And, in an astonishing turn, Heather Anderson ("Anish") crushed Williamson's record by nearly 4 days, doing the PCT south to north and in traditional thru hiker style in 60d17h12m, June 8 - August 7, 2013. Anderson recorded her exploits on her Facebook page. Some beautiful words from Anish:
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.
And some words about what it takes to hike record pace:
My day starts at 5 am. I will walk all day at 3 mph, stopping only to get water, dump sand from my shoes or such. Each stop lasts but a few minutes. I walk until the miles pile up, until night falls and my headlamp comes out, until the aching in my feet and legs seems unbearable. The last miles I am stumbling, tripping. Finally, I pitch my tent on whatever surface is available. It may be flat, or not, or rock hard, but it is home for the next few hours. Inside I struggle to choke down a protein shake; my exhaustion overrides my hunger. I peel socks off from blistered swollen feet. I crawl into my sleeping bag and prop my feet on my food bag. Pain, spasms, cramps, sharp cries that shoot along my nerves; my legs and feet make it hard for me to sleep. I clench my teeth against the jolts and wait for exhaustion to overcome me again.
Here's a beautiful piece on Anish's hike from Backpacker Magazine.