Completing her hike on September 24, 2015, Heather Anderson (Anish) smashed all previous self-supported (thru hiker style) speed records for the AT. Anderson hiked southbound and completed the trail in 54d7h48m, 4 days faster than the previous best time by Matt Kirk. She also holds the overall thru-hiker FKT for the Pacific Crest Trail, set in 2013. An in-depth interview with Anderson, shortly after her AT FKT, is on irunfar.com.
Here's what Anderson wrote on her Facebook immediately after the hike:
The trail has a way of answering the questions you most need answered, even if you are afraid to ask.
Those that have followed me for a while know that I have struggled with self-esteem my entire life. You would think setting the PCT speed record would change that.
Yet it only gave the negative thoughts an even more insidious way to demoralize me, especially after I failed to set the JMT record last year.
"The PCT was a fluke. You were only the benefactor of lucky circumstances. You aren't athletic. You aren't able. You're a charlatan."
On and on the whispers go.
I had to come here, to the AT, where my quest to find myself began 12 years ago and face those voices once and for all, alone.
I was to afraid to ask, but the trail knew the question in my heart:
"Was the PCT a fluke?"
The AT answered with a resounding, "NO!"
I wrestled not against the trail or external forces, but with them. If it were easy the whispers of inadequacy would continue. Instead I was challenged every single minute.
In the dark hours when I was tired, lonely, and hungry, that is when the demons came, "Why didn't you stop with the PCT record? It will be your greatest achievement in life. You won't ever do anything else. Now you're out here and you're in over your head. You will fail. You can't do this. And everyone is going to know that you are nothing."
But, every footstep I took was a choice. A choice to face my own perceived inadequacies. Every footstep was a commitment. A commitment to deny that there was any truth to the words of the internal foes.
As the miles dwindled into the double digits I became aware that I was crushing more than miles. I was crushing a lifetime of self defeating beliefs.
So now, I walk off of Springer Mountain, alone just as I came. My pack, my feet, and my heart are light, unburdened at last.
And, I am aware that the end of every journey is simply the beginning of the next and that, far from being behind me, the greatest achievements of my life lie ahead.