The Pursuit of Endurance: Harnessing the Record-Breaking Power of Strength and Resilience

While hiking is often thought to be a laid-back, relaxing hobby, there are those who prefer to push their bodies--and minds--to their limits on the trail. This is most often seen in through-hikes (hiking thousands of miles from one end of a trail to the other). Fastest Known Time attempts (FKTs) take through-hikes one step further, as hikers push to through-hike as quickly as possible.

FKTs are the subject of Jennifer Pharr Davis's second book, The Pursuit of Endurance. Davis looks back at her own record-breaking supported hike of the Appalachian Trail (she completed the AT in 2011 in 46 days, averaging 47 miles per day). Though the book draws heavily on her experiences on the trails, it is also a deep-dive exploration of the sport of FKTs, packed with interviews with other record holders (including those who came before and after her own AT record). She studies their trails, acknowledges the different approaches to the sport, dissects gender differentials (real or imagined) and reflects on the grit and determination it takes to hike through bad weather, injury, fatigue, hunger and whatever else the trail throws at you.

The Pursuit of Endurance gives FKTs historical context while examining the physical and mental components of the endurance required to achieve them. But Davis's study of endurance is about more than through-hikes. "For each individual," she argues, "the greatest feat of endurance comes in uncovering his or her talents and applying them in a way that makes... [the world] a more beautiful, compassionate and daring adventure." Whatever stamina may look like to readers, The Pursuit of Endurance will prove an inspirational and educational read. --Kerry McHugh, blogger at Entomology of a Bookworm

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