Called Again: A Look at Jennifer Pharr-Davis

AJWs TaproomDuring the summer of 2011, I watched in awe as Jennifer Pharr-Davis methodically hiked the Appalachian Trail in record time. A few days before she completed her hike I wrote the following post on my blog:

Of all the traits that I admire in ultrarunners by far the most significant trait is consistency. There is something about this sport that requires it, demands it and, in the end, rewards it.

We see it in so many aspects of the ultrarunners life. The training requires an often mind-numbing regularity. Get up, run, get through the day, eat, sleep, repeat. Over and over. Day after day. Month after month. Year after year. The race calendar provides some structure to this pattern and also inspires and motivates us. But, in the end, the desire to succeed in ultrarunning requires an almost machine-like attention to simply getting it done. And, if you think consistency is hard, go check out the September 2001 Ultrarunning magazine results and see how many runners listed in the results there are still running today.

And all that, my friends, is why I am awed and inspired by Jennifer Pharr-Davis. Less than a week from now, barring a major disaster, Jennifer will establish a new standard for speed on the most storied trail in our country, the Appalachian Trail. Assuming she gets to the southern end of the trail in time (47 days and 13 hours from the start) she will have set the record. And, not just any record, but a record that has been passed between Horton and Thompson, attempted by Meltzer, others, etc… Oh yeah, Jennifer is also a woman! I dare say, this is downright Trasonesque.

Now, I don’t know Jennifer (or her husband Brew, what an awesome name!), but I can assure you she is tough. Physically, mentally, emotionally, psychologically. And, I hope to have the honor of meeting her some day. Her consistency on this journey has been downright scary. Up every morning at 4:30 am, on the trail shortly after 5, wrapping up the day around 8:50 pm she has clipped off 45-55 mile days like it’s nothing. Day after day, mile after mile, she has simply put one foot in front of the other and gotten it done. Faster than anyone else, ever. I would love to be there with her on that last day. I hope she rips off a 100!

Over the next few days, I’ll be following Jennifer’s progress and I urge you to do the same. Doing something well, better, and faster than anyone else ever has, requires something few of us have. Doing it for seven consecutive weeks is uncanny. From my perspective, it’s worth celebrating, savoring, and honoring.

Jennifer Pharr-Davis - Called AgainIn early June, Jen’s new book, Called Again will be hitting the bookshelves. I was fortunate to have been given an advanced copy and finished reading it earlier this week. What an outstanding read! Not only is it an excellent chronicle of an extraordinary accomplishment but, at its essence, it is a love story – love for hiking, love for the trail, and love for a spouse. In remarkably readable prose, Pharr-Davis shares insights into her life and her spirit, which are at once inspiring and humbling. Over the course of her 46-day journey, Pharr-Davis encounters hardship, revelation, and insight all while continuing to deepen her love for all that is most important in her life. It is, quite simply, a transcendent story and one that I wholeheartedly recommend!

I was fortunate to meet Jen a few months after her record hike when I invited her to visit my school and give a presentation to our students. In the course of her day at the school it became clear to me that Jen is an extraordinary person. Not only is she focused, driven, and passionate, but she is also extraordinarily generous and hopeful. Following up on her talk a group of middle school girls came up to chat personally with Jen. I could literally see the stars in their eyes as they asked her questions. It was clear to me that they simply wanted to be near her. Toward the end of this brief question and answer session Jen paused and looked at each of them and said simply,

You know, any of you could do this if you really wanted to. It’s just a matter of putting one foot in front of another.

Bottoms up!

AJW’s Brew’s Beer of the Week

This week we have a special guest beer review from Jen’s husband Brew Davis:

Asheville, North Carolina, where we live, is known for it’s craft beers, and in my opinion (which isn’t that significant, even though my name is Brew), the best beer in town (or anywhere, for that matter) is a seasonal called Vadim Bora Russian Imperial Stout, released by Wedge Brewery in the River Arts District and named for a local artist and gallery owner who immigrated from the Caucasus Mountains and passed away several years ago. Vadim Bora’s ABV is 9.2%, but it’s a bit lighter and therefore more drinkable than other RIS’s. Its got the usual chocolate flavor, but what distinguishes it is the 168 lbs. of raspberries that are added during the brewing process. The Wedge website describes Vadim Bora as “intensely decadent” and I wholeheartedly agree. You can only buy three per visit, and you can only get them from December to March, but they are unique, delicious, and fit for a king (or czar or emperor or whatever was de rigueur in Russia before Lenin’s Revolution).

There are 12 comments

  1. Matt P

    Thanks for the review and heads up. Really looking forward to reading this. I remember how impressive she was in person speaking to us at the pre-race meeting before MMTR a couple of years ago. I remember enjoying the angst her accomplishment seemed to cause among some male ultramarathoners!

    Intrigued also by what you've said about Jennifer's love for the trail & etc–it's the fuel that keeps many of us going, for sure.

  2. art

    … and to think I'm worried about my upcoming "little" 5 day effort.

    Jen is worth supporting, maybe I'll actually Buy a book.

  3. Lucia

    Thank you for the wonderful book review. I quite enjoyed Jennifer's first book, Becoming Odyssa, and am really looking forward to the new release.

  4. Sarah

    I'll have to check that book out, thanks for the great review of her amazing journey! You're right it is a feat to be celebrated and honored-way to go Jen!!

  5. Jon Burbey

    Andy, this is one of my favorite blog posts that you have written. Well done! Great idea bringing Jennifer to your school!

  6. olga

    Great comparing, and what you wrote back then is also so true. I read her first book, and followed her record hike – the book would be an awesome addition to the story, I am sure.

  7. Jenn

    speaking of doing something with consistency…your articles are something that I enjoy again and again… thanks for the always thoughtful insights and prose Mr. AJW!

  8. Billy

    The AT is a magical place and her accomplishment is beyond my comprehension. Can't wait to read her testimony. Thanks Andy.

    Woodstock

    GA-ME 2007

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