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Jennifer Pharr Davis
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Record breaker Jennifer Pharr Davis on hiking while pregnant

Jennifer Pharr Davis. (Courtesy photo)

In 2011, Jennifer Pharr Davis broke the speed record hiking the Appalachian Trail, trekking the nearly 2,220 miles from Georgia to Maine in 46 days, 11 hours and 20 minutes. To put that in perspective, it takes the average person five to six months to complete. To beat the record, she was hiking an average of 47 miles a day.

“When people think it was fast, it wasn’t,” Davis said. “It was a grind, it was a crawl. I was hiking 16 to 18 hours a day and sleeping five to six hours at night.”

She managed to hold on to her record for four years.

“It just totally baffled people because here I was, a female and a hiker who had never won an ultra race in my life, and all of a sudden I beat these guys who were renowned runners, renowned athletes,” she said. “Since then, the science and also other examples of women who have gone out and set these records and beat the guys, is that when it comes to ultra endurance there is no gender gap. At 100 miles there’s still probably a difference, 500 there’s still probably a difference. But when you’re looking at 2,000-plus miles, there’s really no difference between the performance of men and women. If anything, based off the psychologists and physiologists I’ve spoken with, they think that women might actually have an advantage. Guys, at the end, are emaciated. They need more food, they typically need more hydration. Women are built to carry the weight of pregnancy so we can carry a pack pretty efficiently.”

Jennifer Pharr Davis: Hiking while pregnant

Speaking of pregnancy, Jennifer Pharr Davis hiked 600 miles while six and seven months pregnant with her daughter.

“For me it was super challenging,” she said. “I struggled a lot with prenatal depression in both of my pregnancies and that was, I think, heightened because it seemed like everything was taken away. You can’t run, you can’t drink, you can’t sit in hot tubs, you can’t fly after this many months, you can’t eat a turkey sandwich if it’s deli meat. I’m so glad hiking was never taken away from me. It was something I could do.”

“Obviously we were in close communication with my doctor throughout the process, but she was extremely encouraging,” Pharr Davis said. “Especially because of the foundation I had laid over the past decade. I wasn’t doing something that would shock my body. It wasn’t new, I was very used to walking and backpacking. ”

Last year she hiked the 900-mile Mountains-to-Sea trail, after having a baby.

“I started when my son was 10 months old and I was still nursing,” she said. “So my husband, whereas doing the record he would come and bring me food, doing the Mountains-to-Sea trail he would come and hand me the baby who was crying his head off. I would just sit on the trail after feeling tired and depleted and then the baby would suck everything else out of me.”

Eating on the trail

Jennifer Pharr Davis is the latest guest on my podcast “Your Last Meal'” so of course we talk all about what she eats on the trail. The episode is all about camping, hiking, and backpacking food. I also interview James Beard Award winning Seattle Chef Maria Hines about what she eats when she’s out rock climbing.

“When I was out at Indian Creek we made homemade cavatelli in the desert, so that was really fun,” she said. “[We rolled it out] using a Nalgene bottle on a Tupperware bin from my gear bin. A little rustic and might take a little bit more time, but well worth it.”

Plus an interview with the author of the new “Dirty Gourmet” cookbook about how to eat well when you’re backpacking.

Listen to the episode on iTunes or at

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