In August 1922, only 12 years after the Long Trail was completed from Bennington to Johnson, VT, a group of 4 hikers (3 of Robert Frost’s children and their friend) completed the first-ever continuous hike of its (then) 225 miles. Tackling the trail in a brisk 17 days, they were joined on most of their adventure by Robert Frost himself, who had to turn back once to remedy his blistered feet and then had to stop finally at Mount Mansfield. The poet was 48 at the time, one year older than I am now.
I’ve followed the Long Trail speed records for a number of years, and I’m awed by the speed and efficiency with which some folks are able to cover the trail’s challenging and steep terrain. I’ve watched the FKT (Fastest Known Time) grow faster and faster to its current 4 days, 12 hours, and 46 minutes for a supported run by Jonathan Basham in 2009.
That said, I’ve also made an intentional choice not to attempt to break any specific record on the trail — that’s not the point of my run this time around. Rather, by spending 10 days traversing Vermont by bike and on foot, surrounding myself with family, friends, and finding support nearly at every turn — this adventure is a way to engage with the place and people of my home state all while having a larger conversation about how to enhance our connection with the natural world.
Of course, there is no ‘right’ pace for hiking or running the trail. Arguments about that sometimes border on the absurd.
I’m hoping that at the pace I’ve set out to keep — an average of 50 km per day on the trail after a single, long 14-hour day on the bike — is the right one for me. One that will help me better understand my place and my role in this world — and maybe, just maybe, help inspire others to set similar goals and get out into the world in thoughtful and intentional ways.