Route: VA Appalachian Trail (VA)

Virginia, US
530.7 mi

James Varner submitted this AT state segment for Virginia, with times for some past efforts:

Virginia is by far The Appalachian Trail's longest state section at 541.2 miles, nearly double the mileage of Tennesee and Maine the 2nd and 3rd longest sections respectively. As far as we know no one in recent times has made an FKT attempt on just the Virginia Section of the AT so the current FKTs are all likely set by folks who were doing the entire AT. We do recognize that setting an FKT while in the midst of running a much longer trail is not the same as going for an FKT for just one section of that trail and we would imagine that their times for just the section would be faster if they were going for just that section not running much further their times are still the fastest we know of for this section. Also since these folks were not going for the section FKT they didn't record specifically when they started and finished the section we have made rough estimates based on the information we do have which in some cases is quite limited therefore for all the reasons listed above all of these times "should be taken with a grain of salt" and we should assume the time would be faster if these folks had actually set out for the section FKT. 

Overall Male Record: ~10 days 11hr 17min Karel Sabbe (Northbound) 2018
Supported Male Record:  ~10 days 11hr 17min   Karel Sabbe (Northbound) 2018
Self Supported Male Record: ~ 11 days 2hr 8min   Joe "Stringbean" McConaughy (Northbound) 2017

Overall Female Record:  ~10 days 22hr Jennifer Pharr-Davis (Southbound) 2011
Supported Female Record: ~10 days 22hr Jennifer Pharr-Davis (Southbound) 2011
Self Supported Female Record: ?days ?hr Heather "Anish" Anderson (Southbound) 2015

Karel entered VA from TN 41.25 miles into a 45.17 mile day on July 26 2018, a day that likely started at 4am and ended at 6pm(in Damascus, VA). There's a good bit of uncertainty to the exact minute he crossed the border due to some weird Strava data on that day. Instead if you use his average speed of 18.6min/mi and multiply by 41.25 mi you have him cross the border at 4:47pm but since he was likely going faster at the end of the run because it was all downhill to Damascus for the last few miles he was likely going closer to 19.5min/mi up to mile 41.25 which would have him crossing the border at 5:24pm. In truth it's probably somewhere in between 4:47pm and 5:24pm but for sake of giving him the benefit of the doubt and to make sure the time I'm aiming to beat is lower than higher I'd go with the 5:24pm time. Karel exited VA on the morning of Aug 6th Karel started at 4am(I assume based on his interview on Fastest Known Podcast) and from his Strava data should have done the first 2.3 miles of the day to reach the WVA border at about 4:41am. this would set the FKT at 10 days 11hr 17min. Because he slept just north of the south border and just south of the north border(not something you would do if you were going for just the section FKT) he ends up with an inflated time. 

Joe started the day of July 26 2017 at a campsite near Wautuga Lk at mile point 416(about 51 miles south of the VA/TN border) and according to his Spot data started running at about 10:07am. According to his log sheet Joe covered 62.3 miles in 13 hours and 15 minutes that day(a 12.76 minute per mile pace). Assuming a relatively steady pace throughout the day Joe would've crossed into VA 10hr 50min into his day at 8:57pm but we have a spot waypoint from him in the town of Damascus, VA(4 miles north of the border) at 8:05pm so he must have been going faster than his average pace for the day prior to Damascus plus the four miles from the border to Damascus are downhill so perhaps it would make more sense to start with his time at Damascus and work backwards from there. Joe averaged 11-minute miles from the start of the day to Damascus(which, by the way, is really fast all things considered!) but with the four miles from the border to Damascus being downhill I'd say Joe was probably doing 8 or 9 minutes per mile for those four miles so lets err on the side that favors Joe and say he was doing 8s that would have him crossing the border 32 minutes before arriving in Damascus which would be approximately at 7:33pm. Joe then departed Virginia on Aug 6th and he posted a Spot waypoint at the border at 9:41PM giving him a total time of about 11 days 2hr 8min 

According to her daily log in her book, Called Again, Jennifer started the day of July 15th 2011 26.3 miles north of the WVA/VA border during a 48.7 mile day. And in a weird coincidence, she crossed the VA/TN border on July 26th(same day of the year as both Karel and Joe!) 20.5 miles into a 49.8 mile day. Her log doesn't include what time she started each day or how long she was moving each day but if we assume she started at the same time both of those days and assumed she was going about the same speed each day that would give her a time of about 2 hours less than a full 11 days so ~10 days and 22 hours. But this is a very rough estimate due to not knowing a few important details. 



I'm thinking a bit about this route and I'm wondering why the Northern terminus isn't further north at approximately 39.305744, -77.740341, where the AT leaves VA for the final time. That is, the northern terminus of this route should be the southern terminus of the AT four state challenge (, in my opinion. That would mean that this route is currently 556.2 miles, from AT mile 467 to AT mile 1023.2 (starting count from Springer). I don't know exactly how that would affect the estimates that James worked hard to calculate. However, for a women's self supported record over the 556 miles, my calculation is that Anish did the Northern 1166 miles of the AT in 30 days (according to her book), which means she did the final 1023.2 miles in 24.3 days. (The AT was 2189.2 miles in 2015, according to my google findings.) This means she did an average of 42.1 miles per day in the south. If she hit the VA border at the start of a new day, her time through the state would've been 556.2/42.1 = 13 days, 5 hours, and 3 minutes. Since she didn't sleep much, even if she started VA at the end of her day, she could still have done it faster than this mark, but this is the best estimate I can come up with.

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I am also thinking about this route. The northern terminus is indeed the northernmost (and final) crossing from VA to WV, making the route 556.7 miles (based on my 2020 A.T. Guide which may have been updated since).

Here is an estimate of the women's supported record from Warren Doyle, who was part of JPD's support crew:

Jen started at Gathland State Park, which is 12.4 miles north of the VA/WV state line, M 7/11at 5:33am. She averaged 2.9 miles per day that day so let's say she did the 12.4 miles to the state line in 4 hours. So we can extrapolate her start time in VA at 9:30am on M 7/11.
The day she finished VA was F 7/22. She started at VA 58 (Summit Cut) at 5:35am. This point is 20.8 miles north of the VA/TN line. She averaged 3.1 mph this day so let's say it took her 6 hours and 25 minutes to get to the state line crossing it at noon on F 7/22.

So JPD's time for VA would be 11 days, 2 hours, 30 minutes.

I also reached out to Heather (Anish) about her self-supported record through VA, and made some estimates based on her book Mud, Rocks, and Blazes. In her book, she notes that she reaches the ATC Conservancy in Harpers Ferry on 9/1. She mentions passing the turnoff to the Blackburn ATC Blackburn Trail Center that same evening at sunset (mile 1013.6), which is 10.1 miles south of the WV/VA state line (1023.7). Sunset in Round Hill, VA was 7:42pm on 9/1/2015. Heather's pace was likely no faster than 3mph; she mentions in the book that she maintained that pace on the PCT through Oregon, but the rocks in northern VA were slowing her down. My conservative guess would be that it took around 3 hrs 30 minutes to hike 10.1 miles, putting Heather's approximate start time from the northern terminus a little after 4pm. Then Heather shared with me that she stayed in Damascus until about 1pm. The VA/TN border is 3.2 miles south from Damascus. While the trail is mostly uphill from there, the terrain is not bad, so assuming a 3mph pace that would have her crossing into TN a little after 2pm. Based on my findings in the book, this would have been on her 13th day (9/14), making her approximated VA self-supported time 12 days, 22 hours.

I fully agree that the Virginia segment should be changed to the final crossing between the Virginia and West VA line.