! She pulled a cart that
carried supplies and served as a tent for sleeping, similar to
the way Glen Turner traveled across the USA.
Here's a photo and a quote from
Rosie's home page:
2nd of October 2003 my 57th birthday, I'm going to set off to
run around the world. I shall be solo, self supporting and on a
very low budget. My dearest wish anyway, is just to do a
complete circle of the earth. The death of my husband Clive
from prostate cancer, taught me more than anything about how
precious life is; How short it can be, that you HAVE to grab
life, do what you can while you can, and try to give something
back. I'll be trying to raise awareness of the following very
And, by golly, she was successful!
Here are a few more web sites to
keep you busy if you're interested in mega-distance and multi-day
treks all over the world:
(map below is from this web site)
John Wallace posted the following
list to the ultra listserv today:
few new walks added. Some updated running info. Follow along
any ones that interest you! Pass along info/links to any new
ones you hear about.
Andrew Wahila, Matthew Durkin, Ken Stannard
2/1/08-5/26/08 2,788 miles Tybee Island, GA - La Jolla, CA
A Journey for 9/11
9/16/07-6/21/08 3,003 miles New York City, NY - San Diego, CA
Freedom Run Across America
Tom & Warren Knoll
3/1/08-7/4/08 3,360 miles San Diego, CA Washington, DC
1/1/08 9/1/08 3,600 miles LA, CA Washington, DC NYC, NY
The Longest Walk 2
100 core walkers, 3000+ participants overall
2/11/08 4,400 miles San Francisco, CA Washington, DC
Walk America 2008
3/1/08 11/1/08 3,000+ miles SF, CA Boston, MA
Walk for Freedom
Athein & Zaw Min Htwe
3/1/08 8/8/08 3,000 Miles Portland, OR NYC, NY
Rick Walks America
4/1/08 10/1/08 3,700 miles Bodega Bay, CA Coney Island, NY
4/1/08 TBD 3,200 miles Virginia Beach, VA Orick, CA
Elias Tembenis Walk for Autism
Robert Williams & Bobby Genese
5/13/08 TBD 09 3,000 miles San Francisco, CA Washington, DC
A Thousand Thanks
5/28/08 TBD 2,700 miles Ft. Irwin, CA Washington, DC
Nick Walks America
6/17/08 1/2/09 3,000 miles NYC, NY Los Angeles, CA
Run To Vote
6/14/08 TBD 48 continental states
Run for the Fallen
Team of Runners
6/14/08 8/23/08 3,000+ miles Fort Irwin, CA Washington, DC
8/5/08 9/21/08 2,147 miles Appalachian Trail
Four Million Steps
8/28/08 11/11/08 2,300 miles Bangor, ME Miami, FL
Charlie Engle & Marshall Ulrich
8/8/08 (9/11/08?) - 9/22/08 (10/26/08)? 3,200 miles SF, CA
Million Dollar Run
2/20/09 4/6/09 2,800 miles LA, CA NYC, NY
DREAM YOUR OWN DREAMS
Even though most of us aren't
capable physically, financially, time-wise, or for other reasons to run,
hike, or bike these mega-distances, it's fun to follow along
vicariously during or after such adventures. I hope it inspires
you to hatch a plan for your own adventure runs, hikes, or rides
some place near your home -- or somewhere more exotic!
So many possibilities, so little
time . . .
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil, Cody, and
© 2008 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil