Tom asked if I am doing any training for my thru-hike. I suppose
training would fall into two categories. One would be training in the
skills of backpacking. Well, I've been backpacking since my Boy Scout
days, so I haven't been doing anything special int hat regard. I did
start, a couple of years ago, revamping a lot of my gear to embrace a
lot of the light-weight hiking paradigm, so much of my basic gear has
been replaced. For instance, my old external frame Kelty backpack
weighed 6 1/2 pounds, empty! My new pack weighs something like 22 oz.

The biggest equipment change was the switch from tent to hammock. The
hammock is super comfortable for sleeping, and certainly makes site
selection a lot easier since I don't have to worry about finding
level, clear ground, but it does make managing my gear a bit different
as I can't just throw a lot of stuff inside the tent with me.

But I think what Tom was really asking about is physical training.
Certainly, I have never hiked day after day for months at a time, and
I am not sure how one would train for that, other than to hike day
after day for months at a time. But I do get out for the occasional
weekend backpack, and I know that I am capable of hiking 10 or 12 or
15 miles and getting up the next morning and doing it again. I am a
runner, and that keeps me in pretty good shape, although running is
not hiking. I completed my second marathon back at the beginning of

My hope, my plan, and my intention is to keep running through the
winter, and hopefully find myself starting my hike in decent shape
physically. And I intend to start easy, holding my mileage to 10 or 12
miles per day at first, and giving my body time to adjust to the daily
workload. Hopefully that will help me avoid any overuse injuries.

I always find it hard to stay active in the wintertime. It's not the
cold that bothers me so much as it is the darkness. When I get home
from work at 5:00 in the afternoon, and it is dark outside and all the
streetlights are on, my body feels like it is nighttime and time to
shut down and rest. For some reason getting up in the dark in the
early morning never bothers me the same way, so I have shifted from
running in the evening after work to running in the morning before
work. That's not working out as well as I had hoped, and my running
has slacked off a lot over the last month or so, but I still plan to
sign up for the Half Marathon (or maybe I'll sign up for the full,
what the heck!) at Myrtle Beach in February, and knowing I will be
doing that is going to drive me to get out more often and build my
mileage back up.

I figure I won't be the most fit person starting a thru-hike this
year, but neither will I be the least fit. And one advantage of age
over youth is that I've learned the value of perseverance. As long as
I don't give up mentally (and everything I hear tells me this is
really a mental challenge far more than a physical one) , I should be
able to deal with whatever physical ailments might come my way.

Allen F. Freeman