Outdoors

PCT speed-hiking record setter was overweight girl

Heather Anderson of Bellingham, trail name
Heather Anderson of Bellingham, trail name "Anish," was on track to set a woman's unsupported speed record for through hiking the Pacific Crest Trail on Aug. 8, 2013. (Courtesy)

UPDATE at Aug. 8, 10:30 a.m. — Unconfirmed reports have Heather “Anish” Anderson finishing the Pacific Crest Trail at 11:30 p.m. on Aug. 7, 2013. That would break the speed record of 64 days by 3-4 days. Reports from Josh Garrett’s friends indicate he will finish this afternoon in a time that would break Anderson’s new record by about two days.

HIKING — Heather “Anish” Anderson is likely to inspire people, including bookworms, daydreamers and overweight people.  Today she is likely to set the world record for through-hiking the Pacific Crest Trail unsupported.

SIDE ISSUE: The debate is likely to continue on whether a record-breaking trek can be called “unsupported” when a hiker posts progress updates on social media and draws a following that shows up at trailheads to offer food and encouragement.   Here's an observation by Karen Dawn, who resents my description of Josh Garrett's record PCT trek as “supported.”

Jennifer Phar Davis does not have the “supported” record for the Appalachian Trail.

When Heather/Anish reached Rainy Pass, 60 miles from the finish, she was greeted by throngs, who knew from her facebook updates that she was coming, and was photographed eating pizza. When Josh got to Rainy Pass, after hiking

120 miles utterly alone, his single support person Tish, who had not had reception, had gone into town to check messages. So Josh stood there all alone, no people, no food. Compare that to Anish's “unsupported” experience….

 I am sorry you chose to propogate the unsupported myth — a hike is not unsupported when you are blogging your location and people are showering you with food. She didn't even have to go pick up her last resupply package. 

 

Meanwhile, here's Heather Anderson's background in an inspiring vignette from a Facebook entry she posted on Aug. 2 before virtually disappearing in her final push through the north Cascades to end her 2,655-mile odyssey at the U.S.-Canada border: 

I imagine people may think I am a natural athlete, the girl who played sports all through school. The exact opposite is true. I was an overweight child, a bookworm who sat with her nose in an adventure book and daydreamed. I never exercised and couldn't make it around the track without walking. When I graduated high school I weighed 200lbs.

I daydreamed of adventure, but the thing I daydreamed the most was that I would someday set a record. Not just any record though, an athletic record. I wanted so desperately to not be what I was. I hated my body and myself. I consoled myself by eating a bowls full of oreos and milk as though they were cereal. But somewhere deep inside I knew I was capable of doing something more.

When I was 20 I met something that would forever change my life. A Trail. Though my first few hikes were miserable as I forced my body to work, I was enthralled. Trails took me on the adventures I craved and to beautiful, wondrous, wild places. I lost my heart and soul…and eventually 70 lbs…to the trails.

Now, I am a few short days away from fulfilling my oldest daydream: setting an athletic record. I cry when I think about all the things I have overcome to get here, both on this hike and off. It makes me ever so grateful to that chubby girl who dared to dream big, audacious dreams. I am even more thankful that she grew up to be a woman courageous enough to make those dreams reality.




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Rich Landers

Rich Landers’ Outdoors blog


Rich Landers writes and photographs stories for a wide range of outdoors coverage, including a Sunday feature section and a Thursday column. He also writes the Outdoors Blog.


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