FKT: Josie Vitale - Great Allegheny Passage (GAP, MD/PA) - 2021-05-22

Route variation
Gender category
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Total time
2d 5h 30m 0s

I was inspired to attempt the first women's supported time on the GAP trail by Alyssa Godesky.  My daughters and I followed her ADK High Peaks FKT last summer.  We happened to be in Lake Placid and Hiked Mount Marcy a few days before she began her adventure.  We were all so impressed and amazed by her.  When we returned home my husband and I watched a documentary on the GAP trail on our local Pennsylvania PBS channel. I said I wonder what the FKT is for that trail?  When I saw that there was no time listed for women I contacted my then coach Mary Knott and asked if she would train me to run it. 

I could never have known on 11/2/2020 when I emailed Mary that she would be taken from us a few months later.  Mary Knott unfortunately lost her life in a sudden and tragic act of domestic violence on Febuary 13 of 2021.  One of the first messages I received after loosing her was from Alyssa asking if there was anything she could do, Mary and I had already set the dates for my attempt in November with the goal of finishing on 5/22 (she always new 2 was my favorite number) I asked Alyssa if she would coach and train me and that I wanted to still do it to honor Mary.

My crew consisted of Heidi Videto, Jan Lohman, Elizabeth Leadon, Angie Dye, Amy Good, Steve Otto, my husband David and my daughters Gigi and Lulu with Alyssa on speed dial watching us from afar.

We started in Cumberland, Md. at 12;45 p.m. on Thursday May 20, I began standing on the C&O side of the trail.  The first crew shift was Jan, Elizabeth and Heidi.  I ran solo for about the first 30 miles with the goal of taking it easy until I got over the continental divide.  The first day was great but a little hot.  I remember having fun with the crew and stoping for pictures through the Big Savage tunnel, crossing the Mason Dixon Line and coming over the Eastern Continental divide.  My first long stop was through the Continental Divide to refill fluids, eat and swap shoes and socks.  Then Heidi and I took off together and we rotated crew members as we went along toward Meyersdale.  One of the coolest things about that stretch is the Salisbury Viaduct. Jan and I ran over it together it's long and very high with beautiful scenery around it, generally I'm not a fan of bridges but I was thankful to have Jan with me and also thankful that the air was cooling in the early evening. 

As the sun came up on Friday we ran through Confluence nearing Ohiopyle where I knew I would finally be able to see my husband Dave and my friend Angie and also give the girls a much needed rest after their overnight!  The stretch between Confluence and Ohiopyle seemed to last forever and my feet were in bad shape as we neared my next long stop.  I received a message from my friend Amy Good (an experienced ultra runner) checking on how I was doing.  I was so thankful that she decided to come with her RV and her husband Steve, she planned to meet us in Connellsville which gave me a treat to look forward to.

Just before Ohiopyle I sat down for a min with Elizabeth and accidentally bumped the Coros watch saving the first segment of the run. Elizabeth and I snapped a photo to document that this happened at 8:55 am we immediately restarted the watch only a few seconds elapsed.  

In Ohiopyle Angie had a warm smile and a delicious smoothie that my daughter Lulu made for me. We changed clothes and shoes and were off again.  We miss judged the distance between Ohiopyle and the next parking area and in the heat of the day we were quickly out of fluid.  Angie was able to get Dave to the Bruner Run boat launch parking lot while I took a dirt nap.  The stop took about 45 mins and once we ate and swapped shoes I was off again with Dave.

It was nice to get sometime with Dave the cool rock walls on that stretch made everything feel a bit more comfortable we ate some blackberries and moved along.  As we neared Connellsville the shade went away and we were in town.  I finally reached the trail parking lot at mile 89 and was thankful to see Amy and Steve had arrived and Angie had an amazing cold smoothie for me.  We stopped for about 30 mins while Amy fixed up my feet and then Amy, Angie and I headed out again.  These ladies marched with me to just after mile 100 where we met up with Gigi, Lulu and the night crew of Elizabeth, Jan and Heidi again.  Lulu had made me my favorite lentil soup and between that and a short nap I was off.  

I ran with the ladies interchanging probably the fastest I had run since we started.  In the cool night air I seemed to have boundless energy which carried me to about mile 113.  We then hiked through the night. Meeting up with Amy and Steve near West Newton where I took a longish nap and then started off again with Amy.  

We were in high spirits as we hit Boston the whole crew was there and we played some music, I was glad to eat and change and then get moving with Angie and Amy we played music and sung out loud as we approached McKeesport we even had a nice segment of down hill to run.  The day began to heat up as we neared the out skirts of Pittsburgh and into Homestead. This was the last long stop before we crossed into the South Side and headed downtown.  Angie was able to intersect Dave and have him bring a bag of McDonalds fries and an ice cold root beer, that and the inspirational messages she read me got me through.  

With 4 miles to go my daughter Lulu began to walk with us and the three of us crossed the Hot Metal bridge together.  Gigi joined in the fun as we neared Point Park in Pittsburgh.  As I rounded the fountain at the Confluence marker at Point Park the whole crew was there.  I knelt down, stopped the watch at 6:15pm on 5/22/21 looked over at everyone and cried!  Heidi came over and hugged me, we both knew we had done it for Mary!

Special thanks to my family, my crew and Alyssa Godesky for picking up the pieces of me.