I was thrilled to meet Scott Jurek near the Maine/New Hampshire border as he set the record for the fastest supported northbound thru-hike at 46 days. Currently, the woman I consider to be the greatest long distance hiker in the world, Heather 'Anish' Anderson is out here trying to set the southbound unsupported speed record.
Even I might attempt the Four State Challenge. This is an informal challenge to hike across four states (44 trail miles) in 24 hours. While not nearly the feat that Jurek and Anderson are up to, it's still an example of a competition or a race on the trail. For me, a southbounder, I would start in Pennsylvania, just above the border with Maryland (which also happens to be the Mason-Dixon Line). I would hike across Maryland, through West Virginia and into Virginia within 24 hours. Why would I do this? I'm a competitive American, of course!
Is all this competition good for the trail? Not everyone thinks so. The management at Baxter State Park, home of Katahdin - the northern terminus of the trail, don't want to see their park commercialized or otherwise exploited. They made that clear when the issued three big fines to Scott Jurek for stretching the rules when he reached the summit of Katahdin. There's talk that they don't even want the AT running through Baxter State Park at all. Someday, the trail may have to be rerouted.
I'm curious what people think about speed records on the Appalachian Trail and about me taking a shot at the Four State Challenge. I'm hoping to attempt it at the end of September. If anyone wants to join me - to hike all or part of the 44 miles with me - or just to cheer me on and maybe slack pack me - just leave a comment below.