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Training for the Rachel Carson Challenge

Most recently I tried a food challenge that required me to finish an enormous amount of food in a certain time frame and I’d get bragging rights. Unfortunately, I missed it by five minutes, but the idea of a challenge is to complete what others have not, just like the Rachel Carson Challenge. For those who have never heard of the Rachel Carson Challenge, it’s a 35-mile long, one day, sunrise to sunset endurance hike on nearly the entire Rachel Carson Trail. When I first heard about it I thought, “I could do it,” but as I read more about the Challenge I realize I’d need to prepare. I asked one of my co-workers about it and was informed of the Rachel Carson Trail Quest, which is broken up into 4 days over 4 weeks to help prepare participants for the big day. The other reason for the Trail Quest is to allow individuals who don’t normally hike, like me a chance to do something fun. Then I heard about Mark, a 10-year participant of the Rachel Carson Challenge.

For me, someone who has done a challenge for 10 years going on his 11th is an inspiration. I wanted to know more about him and start my own journey with the Rachel Carson Challenge. Mark prepares every year by doing five to six practice/training hikes along the Rachel Carson Trail between March and June. He trains so that he can not only complete the challenge, but he is able to take in the whole 35-mile long trail and all it has to offer. He said he was able to finish the Rachel Carson Challenge in 13 hours and finished 44th out of 277 participants.

I wanted to know Mark’s opinion of the Trail Quest and how it helped him prepare or enjoy the challenge more. He said the Trail Quest hikes are the first ones he does every year because they are a good transition into the longer and harder training hikes he will do later in May and June. They’re also more low key so he gets to enjoy the company of his fellow hikers. I’m the only one of my friends to has a passion for hiking, but Mark told me his first few times he did it alone. Over the years he has met individuals on the trail that accompany him on the Rachel Carson Challenge.

I asked him if he had any advice for me about the challenge and what I could expect on the trail. He describes the trail as a hybrid comprised of multiple segments of paved streets and roads, unpaved access paths and roads and traditional footpaths and trails. He told me if I was serious about taking on the Rachel Carson Challenge I would need to do a few things: complete multiple practice hikes on the trail to get familiar, condition my legs and mind and get gear that’s comfortable for me to walk in. All that in mind he reminded me the Rachel Carson Challenge is difficult for a reason and must be taken seriously. It can be for anyone as long as they properly prepare themselves for the road ahead. Mark said he still does the hike on the trail and the annual challenge is because of the special friends he has met.

After hearing all of this I realized this is something I could do if I followed his advice, but I must stay focused on training for what could be an amazing accomplishment. For those who have or haven’t hiked, try the Trail Quests to see if the challenge piques your interest and who knows I might see you out there.

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